|SITREP - January 26th 2012|
This has been an especially busy week on a number of levels. First, and most obviously, the President delivered his State of the Union address. I doubt my reaction was all that different from most Americans who watched it, so I will leave it at this: there wasn’t really anything he said that came a surprise to me. We’ve heard it all before. What amazed me was what he chose not to say.
The same day he delivered his speech marked 1,000 days since the United States Senate passed a budget. It was pure coincidence, but it was a seriously symbolic coincidence. He decided not to highlight the fact the Senate has forced the United States to operate for three years running without a budget plan.
Given everything that our country is facing – record deficits, crumbling infrastructure, an uncertain future for our military, competing needs that can only be balanced through thoughtful prioritization – the President didn’t feel compelled to call on the United States Senate to pass a budget plan. You could be forgiven for wondering if it’s because the Senate is run by one of his closest allies – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
On many levels, this was to be expected. But this was also probably the last high-profile opportunity for the President to make this a national priority, so I set about trying to rally the troops in the House – both Republican and Democrat – to put some pressure on the President to call out the Senate for punting on a budget.
I introduced a resolution expressing the national importance of passing a budget this year. Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the President’s speech, the House passed it 410-1. I also called a press conference on that resolution to try to ramp up the pressure.
In any case, the President shrugged it off again and led the nation believe that we had a plan, all we had to do was hope.
The same goes for the jobs proposals currently stalled in Congress. You would think that with all the political pressure he’s under to speed up the recovery, the President would have taken the opportunity to call on the Senate to either move the 27 jobs bills the House has sent them, or pass some constructive proposals of their own.
Here again, no mention of Senate inaction.
And to my Democrat skeptics out there who are itching to blame Republicans for the Senate’s failure, let me say two things: First, on the budget question.
Budgets cannot be filibustered. And therefore, not a single Republican vote is required to pass a budget. Furthermore, despite having a supermajority in the Senate, strong majority in the House, and control of the White House, they didn’t even propose one.
Second point on the jobs bills. Most of what we’ve passed in the House has drawn bipartisan support – obviously some more than others, but bipartisan all the same.
There were two bills in particular that haven’t gone anywhere, that I’ve been completely baffled by. Both bills, passed months ago in the House, had to do with helping small businesses raise investment capital more easily. At a time when small business loans are so hard to come by, this seemed like a no-brainer. Both bills sailed through the House with over 400 votes (keep in mind there are only 435 of us in the chamber). That’s pretty bipartisan by any metric. And yet… no action in the Senate. None. No debate. No vote. Nothing.
If I were the President, and I were trying to present the image of looking for every opportunity to increase job creation, I’d have jumped on that. There are two bills that just about everybody supports sitting right there on the Senate Majority Leader’s desk… Why not move them?
If he’d said something calling out Harry Reid for not passing those jobs bills, I guarantee you the Senate would have hopped to it. That would’ve been leadership and I would’ve given him credit for that. That’s what the bully pulpit is all about. But instead of pushing the Senate to do it’s job, and heaven forbid highlighting the work the House has done, the President chose to gloss over it yet again.
The bottom line is that, despite the huge stakes for our country, tough decisions are being avoided. And even when the steps are simple, they aren’t being taken – and for reasons known only to Harry Reid.
I, for one, am sick of it. I know the people I represent, particularly those who have lost a job or a home are sick of it too. There really is only so much the House can do on its own. We need the Senate to work with us. They don’t have to agree with everything the Republican House does, and I don’t think anybody would really expect them to, but disagreeing with the other chamber doesn’t give you an excuse not to put up a proposal of your own. And if you can’t put up a bipartisan proposal of your own, then I think it’s your responsibility to pass the one in front of you. At the very least, give it an up or down vote.
We’re not there yet, and in my book, somebody needs to speak up about the President staying silent.