National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Congress in Sandbox

Is it any wonder that Congress' approval ratings are in the tank? The kerfuffle over whether or not to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance exhibits, in spades, the kind of childish antics that drive people crazy. The Senate works out a bipartisan bill (yeah!) but the bill is only a band-aid, extending the tax cuts and benefits for two months. Then the Senators escape for vacation. The House refuses to oblige the Senate, even though a clean vote on the Senate bill likely would have passed, forcing Speaker Boehner into parliamentary contortions. The Speaker has a point when he says Congress should be able to do better than a band-aid, but the actual consequence of the House's vote is to just let the wound fester with no short-term band-aid nor long-term cure.

The dysfunction on Capitol Hill has many sources: the increased use of the filibuster, the partisan drawing of districts such that very few incumbents face a challenge except in a primary, the ideological polarization of the two parties, the demise of party discipline, etc. But, whatever the source, the leaders of both houses of Congress have an interest in getting their members to grow up and act like adults.

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