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Congress: A Lot of Money for Nothing

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When Jody Forest asked me to take over writing this column a while back I promised him that I would do my best to make them as interesting and informative as he had. There have been some small successes over the years and I feel that maybe—just maybe—I’ve given The River Journal’s readers some good information and, hopefully, some food for thought.

The first several articles dealt with veterans’ benefits and services. I hope they included some things of value to that community. Over the past year or so I have written many words about the politics of veterans’ benefits and services. With tens of thousands coming home from both Iraq and Afghanistan now and in the very near future there is a huge need for expanded services and benefits. None of these benefits and services can be delivered without the political will to fund and provide them. Therein lays the rub. It is the Constitutional duty of Congress—not the President—to pass and fund legislation for the betterment of our country.

There seems to be a distinct lack of political will to do what must be done for our returning men and women warriors. In fact, there seems to be a decided bent to obstruct anything from being done for anyone, be they civilian or former military. Last month I went into some detail on just how little the 112th Congress had actually done in the month of December. Well, it pains me to say this but they seem to have done even less in January. 

In the month of January Congress was in session 17 days. They managed to pass a total of 13 bills—six in the Senate and 7 in the House—but only four made it to the President’s desk for his signature. This is less than they accomplished in December. Two of those bills that did reach his desk dealt with smuggling—either under or over the USA/Mexican border in our failed ‘War on Drugs’ or illegal immigration—using Ultralight aircraft and tunneling. 

Granted, one of the remaining two others may have some good impact on the economy and jobs as they deal with airport runway improvements and modernization. But seriously folks, is that the best that Congress can do? They were ‘in session’ one hundred and seventy-four days in 2011. That works out to a thousand dollars a day we’ve paid our representatives in Washington—at minimum (those in leadership positions get more). I’d work real hard for that. But there is a catch in that ‘in session’ number. 

Congress seldom is ‘in session’ for more than six hours on any given day. In fact, a great many of those ‘in session’ days are mere minutes long. Many of those ‘in session’ days had less than a half dozen Representatives or Senators actually in the building. A great number of the ‘in session’ days were actually pro forma days designed simply to prevent the President from trying to fill vacancies with recess appointments. These ‘recess appointments’ for positions on federal benches, agencies or panels can only be made when Congress is in recess. The GOP-controlled House used ‘in session’ days lasting less than five minutes on numerous occasions merely to thwart any attempt by the president to fill vacancies. This maneuver prevents the Executive branch from doing much of the people’s work. It seems to me that this is a gross waste of the taxpayer’s dollars. I haven’t done the math on this but I’ll bet that we are paying these yahoos a lot per hour for wasting our money like that.

I find it unconscionable that there are so many elected officials so warped and myopic that they will place party politics, the enforcement of their rigid dogma and religiosity over the needs of the vast majority of the American people. We have serious problems facing this nation. A federal deficit in the trillions (created by tax cuts made during wartime—a national first); a vanishing middle-class caused by a tax structure that favors the very wealthy coupled with an unemployment rate near 9 percent; the loss of millions of American jobs to ‘outsourcing’ so that the wealthy can increase their profit margins; and, the near collapse of our financial/banking system due to a lack of regulatory oversight.

Add to these dismal facts the hundreds of thousands of young men and women returning from war who will be trying to get their lives back on track and hoping for a better future than their recent past. In the face of these realities Congress has shown itself to be focused on one thing and one thing only:  to make the President a one-term president. The hell with all our problems, the hell with the poor, the hell with women’s health issues, the hell with the elderly, the hell with jobs, the hell with our crumbling infrastructure. All the House majority seems to care about is to do whatever they can to thwart, delay and confound every effort being made to try and get out of the deep crater created by the previous administration.

In addition to the above, the House majority insists on holding interminable hearings on things that have absolutely no bearing whatsoever on any of the things that will improve the life of ordinary Americans. They have involved themselves in NBA ownership/player negotiations. They have held hearings on the doping scandals in baseball from the 80s and 90s. And, most recently, they’ve held hearings on contraception and women’s health without allowing women to testify! The shear chutzpah of the House GOP is astounding on a colossal scale.

I can find nothing comparable in our nations’ history that even comes close to the gall that is being exhibited by the 112th Congress. They make the “Do Nothing” Congress of the Truman presidency seem positively progressive. There have been zero attempts to negotiate or compromise with their compatriots across the aisle. They won’t even make a pretense of deviating from their position of “our way or the highway,” on any issue. Is it any wonder that the approval rating of the 112th Congress is the lowest in US history? 

We have nine months to make up our minds on which candidate we should send to represent us. I suggest that none of the current members of Congress are doing their constituents any good at all. Therefore, I submit that we may want to rethink the reasoning we use to select who we send to represent us in either the national or the state capital. I’ve always believed that we should choose the person, not just the initial after their name, when we make our mark come November.

Until next month: Salud amigos, as I hoist a chilled cervesa and dip a tortilla chip in some fresh guacamole.

 

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Author info

Gil  Beyer Gil Beyer A 21 year Navy veteran, lived in Bonner County for over 30 years, Past Commander of the Priest River DAV Chapter and admitted news junkie.

Tagged as:

US Congress, 112th Congress, Veterans' News

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