One of America’s most colorful and most quoted presidents was Harry S. Truman who, in 1948, dubbed the 80th session of Congress the “Do-Nothing” Congress because they were rarely in and when they were they were voting against the interests of common people.
Fast forward 64 years to the 112th Congress and almost the same thing is being said.
In fact, many observers have already proclaimed it the “Do-Nothing” Congress and it doesn’t even expire for another five months, on Jan. 3, 2013.
With major problems facing the country, Congress acts like nothing is wrong and the leadership decided to follow the usual practice of taking off the entire month of August, right through Labor Day.
Even after we go back into session, no one really expects the problems to be addressed until after the November elections.
The American economy can ill afford this delay. Decisive action is needed; the problems that threaten the economy and job growth, that delay aid to drought stricken food producing states like Nebraska, the soaring deficits and soon-to-expire tax cuts won’t go away without action.
It is extremely frustrating and it’s all caused by a terribly politically polarized Congress.
It’s no wonder Congress has such low approval ratings. Respected scholars Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, who’ve covered Congress for 40 years, have been quoted in the media as saying, “we have never seen Congress this dysfunctional.”
While some have dubbed this the “Do-Nothing” Congress, I’ve taken to calling it “The Kick the Can Down the Road” Congress because of its habit of putting off making decisions on crucial issues until another day.
Some of those issues include:
• Failure to pass a five-year Farm Bill that not only provides disaster relief for the drought but actually cuts costs.
• Failure to fund government beyond Sept. 30, or even to pass a Continuing Resolution to fund it for a short time, meaning it’ll be done at the 11th hour in September.
• Failure to pass a Postal Reform bill, which means the Postal Service will default for the first time ever on its financial obligations.
• Failure to pass a Cyber Security bill, leaving America still vulnerable to cyber attacks by hackers.
• Failure to pass legislation addressing tax cuts that expire for nearly all Americans at the end of the year.
• Failure to address sequestration which will force automatic and major cuts in the defense budget.
This is truly the ‘Kick the Can Down the Road” Congress. They keep making the can bigger, and each time Congress just kicks it farther down the road. Even the “Do Nothing” Congress of Harry Truman’s time managed to do more than this one.
The American people deserve better than this. The job of Congress is to respond to their needs through legislation which it has failed to do because of a poisonous partisan atmosphere that is choking our nation’s capitol.
Ben Nelson is the senior U.S. Senator from Nebraska.