Sure You Deserve a Vacation, But You are Leaving Quite A Mess Behind

Sure You Deserve a Vacation, But You are Leaving Quite A Mess Behind

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Everyone who works hard at certain times in a year deserves a vacation. Most Members of Congress work hard and also deserve down time, but there is something terribly disquieting as the Congress goes off on its summer break with so much to do, so little accomplished, and so little time left. With the new fiscal year about to begin on October 1and with a raft of legislation in various incomplete stages, where is the outcry against a Congress that has engaged in some of the ugliest, most partisan battles seen by observers in generations with no relief in sight. Washington’s politicians need to make decisions; to legislate; and note consistently indulge in speech-making and pontificating.

There is a better chance of D.C. having a snowstorm on October 1 then the fiscal year's budget being in place.  After five weeks off, beginning on September 8, unless either side decides to govern, everything from the debt ceiling extension to the appropriation bills, to the next round of sequestration to possible Governmental shut-down will be on the table. Very few voices on Capitol Hill evidence a serious desire to participate in governing. One chamber succeeds in passing a bill while the other emasculates it or does not even want to seriously focus on it; or vice-versa. 

Where are the leaders? While admittedly times have changed, but read Robert Caro’s books on LBJ, The Years of Lyndon Johnson—certainly volumes three and four—and watch how law gets made even in an environment of ideological polarization, deep-seeded racism, and enormous amount of power envy.

Lest one assume that this ineffectiveness or inability to govern is only at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the President—who also is entitled to some vacation—has not demonstrated the type of exemplar leadership which impresses. He is running around the country now giving hackneyed speeches about fixing the economy instead of banging heads on the hill and engaging the actual legislative.  He needs to stop playing lawyer; no more Mr. Nice-Guy. He needs to put Members of both chambers and both parties up against the wall. Legislating on Obama’s side as well means taking chances. History will not recall favorably the failed Presidency of Barack Obama.

The sad part of this state of affairs is that in 15 months there will be congressional elections and 24 months later the 2016 presidential elections.  It is an open question whether there is anyone in Washington capable of solving problems rather than merely jockeying for positions ahead of the forthcoming elections. Ironically for the Republican Party, despite their bravado especially from the Tea Partyers, regardless of what happens in the mid-terms, the best the GOP can hope for in the 2016 elections will be more divided Government.

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