The “Do-Nothing” Congress is back. According to an article in the USA Today, the House of Representatives has been in session for 19 days through Friday. Based on their current schedule, the House will be in session for 97 days this year. However, in the first two months of this year, House members have logged a mere 47 hours in the Capitol. Most Americans work 47 hours in a week.If this pace keeps up, most of the people in the House will garner themselves a hefty $200 an hour in compensation for this year. Add in the kickbacks, lobbyist paid dinners, free yachts, and vacations and you have yourself one sweet deal.
Obviously, the time lawmakers spend in the Capitol is not the only time they are working. There are committee and subcommittee meetings to attend, but Norman Orstein has noted that these have increased by 50% over the past years. What exactly are the members of Congress doing?
Some who are in favor of a smaller government are pleased that lawmakers are spending less time legislating and more time flying home to their districts and meeting with lobbyists. This type of attitude is quite silly. The taxpayers are paying someone to be a full time employee and they are attempting to cram all their work into 2 1/2 days so they can go home. Would your boss allow you to do this? Unfortunately, these people are not cutting your lawn. The legislation that they pass changes the country and impacts the world. Not having Congress in the Capitol means that Congressional leadership can manipulate the voting times and committee meetings. They could be pushing all sorts of things to the floor without any sort of oversight. You cannot possibly cram the business of this country into 71 days allotted for voting this year on Capitol Hill, with 26 more days having no votes before 6:30 PM. I’m sure that’s in case lunch goes long.
This country has major problems: Social Security, education reform, out of control debt, a war in Iraq, Medicare, and Homeland Security. We have elected people to deal with these issues and they have not showed up to work. When a matter arises, say the Dubai ports deal, people are thrown into a panic and are suddenly lost without direction because they haven’t been on Capitol Hill to actually find out what is going on. Each of these representatives is then at the mercy of their staffers and interns who have hopefully done their homework and briefed them on what is happening on the floor.
I don’t think it matters what party is in control. Over the past years, I really don’t see how it has made a difference who controls Congress. Neither party is working for the people, because neither party is in Washington.
Today, President Bush told the world that he would use military force to protect Israel from Iran. You can be sure that if it comes to that, members of Congress will be squawking that they had no say in the matter and that Bush is doing what ever he pleases. Bush, though accused of being on vacation more than any other President, is still on the job whether in Crawford or Washington and that is more than can be said for Congress. How can lawmakers actually say they care about peace for the Middle East if they aren’t going to work for it? How can they even claim to be working on the Patriot Act, Social Security Reform, or anything else that they harp about if they aren’t in Washington? Sharon Stone just went to the Middle East on a highly publicized trip. She’s doing more for peace than my Congressman.
It seems that every election cycle, one party accuses the other party of not doing what they said they were going to do and not getting anything done. I can’t see how anyone can get anything done if they’re not at work. A sure formula for success would be to show up and get something done instead of showing up and going home.
It can be best summed up by Norman J. Ornstein, one more eloquent than myself:
A part-time Congress in a country with a $13 trillion economy and federal budget near $3 trillion, in a globalized, technologically sophisticated world, is itself a danger to the checks and balances built into American democracy, and to high-quality, careful policymaking and oversight. It’s not too much to ask Congress to commit to spending at least half the year — 26 weeks — working full-time, five days a week, thus providing at least a measure of the deliberation and attention to detail that are so lacking now.
What do you think?