Friday, February 6, 2009

Children of the Senate

This morning, we see a disturbing dichotomy. At 8:30am, we find out that unemployment has risen to 7.6%, the highest level since 1992. More jobs were lost in January than in any month since 1974. While people have seen their dreams die in an ailing economy, their fate rests with 100 duly elected Senators in Washington. Instead of acting with urgency to pump as much money as necessary into the economy as soon as possible to stop the bleeding, we hear debate centered on the following complaints:

-Chuck Grassley of Iowa just got up and whined that the Democrats were trying to limit the amount of amendments being offered. Chuck, your side has offered and lost about 30 amendments this week. If a building was burning, you'd probably see Chuck Grassley complaining to the fireman that his firefighting input wasn't listened to enough.

-John McCain has just taken the floor and complained about the process. He says that when Speaker Pelosi stood up and said "we won the election, we wrote the bill," she was not being bipartisan. He claims that Republicans did not put enough of a stamp on the bill. Hey Johnny, not only did your party lose the election, but you personally lost. You were the one who said, in 2005, that elections have consequences. We have elections for this very purpose, to determine who makes policy. If you wanted to write the bill, you should have won another 97 electoral votes, and your comrades should have won another 50 House seats and 9 Senate seats. I'm all for soliciting bipartisan input, but ultimately, this is a democracy. We protect the rights of the minority in Congress, but we don't let write legislation.

-Not to be outdone, 65 House Democrats wrote to the leadership demanding that the House return to "regular order" and debate bills in subcommittees, as was not done during the stimulus. Let's go back to the fire metaphor. This is like writing a letter to the fire-fighting crew that says that usually, during moderate fires, we like to adhere to the process set out in the fire-fighting manual.

I'm a bigger fan than most of parliamentary protocol, and I understand its importance. But enough already! People need relief, and they need it immediately. The bill deserves to be debated in committee, as it was, made available for the public to view online, as it has been, and then voted on in the House and Senate. In the Senate, it should require 60 votes to pass. Once those conditions protecting the minority are met, at a certain point, you have to get beyond being nitpicky about process and realize that people are counting on you to revive their livelihoods.

Senators who complain about the process when the economy is in dire straights may or may not have merits in their arguments. But at the same time, they are acting like children, when their country needs them to act like adults. Children always think that they're the center of the universe - like a child outside a fire throwing a tantrum about something irrelevant that distracts and delays the rescue effort. Senators should know better than to espouse a similar mentality. At the very least, children do have the advantage of seeing things as they truly are, seeing the whole truth, and not getting bogged down in cordiality and minutiae, and recognizing phoniness. They wouldn't be bound by Senate rules of comity, and would see right through the Republican opposition to what it truly is - you want the President and the country to fail.

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