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In the Media- Congress

Page history last edited by Jacob Rosenblum 14 years, 4 months ago

                        Watching Congress in action today requires a mammoth amount of patience, as it changes and passes legislation very slowly. Some argue that this lethargy is representative of the need to represent 300 million people in one room. Others argue that it is a hint of how corrupt the system has become. Using a contemporary issue, hopefully this can enlighten you to make a decision regarding the procedures of Congress.

                        The recent health care debacle is a glorious example of how Congress tends to enter a gridlock when arguing about controversial issues. On the 20th of June 2009, the Democrats of the House proposed a bill to modify health care by allowing a public option estimated to cost at 1 trillion dollars (1).  At the time of the writing of this article, the Congress is still embroiled in a bitter debacle over the bill. That means that it has been six months since the initial proposal. Virtually no progress has been made. It is unfathomable to think of the other important legislation that has not been able to reach the floor because the time the bill is sucking up.

                        The real incomprehensible event in all of this is the fact that for the longest time Democrats have had a 60% majority in the Senate (which is, of course, 60 senators against 40 Republican/independent senators). This is not only more than enough to pass the legislation but also enough to overcome any filibusters the opposition would use in order to defend what they see as the true interests of the American people.

                        The obvious question asks why the bill has not already passed. That is because not all of the Democrats in the Senate are in favor of the bill. A group of “blue dogs” resist the party’s ideology to pass the bill. Most would argue that this is a healthy sign in politics, as any system (especially a two-party system) needs to have independent thinkers as representatives, not yes-men to their own parties. However, there was always the possibility that the Democrats unite and push through the bill after some regrouping.

                        That possibility ended when the Democrats lost a seat in Massachusetts. The deceased Ted Kennedy’s seat was up for grabs after his much-grieved death. A poorly ran campaign from the Democrats saw it fall into the hands of a Republican, making the balance in the Senate 59-41. Despite having a clear majority, the Democrats cannot unify and even if they did, Republicans would likely veto the legislation anyway.

                        An observer of this would likely say that this is the fault of Democrats, not the fault of Congress. However, if it really were the fault of the Democrats then the bill would have been voted down. As things stand, the Democrats keep on fighting while the Republicans keep on not backing down. The result is a stalemate that leaves millions of Americans uninsured and paralyzes much of Congress.

                         What can we learn from this? Today, one party is divided in its opinion but determined to not let the issue while the other is determined never back down. The people are misinformed, as the bill is over 1000 pages long (not exactly a bedtime reading). On top of that, the bill is then given a bad reputation by false facts that are easily propagated because no one actually reads it (e.g. death panels). What can Congress do when it is stuck and the people don't really know what to do? The current political environment means that neither party can step down because it would be viewed as a critical defeat.

                         We do not know what to suggest as a remedy to this. Some bills require gargantuan amounts of time to be studied, so it would be reckless and Draconian to establish a time limit for Congress. But surely no bill is so important so as to take half a year of deliberations. Whilst we offer no suggestions, our prediction is that the bill will only be passed or killed after the congressional elections. In other words, the waiting has just begun.



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