Congressional Conundrum


Brooks Cain

“It’s easy to find institutions in politics that are broken. This column strives to do something more difficult: find ways to fix them. Each month, I will tackle a new issue, and in a series of columns, I will lay out possible solutions.”

             When writing a column about fixing broken institutions nowadays, a writer does not have to search very hard to find one. And while that makes my job easier, it by no means makes life easier for anyone in this country. Of course, I’m talking about the elephant in the room (yes, that pun was intended): the government shutdown. Or, as Roger Ailes would have you say, the government slimdown. It has affected everyone from veterans to backpackers to military families to college football fans. Congress’ inability to agree on a usually-routine budgetary measure seems to have inconvenienced most people in the past week.  The shutdown seemed even to catch the White House by surprise, as they admitted that their shutdown contingency plan had to be hastily put together because, “they expected it would get done eventually.”

The real question is why didn’t we all see this coming? Lets examine the Obama-era Congress’ track record:

  • The Affordable Care Act passed along perfect party lines in the House after months of bipartisan negotiations to compromise on the healthcare plan. This revealed an intransigent Congress on both sides of the aisle (but mainly on the Republican side).
  • Think the debt ceiling fight seems familiar? It should. In 2011, Congress debated until the 11th hour over whether to raise the debt ceiling. The agreement created the ‘fiscal cliff.” As a result, S&P and Moody’s downgraded the credit rating of U.S. bonds. Let this sink in: the United States is no longer considered one of the most reliable countries to pay back its debt. The Isle of Man is considered more reliable thanks to our Congress.
  • With that debt ceiling “deal”, we decided we’d just figure it out later where to cut 1.2 trillion dollars or else the federal programs would just be cut across the board. Surely Congress would be able to agree with more time to negotiate, right? Right?
  • According to a recent PPP poll, Congressional approval is at 8 percent. Currently, hemorrhoids are beating Congress in approval with bipartisan support. Unfortunately, there’s no Preperation H for Congress.

Wasn’t that a fun trip down memory lane? Our current Congress is a broken institution. There are plenty of areas for improvement, but for the rest of the month I will focus on three of the most popular intervention strategies: term limits, Senate procedural rules, and gerrymandering. We have identified the problem. Now, it’s time to fix it.

Come back next Friday to hear how term limits can help fix this broken institution. 

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