I’ll be taking my summer vacation next week. It won’t be a long one -- just 4 days at the beach -- but even that was something I agonized over before deciding to spend the money on it. Like many other Department of Defense workers, I’m in the middle of being furloughed one day a week right now, and based on the things our Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has been saying about the next fiscal year I’m afraid my job could soon disappear entirely.
Some people are more fortunate than I am though, and they don’t have to stress over taking a few days away from work. Take the U.S. Congress. (Please.)
Our representatives in Washington are currently enjoying their traditional five-week August vacation. They get five weeks off with pay every year at this time, and this year they will collectively pocket nearly $9 million of your tax dollars as they enjoy a respite from all of their hard work.
There was some talk in Washington earlier this month about Congress working through the traditional August recess, given the perilous state or our financial situation.
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Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was ready to roll up her sleeves and work through the month, saying that taking a vacation right now “shows shocking disregard for the American people and our economy.” I’d be tempted to agree with her if this Congress actually accomplished anything while they were in session.
All they seem to be able to do right now is pass legislation in one branch that they know has no chance of passing in the other one.
As one of their last acts before they dashed out of town, for instance, Republicans in the House passed their 40th bill to repeal, delay, or defund Obamacare. Would it really help the country if they stayed in town and raised that number to 45 or 50?
They know they are wasting time passing bills that will never become law, but they seem to think that we will be impressed that they “took a principled stand” as opposed to working on legislation that might actually have a chance of passing.
When they do return from their vacation, Congress will have only nine days before the current fiscal year ends. If they don’t pass a budget before then we’ll be facing another government shutdown. We are also on the verge of another “fiscal cliff” where they will either have to raise the debt limit or face defaulting on the country’s debt.
Some Republicans want to use that dreaded scenario as a bargaining chip to get the Democrats to roll back Obamacare. Others in the GOP think that’s a very poor strategy, one that has been tried before with disastrous results for the party’s standing with most voters.
There seems to be increasing division within the Republican Party over a number of issues (immigration reform is another good example), and one wonders if we are drifting toward a one-party government.
Imagine Hillary Clinton in the White House one day presiding over a Congress where Democrats control both the House and Senate. It could happen.
For now, though, expect a lot of hot air to be expended by both parties while they pretend to listen to our concerns at their town hall meetings this month and later as they play chicken with each other on the Fiscal Cliff Highway.
They will tell their constituents how hard they are fighting for them when all they are really doing is trying their best to make the other side look bad.
It’s all a game to them, and winning means making the other side look bad so they can jockey for position in 2014 and beyond.
Whether they’re in Washington or not, politicians these days do not govern. They are forever stuck in campaign mode.
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Centerville. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at nscsense.blogspot.com.