Yesterday, House Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid announced that they had reached a six-month, short term agreement that would avert a government shutdown on October 1, 2012. At first glance, it seems we finally have some good news coming from Washington, DC. But if you look at this deal more closely, Congress has done nothing more than kick the can down the road.
Congress’ job is to pass legislation for the good of the country and keep the government open at spending levels the nation can afford. Sadly, they have failed to do both. Blame can be attributed to both political parties but the so-called “Tea Party” and the recession have made this normal routine of passing spending bills almost impossible. Partisanship has reached unprecedented levels in the last three and a half years and for proof look no farther than the record number of filibusters by the Senate’s GOP in this Congress. Never before in American history have we seen more legislation filibustered than we see today.
So while we may think the agreement reached by the leaders of both Chambers is a good thing, the reality is Congress is shirking its responsibilities at a time when the American people and American businesses both want and expect them do their jobs. These spending bills touch almost every aspect of American society: our defense, our diplomacy abroad, our healthcare system, our schools and our hospitals. That’s what is in these spending bills and that’s where our tax payer dollars go.
You may recall last summer House Republicans took the nation to the brink of disaster by demanding draconian cuts and a possible default on our national debt. This disaster was averted at the very last minute when both houses of Congress and President Obama agreed to reduce the national debt by putting in place what is known as sequestration. Those cuts will take effect at the beginning of 2013. In addition, the Bush tax cuts from 2001 and 2003 will all expire on December 31, 2012. So while most Americans don’t have a clue what their tax rates will be in five months, Congress has decided to put itself on autopilot for the next six months. No profiles in courage here.
While this is a smart political bill, the only people that this agreement helps are those who work under the Capitol dome. I suppose getting any kind of agreement is good news these days but it seems as if we have to swallow yet another bitter pill coming from Washington, DC.
Note: this column was originally published on MSNBC’s Lean Forward blog.