Congress: the art of doing nothing

This is a summary of a podcast from On Point Radio discussing the gridlock in Washington*, what is causing it and addressing when and if it will change. The program aired on July 29, 2014.

We are in a era where congress is polarized with less legislation being passed since 1973 when records began to be kept. Contributing to it is a Tea Party faction making the institution even more fractured. The opposition party, the Republicans, has control of the house and they are determined that there is no accomplishment under an Obama administration. In our system negotiation and compromise is essential to get anything done and the Republicans are determined to get nothing done while Obama is President.

Republicans blame Democrats saying Harry Reid blocks everything presented by the Republican controlled Congress. The legislative portion of the process has turned into an extension of the campaign for election. The Republican party has created a situation for inaction and partisan war instead of legislation and negotiation.

If the makeup of congress changes in November with Republicans gaining control of both the senate and house we likely will continue with gridlock with the President exercising his veto power. Some contend that the Founding Fathers wanted this kind of gridlock when extremes were proposed. One of the guest on the show said no, the creators of the constitution expected negotiation and compromise and not frozen governance.

There is a political incentive to make the President look bad and not get anything done. (This is especially true when large outside money is buying the votes of Congress and the President)

John Bonier says congress should not be judged by how many laws are passed. “We are fighting for what we believe in.” He goes on to say we have more laws than we can enforce.

The cost of doing nothing is very high. Infrastructure needs fixing, fixing immigration, high unemployment, tax laws need fixing and climate change needs to be addressed. It is hurting the economy.

Some in the Tea Party are not upset with a do nothing Congress. Their belief is doing nothing is far better than doing the wrong thing. Others say we must not demonize our political opponents. Both parties need to be willing to legislate on fact based, acceptance and compromise. Presently this is not the case.

No one is thinking about the long run. This is true on both sides of the isle. They know that any comprehensive legislation is not possible to pass. There are about 30 or 40 Republicans in congress that government should be doing less and they have affiliations with the Tea Party.

A big reason for congress being more splintered than the county is that elected official depend less on the individual voter and more on the super wealthy oligarchs and the Super PACS they control. Money buys influence in Washington. The more money you have, the more Washington influence you have.

* The participants included Thomas Mann, senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, Harry Holzer, professor of public policy at the Georgetown University, Nancy Cordes, Congressional correspondent for CBS News and Katrina Pierson, former Texas Congressional candidate. Tea Party activist.


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