June Girard: Gridlock reveals the killer soul of Congress
Published: Monday, November 25, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 22, 2013 at 11:25 p.m.
D.H. Lawrence wrote: “The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer.” Compromise is the lifeblood of politics, but our Congress has no care whether our government is being deprived of agency leaders, no care for the health care of those who need it the most, no care for fairness and equal representation in the voting booth, no care for a woman's right to choose and no care for hungry children.
Are our representatives “hard, isolate and stoic?” They certainly are in Florida, where the state Legislature has deprived Floridians of the Medicaid they need.
Our Congress, other than shutting down the government and stalling the budget — costing our economy $25 billion — has passed no meaningful laws despite the fact that a Gallup poll in June showed that 86 percent of both parties and 88 percent of independents support immigration reform. Or that a Gallup poll this month found that 91 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of independents and 58 percent of Republicans support raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour. And another Gallup poll found 83 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of independents and 81 percent of Republicans support background checks for gun buyers.
In this theater of the absurd, our representatives only represent themselves.
Americans chose their president with a majority of about 5 million votes in the 2012 election. House members are attempting to nullify our votes. Presidential nominations sent to the Senate have been blocked to the detriment of our protective federal agencies.
At a hearing, the nominee for the Homeland Security secretary was asked to commit to providing information to the senator questioning him and he did. That was followed by the chair explaining that the man had just committed to “a lot of work,” while appointments of assistant secretaries were still not confirmed to manage that work.
Recently the Senate filibustered three highly qualified women nominated to the DC Circuit Court. Sen. Elizabeth Warren called for the Senate to “change the filibuster rules and not turn our back to the Constitution.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham promised not to approve the Homeland Security and Federal Reserve nominees unless he gets what he wants on the Benghazi tragedy. He seems ignorant of the fact that compromise means each side gives up something; not that one side blackmails the other.
Well, the Senate should not be surprised that Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to use the “nuclear option” and change the Senate rules to require a simple majority vote for federal nominees, except the U.S. Supreme Court. It never would have happened if the filibuster had not been so blatantly abused.
Executive orders are historically used by a president to manage the officers and agencies of the executive branch operations of the federal government. Thirty days after being published in the Federal Register, executive orders take effect. These orders bypass Congress.
Reagan signed 381 orders and Clinton signed 364. President Obama has issued 164 executive orders so far; most of them deal with foreign relations and government agency successions. Of those still pending, five deal with the appointments of judges and nine orders deal with the appointments of government agency secretaries and assistant secretaries.
And now, we are told the House will not take up immigration this year. So we should forget the Senate immigration bill that had the support of 14 Republicans in June of this year.
Our representatives argue about failure in our government, yet they are the people making failure happen. It is a self-fulfilling prophesy. They are so obsessed with the Affordable Care Act that they continue to try to defeat it, to the detriment of everything else, knowing from the outset it will fail; if only by presidential veto. But they ignore all other needs of the country. Again.
Will we continue to forget? Do we care that our Congress has a median income per person of $1,066,515, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and we are paying these millionaires to do nothing but appear in Washington for one-third of a year?
We, as Americans, share the same values of equality and human rights. We are inspired to protect our democracy, ensure equal opportunity for all, to feed the hungry, and to be generous on the scene of a disaster.
How much longer will we support the malcontents we are paying to attack and weaken our democracy? Will you vote for the “killer soul” that Lawrence spoke to, or will you opt for fair play and compromise?
June Girard lives in Gainesville.