By many measures, Congress has fallen short in even basic duties.
Most Americans don’t need a long list of evidence on how their elected leaders are failing to complete even the most basic tasks of governing. They assume it by now. That lack of confidence is as big a problem as the broken system itself.
We revisit these issues, it seems, every three months. But the facts are clear. Congress can’t set a budget on time. According to an Associated Press report, Congress hasn’t passed budgets for individual areas of spending since 1994. To keep the government running, Congress has either lumped all spending in one big bill so it will pass or passed “continuing resolutions” to maintain spending approved in previous budgets.
An all-encompassing spending bill invariably reduces transparency and undermines good policy-making. A continuing resolution only puts the government on autopilot with taxpayer money.
There are plenty of examples of how even rudimentary, bipartisan, good-government bills can’t be approved by one house or the other.
A bipartisan bill to encourage energy savings in new homes and older commercial buildings was derailed, according to an Associated Press report, because of Republican delaying tactics and Democrats unwilling to take unpopular votes. It seems the whole system has lost sight of its purpose and turned into one continuous game of winning the media spin.
The Senate also failed to approve non-controversial bills that offered $85 billion in tax breaks, including a $250 credit for teachers who buy their own school supplies. Even a bill to reasonably amend the Voting Rights Act via the encouragement of a Supreme Court ruling fell short. Leaders say it makes their members uneasy. That’s almost the best reason — bad as it is — that has been proffered of late.
Leading political observers note the current environment is historic and unusual and terrible.