C-SPAN: Lewis Black- ‘The Beltway Alone Was Built by Idiots’: Why Congress Doesn’t Work



This post was originally posted at The New Democrat

In the fall of 2011, Congress, with a Republican House and Democratic Senate, reached  a debt ceiling agreement with President Obama.  As part of that agreement,  Congress took on the monumental task of finding an additional two-trillion dollars, I believe, in savings when they wrote the Federal budget for fiscal year 2012.  The U.S. Congress has only three tasks every year, passing the budget, the appropriations bills that follow, and performing oversight over the executive branch.

Saying that Congress has the monumental task of writing the budget is like saying that Joe the cab driver has the monumental task of driving somebody to the airpot.  That’s his job.  Joe probably drives somebody to the airport at least once a day. Or that Sally has the monumental task of waking up in the morning and getting ready to go to work. Unless Sally is unemployed, this is something that she does every weekday.  For Congress, their routine duties area virtually beyond their capabilities.  The petty, short-sighted, and utterly irrational partisanship consumes Congress everyday.

I’m a Democrat and I don’t believe that both sides are equally at fault here.  The Democratic leaders are willing to working with the Republican Leaders to do what needs to be done, whereas the Republican Leadership is scared (pardon the word) shitless of working with Democrats on anything because of the Tea Party. But Republicans have of course the Tea Party to contend with and not having to deal with a primary challenge if they do not compromise with Democrats and get a real deal. But Democrats have lets call them the Occupy Wall Street faction of their party that they do not want to have to deal with when they are running for reelection as well. And you prevent that from happening by not negotiating with Republicans especially on entitlements.

So, we are left with gridlock.  The art of the possible, in the words of the great Progressive Democratic Senator Hubert Humphrey, becomes the skill of the impossible. Where both sides become experts on nothing, that is doing nothing as well as perhaps actual experts on nothing. Because if either side compromises they risk getting primaries,(to use a Congressional term) in the next election. “Hey I might not get everything I want or what I get perhaps even looks like nothing or the twin of nothing, but at least the other side aint getting anything either”. Which is why the perfect name for any Washington pro sports franchise would be the Washington Gridlocks where nothing gets done.

Washington Gridlock


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