Divisive Congress splitting the public
Published: Sunday, April 3, 2011
Updated: Sunday, April 3, 2011 14:04
Things don't seem to be going well for our 112th Congress.
Our elected officials in Washington are at loggerheads over the question of how to keep paying the bills for the next five months, which has kept them from addressing more long-term challenges, such as entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Americans also seem to think that the debate is getting nasty. According to a Pew Research poll cited by McClatchy Newspapers, about half of Americans think that the current debate over spending and deficits has been "generally rude and disrespectful."
At the core of the problem is the dynamics of each chamber.
Members elected to the U.S. House of Representatives are elected from congressional districts rather than whole states, so they tend to have a narrower, like-minded constituency as opposed to the broader constituent base of U.S. senators.
Republicans currently hold 241 seats to the 192 seats that Democrats have in the house and can pass legislation on simple majorities. As a result of this, U.S. House members are much more rigid and dig in their heels on many political issues.
The Senate, on the other hand, is currently controlled by Democrats. They hold a majority of 52 senators, but because most legislative business requires 60 votes to get through this chamber, Democrats essentially cannot pass any bills along party lines.
House Republicans have focused much of their energy on undoing Obama's achievements, and Senate Democrats have spent much time defending them. One example of this is the health care bill. The House passed a repeal of this bill, but it went nowhere in the Senate because it is controlled by Democrats.
Naturally, Americans are losing patience with the divisive government that they put into power.
After the election, 35 percent of Americans said that Republicans had a better approach to dealing with the federal deficit, which is expected to hit 1.65 trillion this year, according to McClatchy. That number has dropped to 21 percent in the Pew Poll that it cited.
The only way forward for Congress, whether they like it or not, is compromise. Unless both sides are willing to cede ground in the short-term, they will have a tough time dealing with our long-term challenges.
There is no bill in place to fund the government through the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30. The last temporary extension signed into law by President Obama ends on April 8, and we cannot afford to simply pass another bill that will essentially cover expenses for a few more weeks, as we have been doing so far.
We have much bigger problems on the horizon than just how to fund our government through September 30. We still have to figure out how we are going to fund the government for the next fiscal year, what to do about climate change and the other many vexing problems facing this country and the world at large.
Our leaders, of course, will not compromise unless they have to do so. In a democracy such as ours, it is up to us to hold our leaders accountable and demand action from them.
We can't just watch the news and stare in disappointment as Congress fails over and over to do the business of the American people. We have a duty and obligation as citizens to know who our senators and congressmen are, and educate ourselves on what they are doing on our behalf.
This goes beyond just voting in elections; this means calling their offices and making your voices heard.
I am sick and tired of hearing people complain about how corrupt politicians are, but never take the time to know who they are and make their displeasure be known to them.
Congress can break this stalemate they are in, but it's up to us to make them do so.