You may have noticed there are pressing issues going on in our country at the moment. The economy is reportedly improving, though people still canít find jobs. If they do find a job, often they are underemployed and still not making what they need.† There have been record storms, bridges are collapsing, and there are millions of immigrants who would like to stop living in fear.
The current Congress has taken doing nothing to the extreme. While a little more than 5,000 bills have been introduced, the majority were referred to committee and never even discussed. Those that made it out of committee often couldn’t past procedural hurdles to get a final vote. Thus far only 22 bills have made it to the Presidentís desk for signature.
This Congress is not very good at passing laws.
What they are good at is discourse, divisiveness and delay.
While they go on their six week break to find out what their constituents have to say, much of the business crucial to our nationís well being is left unattended. Here are just ten of the things that are still undone.
Congress has not passed a budget in four years. They have passed continued spending resolutions to keep the government operating until the end of the fiscal year Ė September 30th.
2. Ending the Sequester
Congress still has not dealt with the effects of the last budget avoidance battle – the sequester. This was tacked onto the spending resolution of the last session requiring arbitrary cuts if a budget was not passed. The cuts went into effect in January and have resulted in furloughs, cuts in major social programs and a reduction in government services.
The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, which passed the Senate in June, has been in the House for more than a month. They have yet to bring it to the floor for a vote, as they are busy trying to eliminate giving a path to citizenship for those currently here illegally.
There have been few jobs bills introduced, and fewer still have made it out of committee. None have been voted on by either chamber.
5. Gun Control
Just one month before the new session started, the country was rocked with another mass shooting, this time of elementary school students in Newtown, Connecticut. In the weeks after the shooting, Americans were calling for change on a national level. The Senate was able to get a bill to the floor that focused on national issues such as federal background checks, gun show sales and assault weapons. It wasnít able to get the procedural 60 votes needed to get to a final vote for passage.
6. Farm Bill
The Agriculture, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 passed the Senate and was sent to the House in June. The farm bill is normally a continual renewal, with little disagreement in its reauthorization. Not the case this year. The House narrowly passed its own version, eliminating portions that have been included for decades, including the SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) program. There is doubt that the two versions can be reconciled. Furthermore, the White House has threatened a veto of the House version.
7. Voting Rights
Even before the Supreme Court gutted the Voter Rights Act of 1965 in June, several bills were introduced to address voting issues, including redistricting, voter registration and access to voting. These were all aimed at making voting easier and fairer, none have made out of committee.
As bridges collapse, our aging infrastructure is continuing to be ignored. President Obama has repeatedly talked of the need to create a program that focuses just on that Ė much like the WPA program of the 1930s and 1940s where millions were put to work on public works programs. Congress has not moved forward on any proposal.
9. Womenís Rights
Equal pay, equal rights, pregnant workers Ė the bills have been introduced, but none have made it out of committee. Though to be fair, the Equal Rights Amendment has been on the agenda since 1923. These things take time.
10. Climate Change
Yeah, weíre still waiting.
Itís only been seven months and there is a little less than eighteen months left in the session. Thatís plenty of time to get things done. Of course, when they return on September 6th their first priority is to deal with the budget, which needs to be completed by September 30th to avoid a government shutdown.
Did I mention it has been four years since Congress has passed a budget?