The Stealthy Upside: Celebrating the Unproductive 118th Congress

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by Don Surber

Axios finally had some good news for a beleaguered nation.

The website reported,

“The 118th Congress is on track to be one of the most unproductive in modern history, with just a couple dozen laws on the books at the close of 2023, according to data from data analytics firm Quorum.”

As the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would put it, hallelujah!

I praise the inactivity because I agree with Mark Twain’s observation that “Our lives, our liberty, and our property are never in greater danger than when Congress is in session.”

Axios reported,

“Just 20 bills have been passed by both chambers and signed into law this year, with another four currently awaiting President Biden’s signature, according to the Quorum data.”

Hallelujah!

Axios reported,

“The vast majority were uncontroversial bills that passed either by unanimous consent or with minimal opposition, including multiple measures to rename Veterans Affairs clinics and another to mint a coin commemorating the 250th anniversary of the Marine Corps.”

Hallelujah!

Axios reported,

“Next year is unlikely to see an uptick in productivity, with the 2024 presidential election and looming legislative fights on spending likely to consume lawmakers’ time and energy.”

Pinch me so I will know that I am not dreaming.

The inactivity scares the people who live and work in Washington because they fear Americans will enjoy and live their lives without interference from the federal government.

Steven Pearlstein, a former business and economics columnist at the Washington Post, wrote in Politico, “The Painful, Depressing Reality of Why Congress Is So Dysfunctional.”

I want a dysfunctional Congress. I want a Congress that is so partisan and divided that nothing ever gets done, because I have seen their work and I am not impressed; in fact, I am frightened.

Pearlstein wrote,

“At the heart of today’s dysfunction in Congress — the serial ousting of speakers, the perpetual threat of government shutdowns, the inability to address pressing issues like immigration, runaway deficits or climate change — lie three political fantasies. These illusions warp the perceptions, cloud the judgment and misdirect the energies of House and Senate members of both parties. Letting go of them will be the necessary first step to restoring a functioning legislature to a country that desperately needs one.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. The problem is not that Congress has not addressed the problems. The problem is Congress addressed the problems. Take illegal immigration. Congress compromised with Reagan and passed a law that never was enforced. That is the heart of the problem.

As for runaway deficits, they were created by Congress, which could solve the problem instantly by not borrowing another dime. Congress does not need a constitutional amendment. It needs willpower.

Pearlstein does not understand that Congress controls the purse strings and is solely responsible for the nearly $34 trillion national debt. Sure, presidents sign the budgets into law but they don’t spend a nickel without congressional approval. Each year, a president sends a budget to Congress. Each year, the leader of the opposition party says the budget is dead on arrival. Each year, the opposition leader is correct.

As for climate change, it is an imaginary problem that King Canute mocked nine hundred years ago when he sat on the beach and commanded the ocean not to rise. The powers of Congress are limited by God and the laws of physics, which He wrote.

The damage by Congress, however, appear to be unlimited.

Pearlstein wrote,

“a small band of right-wing zealots forced Republican leader Kevin McCarthy through 15 rounds of voting, to give them a virtual veto over legislation before they would give him the votes to become speaker. Nine months later he was out, ousted by the same crew for the unforgiveable sin of striking a compromise with Democrats to avoid an economically disastrous debt default and a politically disastrous government shutdown.”

He left out the part where having cut a deal with McCarthy, every Democrat (except Pelosi who was in California attending Feinstein’s funeral) voted with 8 Republicans to oust McCarthy. So much for collegiality and compromise.

Congress is not supposed to fix the nation’s problems. That’s on we the people. No, the job of Congress is to defend the Constitution and protect our rights. Congress is terrible at its job.

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We see this nowadays whenever Republicans rule the House and Democrats rule the Senate. Bills get sent to the Senate and they just sit on them. Which, as stated, isn’t always a bad thing.

Most bills now seem to be to force the government to follow the law. For instance, bills that promote enforcing immigration laws and securing our border. The government is already supposed to be doing that, but Democrats just ignore whatever law they think is benefitting Americans and not promoting their agenda (yeah, those things go in opposite directions).