by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Joel Stein aims his wit at congressional gridlock in the latest edition of “The Awesome Column” for TIME magazine.
As it heads off to recess until September, Congress has put only 22 bills on President Obama’s desk, which is only 22 more bills than I’ve put on his desk. Those 22 bills are way below the 453 measures that the Do-Nothing Congress averaged each year during Harry Truman’s first term. In fact, Congress is on track to crush its record of fewest bills passed per year, which was 88 in 1995, when the House had a contract with America, and, as everyone in the world knows, America likes its contracts short because America hates to read.
Worse, what Congress has passed this session are barely laws. Other than two for Hurricane Sandy relief and one to spare air-traffic controllers from the sequester, they’re mostly to do things you shouldn’t even need Congress for: appointing a chief financial officer for D.C., picking a diameter for baseball’s Hall of Fame commemorative coins and naming a bridge in St. Louis for Stan Musial. If this is what Congress is doing, it completely explains C-SPAN’s ratings.
Stein offers members of Congress several proposals for bills that ought to be easy to pass: an award for Tom Hanks, elimination of the penny, and a 5 percent congressional pay cut. None secures unanimous support from his panel of two Democrats and one Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives.
One problem with my mission, [Utah Republican Jason] Chaffetz explained, is that conservatives aren’t into passing more laws, since by definition that expands government. “I wish I could pass a law that said if you pass a law, you have to take away a law,” he said. That made sense to me. You legalize gay marriage, you get rid of the law against marijuana. I’m pretty sure this is exactly what the GOP is thinking, although I didn’t ask Chaffetz specifically.
Finally, I found an idea that all three liked: a bill to declare that America is the greatest country in the world. “Nobody would vote against that,” Chaffetz said. “Increase our pompous attitude around the world? That would be in line with what we’re good at.”