By THOMAS M. GREANEY
The long-running paralysis and failure of Congress is truly a bipartisan effort
Congress is less popular than colonoscopies, root canals, cockroaches, head lice and France. A poll released by the organization Public Policy Polling pegs the approval rating of Congress at 9 percent.
If it wasn't so pathetic, the 13th (not 11th or 12th) hour deliberations and Band-Aid legislation passed might be a humorous story line for a new television situation comedy. But I see no joke in the complete lack of bipartisan efforts in the disgraced, 112th lame duck Congress. Lame is the perfect descriptor.
Worse still, I have no hope that the new Congress and the president will be able to cobble together any meaningful reform to invigorate the economy; enact term limits; pass meaningful and legal campaign reform; and shore-up Social Security with means testing and other measures. Though I have been paying into the Social Security system for 40 years, I have little expectation of government action to ensure I can collect when I retire in 12 years.
Let's end the obfuscation by asking where is the political leadership and will to do what every member of Congress was elected to do: Write and approve legislation that is in the best interests of our country's citizenry? Not embrace inertia as an attempt to derail a presidency, not focus in on the self-serving interest of their re-election, and not for political expediency, such as committee chairmanships and other political gain.
I am so tired of the political gamesmanship and finger pointing. The finger pointing doesn't even come with a literal poke in the eye; it's all in the name of some phantom ill-gotten gain at the expense of our economy and financial underpinnings.
And to hear Second District Congressman Joe Courtney, D-Conn., tell it, Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner is to blame for only having Congress in session 153 days last year. "I think Boehner's schedule was intentional, a way of avoiding tough decisions and (taking) tough votes," Courtney asserted in a phone interview Jan. 10. Yet when Democrats were the majority in the House during the first two years of Barack Obama's presidency, Congress sat for 153 and 159 days respectively.
The failure of Congress to change approach will only guarantee the same reprehensible exercises in futility that have played out in the past six months. Let's not forget the four-year failure of the Democratic-controlled Senate to approve a budget, as required by law; its refusal to take up budgets approved in the House and the rejection of President Obama's last two budgets with not one "yes" vote cast. Can you say dysfunctional?
I look forward to hearing from anyone in our federal government who can articulate plans for cogent, meaningful reforms that can be passed into law. We need Congress to bolster our economy, not hamstring it. Real leadership, not rhetoric, is needed to foster not just a spirit of bipartisanship, but also a record of action and accomplishment.
We need a Congress that will be part of the solution, not the very cause of debilitating inertia. Regressive, short-term fixes are antithetical to the implementation of real change demanded by the significant financial and social service challenges the nation faces.
If former House Speaker Tip O'Neill, a liberal Democrat, and President Reagan, a staunch conservative Republican, could compromise on major issues of the day in the early 1980s, the 113th Congress must find a way to work together.
In the spirit of full disclosure, Congress did rate higher in popularity than Lindsey Lohan, the Kardashians and meth labs in the poll results. Commenting on the poll, Congressman Courtney stated, "I vote for the cockroaches," over the 112th Congress, of which he was a member.
The author is an addictions counselor and a former broadcast journalist. He lives in Westerly.