"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“The Polar Express”: It’s A Wonder Anything Ever Gets Done In Congress

This is the season of Extreme Politics. Everything’s exciting. Mitt Romney paid taxes! Joe Biden just bought a 36-pound pumpkin! Paul Ryan is campaigning with his mom again!

Oh, and Congress is ready to go home to run for re-election. I know you were wondering.

“I haven’t had anybody in West Virginia tell me we should hurry home to campaign,” protested Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat.

This might be because Manchin is approximately 40 points ahead in the polls. He could probably spend the next month in a fallout shelter without anybody noticing. Nevertheless, he is so fearful of alienating conservatives that he refuses to say who has his support for president. There are only about five undecided voters left in this country and one of them is a senator from West Virginia.

The good news is that our lawmakers spent their last pre-election days in Washington working to pass a bill that would keep the government running for the next six months. This is sometimes referred to as a “continuing resolution,” and sometimes as “kicking the can down the road.” Personally, I am pretty relieved to see evidence that this group has the capacity to kick a can.

Let’s look at what else they were up to. This is important, partly because the last things you take up before going back to the voters shows something about your true priorities. Also partly because it will give me a chance to mention legislation involving 41 polar bear carcasses in Canadian freezers.

The Senate had a big agenda for its finale. Kicking the budget can down the road! Passing a resolution on Iran designed to demonstrate total support for whatever it is Israel thinks is a good idea! The Sportsmen’s Act!

O.K., the last one was sort of unexpected. It’s a bunch of hunting-and-fishing proposals, ranging from conservation to “allowing states to issue electronic duck stamps.” Also, allowing “polar bear trophies to be imported from a sport hunt in Canada.” A long while ago, some Americans legally hunted down said bears, happily envisioning the day when they could display a snarling head on the study wall, or perhaps stuff the entire carcass and stick it in the front hallway where it could perpetually rear on its hind legs, frightening away census-takers.

But then the United States prohibited the importation of dead polar bears, and there have been 41 bear carcasses stuck in Canadian freezers ever since.

Free the frozen polar bears! Well, not before November, since the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, dug in his heels, claiming the whole hunting bill was only coming up to help its main sponsor, Jon Tester of Montana, in a tight race. McConnell, who publicly set his own top policy priority as making sure Barack Obama didn’t get re-elected, hates naked partisanship.

The House, meanwhile, declined to take up two major bipartisan bills from the Senate. One was the farm bill, which Speaker John Boehner admitted he just couldn’t get his right wing to vote for despite pleas from endangered rural Republicans.

The other was aimed at reviving the teetering U.S. Postal Service, which is about to default again. “I hear from our Republican colleagues they didn’t want to force their folks to make difficult votes,” said Tom Carper, a lead Senate sponsor.

Really, there’s no excuse on this one. By the time a difficult issue has been turned into a bipartisan Senate bill, it’s no longer all that difficult. People, if you see a member of the House majority campaigning in your neighborhood, demand to know why the Postal Service didn’t get fixed.

Although on the plus side, the House did agree that the space astronauts should be allowed to keep some flight souvenirs.

One thing virtually nobody in the Senate considered a pre-election priority was spending hours and hours arguing about a proposal from Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky to eliminate foreign aid to Libya, Pakistan and Egypt. However, in the grand tradition of the upper chamber, Paul had the power to hold up the crucial kicking-the-can bill hostage by threatening a filibuster if he didn’t get his way.

“He can keep us here for a week and a half if we don’t let him bring it up,” grumbled Senator Charles Schumer.

Rand Paul does this sort of thing all the time. Who among us can forget when he stalled the renewal of federal flood insurance under the theory that the Senate first needed to vote on whether life started at conception?

The majority leader, Harry Reid, pointed out repeatedly that he has had to struggle with 382 filibusters during his six years at the helm. “That’s 381 more filibusters than Lyndon Johnson faced,” he complained. Obviously, Robert Caro is never going to write a series of grand biographies about the life of Harry Reid.

It’s a wonder anything ever gets done. Although, actually, it generally doesn’t.

By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, September 21, 2012

September 22, 2012 - Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Share your comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: