The dysfunction label for Congress is borne out of the lawmaking bodies’ inability to do, well, much of anything during the past year. While bills have been introduced and voted on, many largely are written to play to lawmakers’ own core constituency rather than being crafted in a manner that actually has a prayer of being passed. These bills also tend to be representative of fringe voting blocs — on the political right and the left — rather than reflecting the views and desires of the majority of Americans. Consequently, without lawmakers bothering to guide U.S. policy forward, changes to the fabric of our country instead are being made through the back door — via presidential executive orders and mandates from within individual departments, like the Environmental Protection Agency. That reeks of dysfunction.
Washington dysfunction is the biggest threat to the U.S. economy, according to Fortune magazine’s contributing writer John Cassidy. Infighting is common among this exceptionally partisan U.S. congressional delegation, and the only real certainty is more gridlock. Gridlock in other aspects of life, such as in heavy traffic, eventually comes to an end. The same can’t be said for Congress, especially with an election year fast-approaching.
Federal lawmakers currently are on a five-week Christmas break, though Americans are unlikely to notice a difference in our legislators’ performance in working to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and posterity.
Some might debate the metrics used to gauge Congress’ effectiveness; After all, few people are lobbying for even more laws. However, decisions rather than indecision would better demonstrate lawmakers’ desire and ability to solve problems. Americans need look no further than the situation earlier this year, when our nation’s need to cut spending was met with the “I-don’t-want-to-get-my-hands-dirty” sequester to actually get the job done. In the end, members of Congress get neither credit nor blame for reducing spending because it was inaction rather than action that prompted the reductions.
Similarly, inaction has been at the heart of finalizing a farm bill, energy plan, immigration bill and even approving nominees for cabinet positions. The latter resulted in the nuclear option being passed last month by the U.S. Senate, meaning a vote of a simple majority of the Senate could end a filibuster on most executive and judicial nominees, though not on legislation or Supreme Court nominees. While filibusters on nominees historically have been plentiful regardless of the party of the president, half of all filibusters of 168 executive and judicial nominees occurred during the Obama administration, according to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. — indicating stalemate has reached new heights with this Congress.
This looks like dysfunction. And Americans deserve better from their federal lawmakers.
Kansas’ Congressional delegation should lead rather than follow the lead of uncompromising colleagues. They can and must be statesmen who work for the good of all Americans rather than playing to the base. Consumer confidence can rebound once lawmakers demonstrate they are willing to work together — even if they have to be on a five-week break to make it happen.
— Jeanny Sharp,
editor and publisher