Boots & Sabers

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1942, 01 Jan 23

Congress is broken

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week:

As Christians and Jews throughout the world paused to celebrate and Americans tried to keep warm through a blast of arctic air, Congress gathered, sort of, in Washington to demonstrate how terrible they are. Congress is broken and the prospects are slim that it will get any better in the next session.


The $1.7 trillion – TRILLION – omnibus spending spree that Congress passed before running home for the holidays is a perfect example of how dysfunctional Congress has become. For the moment, let us set aside the grotesque sums being spent. Let us ignore the thousands of wasteful earmarks contained in the over 4,000 pages. Let us block out the fact that we have added over $2 trillion to a national debt this year that is already much larger than the annual gross domestic product of our nation. Let us try to forget that this deficit spending will perpetuate the rampant inflation that is destroying American’s earning power. For just a moment, let us set all of that aside and look at the process that led to the omnibus monstrosity.


The first thing to realize is that Congress has given up on budgeting. It was never perfect, but many years ago, Congress would actually craft a budget. They would consider the tax revenue and costs and try to prioritize. There were some who wanted to mandate that the budget be balanced. Occasionally, they would even check the Constitution and consider if a budget item was permissible for the federal government to do.


Congress does not budget anymore. Instead, they occasionally pass these massive omnibus spending bills or continuing resolutions that are not constructed as part of a balanced budgeting process. The Congress has come to favor omnibus spending bills because they are convenient vehicles for pork, waste, possible graft, and terrible policies that also provide political cover for terrible people. Just look at the rhetoric behind this latest boondoggle.


First, the politicians created a fake crisis through their own appalling performance. Instead of planning ahead and thoughtfully considering how to spend the taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars for critical government programs, the politicians dithered until the week before the last spending bill was going to expire. With cries about preventing a government shutdown (as if that would be a bad thing), a handful of lobbyists and their politicians crafted a massive spending bill in a backroom somewhere.


Knowing that the omnibus bill would be rammed through to avert their fake crisis, virtually every politician in Congress insisted on their own wasteful project or terrible policy to guarantee their vote. With such a large spending bill with so many provisions, each politician has the political fig leaf to tell their constituents that they voted for the good parts and disagree with the bad parts. Of course, they voted for the bad parts too, but they can feign opposition.


Given that the omnibus is so large and was unveiled less than 48 hours before congressional politicians voted on it, it is likely none of them read it. None of them studied the bill, considered the consequences, debated the merits and demerits, or gave any real thought to it whatsoever. They might have read a summary, but the only people who actually know the full extend of what is in the omnibus bill are the lobbyists, special interests, unelected staffers, and government bureaucrats who wrote it. The American people’s interests were not seriously considered.


The House of Representatives took dereliction of duty to new levels this time. Using the excuse of COVID, the House “representatives” adopted the unconstitutional practice of proxy voting. This is a process whereby the elected “representatives” do not even show up to vote. Instead, they allow another member to cast their vote for them. To pass this $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill, 226 House members did not even respect their constituents enough to show up for work. They let someone else cast their votes. So many of them were absent that the vote actually violated Article 1, Section 5 of the United States Constitution that requires a majority of members be present to constitute a quorum, but nobody will suffer any repercussions for the transgression. The Constitution is no longer consulted by our Congress.


Our Congress is broken and we, the American people, have allowed it to happen. Our Constitution relies on people of good character to uphold its tenets and for the voters to hold them accountable at the ballot box. We have not done our job at the ballot box, so they are not doing theirs in Washington.


1942, 01 January 2023


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