Since taking office in January 3rd, 2011, the 112th United States Congress has routinely failed to meet the expectations of their constituency. While partisan politics, and indeed political fights, are nothing new, the degree to which these actions have eclipsed the mission of Government is unacceptable. Elected in 2010, the 112th Congress ran on two platforms, deficit reduction, and jobs creation. All but one of the thirteen freshman Senators elected were Republicans, five of whom possessed no experience in national politics. In the House of Representatives ninety-three of the two hundred and forty two Republicans elected entered their first term in office.
In years prior, changes of this magnitude failed to greatly affect the operation of the Senate. Yet the 2010 elections proved to be different. In early 2009, up and coming Republicans in both the House and the Senate vowed to block all legislation supported by President Obama, regardless of content or consequence. The GOP 2010 victory in the House allowed this new leadership, separate from Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader McConnell, to move more forcefully. As of writing, over three hundred and seventy five bills of the 112th Congress remain blocked through filibuster, secrete hold, or other procedural-based method. These are bills that, under normal circumstances, would see debate in the House and Senate.
At the same time ninety seven percent of House Republicans, the majority party with two hundred and forty two members, and eighty seven percent of Senate Republicans, signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge to oppose any increase in income tax, or decrease in tax credits. While hard numbers to not exist for Democrats, most have publically stated they will not accept any structural changes to Social Security, Medicare, or pension plans.
The audacity on both sides of the aisle is difficult to comprehend. Absolutist pledges stand as a vow of ignorance, a commitment not to learn, but to remain ignorant in the face of changing circumstances. Yet an objective to redefine the country’s most powerful legislative body as ineffectual in the hopes of defeating a President is inexcusable. Just ten years ago we passed campaign finance reform legislation with broad bipartisan support, where members with different governing philosophies came together to solve an issue relevant to all Americans. In today’s congress, veteran job retraining has become partisan. Many will recall in 2011 when a procedural vote with no barring on government debt nor deficit nearly resulted in a shutdown of the federal government. The very functioning of our highest offices were, in the words of Senator McConnell “a hostage that’s worth ransoming.”
Our legislature stands as the great mediator, a body of temperance and moderation dedicated to the combination of best practices and perspectives. From rational debate, in context, with respect to the future and the present, comes progressive legislation, sound fiscal management, and a resolve to never stop improving. The 112th congress lacks the institutional memory, common sense, and decency necessary for democratic governance.
We have fallen pray to dogmas of entitlement. We confuse compliance with compromise, governance with ideology, and partisanship with rivalry. This November we have a choice to make, not between Democrat and Republican, but between respect and offence, between those who reach across the aisle, and those who slap that hand back. We must return government to its fundamental focus, governance, no matter who you have to work with.