Members of the U.S. Congress left Washington recently for a two-week vacation. Their absence probably won’t make a noticeable difference to most Americans, who are getting next to nothing for the tax dollars they spend on congressional salaries and perks.
It used to be that Congress stayed busy, introducing, debating and passing legislation, which resulted in far too many new laws for many Americans.
Not so much these days. In fact, we seem to be in the midst of another do-nothing phase in Congress, bifurcated as it is by a Democrat-controlled House and Republican majority in the Senate, led by a president who changes direction more often than competitors in a dance contest.
This Congress likely will not change the do-nothing pattern. So far this session, just more than 4,000 bills have been introduced, resulting in passage and enactment of an even dozen. And we’ll bet you can’t name two of those new laws.
The general lack of legislative productivity did not keep lawmakers from their two-week spring vacation, which began on a distinctly down note when the two parties could not agree on a bill to help states that have suffered debilitating natural disasters, even as the disasters continued to pile on.
It’s all because of an ongoing war of words between President Trump and elected leaders in Puerto Rico, the unincorporated territory whose residents are U.S. citizens, and pay some federal taxes, facts apparently not appreciated by Trump.
The island was raked by two crushing hurricanes in 2017 and has yet to recover from those storms, in large part because Trump believes Puerto Rico’s elected leaders are corrupt and wasting U.S. financial aid previously sent to the island. In a Twitter rant a couple of weeks ago, the president wrote, “Their government can’t do anything right, the place is a mess — nothing works.”
The Trump administration’s school-yard-bully stand against Puerto Rico provoked a similar response from Senate Democrats, who blocked legislation that would have provided billions in disaster aid to Midwestern states devastated by flooding.
Senate Republicans came back with a counter offer, but because there was no specific disaster funding for Puerto Rico, Democrats turned it down. Vermont Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy said this: “I’m not going to pass a racist disaster aid bill.”
Republicans toeing the Trump line, Democrats drawing a line of their own in the sand. Meanwhile, states here on the mainland that are in dire need of disaster aid aren’t getting it, congressional lawmakers have been vacationing, and once again U.S. taxpayers — including the American citizens in Puerto Rico — are getting absolutely nothing for their tax dollars from Congress.
Vicious storms continue to rake the nation’s midsection and deep South, and the Midwest is bracing for yet another terrifying tornado season.
We’re blaming Congress for this stalemate, but the House did its job, passing a disaster aid bill three months ago. The hangup is in the Senate, where Republicans have the majority, but not one big enough to get the job done.
Now, sane people might ask, why don’t Senate Republicans and Democrats just put their heads together on compromise legislation? Find some viable middle ground. The operative word in that first sentence evidently is “sane.”
What is the solution? How do we break the logjam in Congress?
Tough questions, easy answer — elect candidates whose campaign promise is to serve the interests of America and Americans, not of a particular political party.
We created this system, which is not working, and as voters we can fix it.