Another Congressional Shutdown? Haven’t We Seen This Movie Before?

If Congress was a movie, a Broadway performance, or a pop culture event that warranted a critique with a sword-like tongue and humorous prose, the opening sentence of a review might read something like this:

“Only on Capitol Hill does the same, tiring sequelization of ineptitude and grandstanding pass itself off as competent governance.”


“If the collective wit and wisdom of Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill were put into a book, the first draft would be only a page. With editing, we could get it down to a paragraph.”

And so the saga that is the nation’s Congress turns.

To paraphrase a line from James Bond villain, Hugo Drax, in Moonraker, “Congress appears with all tedious inevitability of an unloved season.” For if we had an “Arab Spring” earlier this year, ours is certainly to be a cold and frightful “American Winter.”

The latest episode on Capitol Hill is over disaster relief spending.

Faced with the need to fund the government before the end of September (the end of the government’s fiscal year), Congress is attempting to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government agencies funded. Just through mid-November, mind you.

Unfortunately for Republican leaders in the House, their fractured caucus produced an unexpected result: defeat of the continuing resolution by a count of 230 to 195. 48 Republicans voted against the bill that their leadership proposed.

The primary opposition to the legislation stems from two fronts.

First, the Democrats in the House are largely bowing to pressure from Senate colleagues to push for more funding for disaster relief. They also are fighting against cuts to fund development of energy-efficient cars. The difference between House and Senate legislation about $3 or $4 billion. Out of over $1 TRILLION in spending.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Ried (D-NV) understands all too well that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has a disparate band of members that have proven to be unwieldy. Showing the House in disarray under Republican stewardship is a bonus for Reid, who, like most on the Hill, has set sights towards the 2012 election cycle.

Meanwhile, Republicans who opposed the bill are doing so because they believe federal spending is too high, and want more budget cuts. While they support keeping the FEMA disaster relief fund going, they do not believe that the agreement to fund the government reached a few months ago is set in stone. If they can cut spending, anywhere, they are going to do it.

At the end of the day, no one really believes that some agreement won’t be reached to keep the government running. What’s $3 or $4 billion between friends?

Of course, this does not change the basic reality of what two-party politics has brought the country: systematic bickering, political grandstanding, and an overall unwillingness to focus on the most pressing challenges facing our country. Congress instead opts to do nothing or the bare minimum, all for the sake of blaming the other guy. And if public opinion polls are to be believed, doing nothing and playing the “blame game” isn’t exactly what the nation is looking for at the moment.

It is already apparent that Americans are growing weary of the watching the same the movie, sitting through the same performance and watching the same event unfold time after time. This is what lead to the rise of the Tea Party movement a few years ago. A large segment of America needed a place to voice their frustration.

However, now Americans are tired of being frustrated. Over the past few years, the people have given the Democrats a chance. And then we gave the Republicans in the House a chance. Steadily, people are waking up to the realization that the problem is not one side or the other – the problem is that we have two political parties focused on their own needs and not those of the people.

The old guy from Texas, Perot, used to talk about getting under the hood of the car, finding out what was wrong and fixing it. Unfortunately, Democrats and Republicans are resolved around their “ideologies” when it comes to the issues. But ideology does not get the car moving again, and it won’t get our country working again. What we need are real solutions, and people who are committed to solving challenges.

One website that is seeking to do this is the Reform Party’s Our Solutions ( initiative. Focused on one issue at a time, the site is designed to collect the thoughts and ideas from all Americans on what can be done to fix our greatest challenges. First on the list, “How can we create jobs in America?”.

When looking at the current situation on Capitol Hill, it is apparent that if the people do not speak up and promote ideas to improve our country – we cannot count on the Democrats and Republicans to get it done for us.

Michael Hackmer is a founding member of Our Solutions and current director of the Reform Party of Virginia. He can be reached at [email protected], or you can follow him on Twitter @hackmer.

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