What does Congress have in common with a high-fee doctor whose doctor bag is crawling with nasty germs?
Answer: It has the ability to first make a healthy patient sick, then cure him or her. Or not! At times Congress is like a high-fee doctor carrying a bag full of nasty germs.
Congress 2013 is not exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind. Its chief claim to fame, of late is that it provides full-employment at the top rungs of the legislative branch of government. The lucky 535 members (some of whom have been in their jobs longer than your grandmother has been around) get six-figure salaries, an excellent benefits package, a super 401(k) plan and more. More often than not it’s a three-day (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) workweek — for members, not staff — and more holidays and vacation time than you can shake a stick at.
Congress has been known to do some remarkable and good things. But not often and certainly not lately.
Whatever your status today: Working or furloughed, the run-up to the latest government shutdown drama was unnerving, time-consuming and a terrific waste of time, money and talent. Many of the politicians who say shutdowns are to be avoided did their best (sometimes nothing) to see that it happened.
Democrats, naturally, blame Republicans for the shutdown scenario. Republicans, of course blame, Democrats for being stubborn. The House blames the White House. Global warming hasn’t been cited yet, but that could be next.
In fact, both the House and Senate have failed to to their primary jobs which is to OK budgets so federal agencies can do what the House and Senate — by law — tell them to do. Failure to pass budgets on time (or at all) has become a way of life whether Congress is controlled by Democrats, Republicans or, are split between the two parties like now. Stopgap spending authority, known as a continuing resolutions, wouldn’t have been needed — or available to be used as political poker chips — if Congress had done its job. Instead it set what may be a record for time-outs and days off this year.
The Senate made a rare Monday appearance yesterday at 2 p.m. That was just hours before the shutdown deadline.
However this one ends, the bad news is that they will probably be doing it all over again in 16 days when the debt ceiling issues comes up. If that goes badly it could make this time — right now — look like the good old days.