Congress is in “recess”… a term that seems somewhat apropos since our legislators have acted so childishly in recent years. You can almost see them on the playground arguing over whose turn it is to pick first even though you already know who’s going to end up on both teams.
This is not to say that senators and representatives don’t deserve a break. They do -- just as our president should be allowed to play an occasional round of golf. However, even school children are expected to complete their assignments before they’re given the privilege of enjoying recess. Yet, we don’t hold our elected officials to the same standard.
Congress recessed on July 31, and it won’t be back in session until September 9. The reason this is significant is because there are a few minor issues that remain to be resolved… like debating the nuclear deal with Iran… or how about approving a federal budget?
The nuclear deal with Iran represents one of two things. It’s either a brilliant plan to alter Iran’s most recent geo-political behavior, or it’s a potential flash point for a Middle East Armageddon. One would think that the issue is relevant enough to merit a change in the congressional calendar. Then again, that requires the assumption that Congress is still capable of demonstrating adult behavior.Correspondingly, wouldn’t it be nice if our nation had a budget in place? Remember the shutdown in 2013? Well, there’s another one just around the corner. You may want to pay particular attention to the fact that these fiscal crises seem to occur just prior to an election year.
Rather than working toward a rational budgetary solution, Republicans and Democrats will spend time behind the scenes exploring how to place the blame on the other party in an effort turn their mutually irresponsible behavior into a political advantage.
We may see a reprise of the president having to make “tough decisions” such as which national parks and veterans’ memorials to close. Of course, the script almost writes itself. The administration is likely to make cuts that will inflict the highest level of pain on you and me without truly threatening our daily lives because that offers the greatest political potential.
Naturally, the cornerstone of budgetary recklessness, the Continuing Resolution or CR, may be invoked to save the day. This is the congressional equivalent of a note from home that asks us to please excuse our elected officials’ intellectual absence. In effect, it’s a slightly more plausible alibi than saying the dog ate their budget.
Do you remember December 18, 2013? That’s the last time Congress passed a full budget. Before that, it had limped along with nothing more than CRs since 1997. That’s right: Sixteen years had passed since Congress last honored its mandated responsibility to pass a budget. Sixteen years! That’s a lot of missed homework assignments.
Still, if history serves as any indication, we’ll return 90 percent of our federal officials to office who are up for re-election in 2016. As the saying goes, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
I, for one, hope we’ll learn. Then again, missing a budget and forcing a shutdown seems rather insignificant when compared to a decision that might best be characterized by a mushroom-shaped cloud. Think about it.
Here are some questions to consider:
- Should Congress be in recess when critical, time-sensitive decisions are pending?
- Should Congress be permitted to ignore its mandate to pass a budget?
- Should Continuing Resolutions be limited in time and number to preclude their perpetual use?
- Should elected officials be routinely returned to office or should they be held accountable for their actions (or inaction)?