Have politics become a hindrance to actual policy making? In Washington D.C. & Congress, this is most certainly the case. Partisan politics have made progress on meaningful legislation almost impossible. Today legislation that somehow passes both houses of Congress makes news – not because of the actual legislation but rather that the two fractured Houses actually agreed on something.
The failure of leadership by President Obama, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH 8), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has led to gridlock and inaction that is pervasive in both Houses of Congress. When the Republican led House passes a piece of legislation, it will stall in the Democratic controlled Senate and vice-versa. Currently one in ten federal judgeships stands vacant due to the partisan divide. This is to say nothing of the countless jobs within the executive branch, including those at the State Department and Pentagon which are crucial to America’s national security. All of this due to partisan politics…or a vetting process that is incredibly lengthy in order to, if at all possible, overcome the Republican – Democrat divide.
Members of both the House and Senate seem to be more interested in solidifying their chances of re-election rather than pass legislation. Moreover, legislators are spending time on matters that have little-to-no actual impact or just prop up partisan talking points. The House has voted 50(!) times to defund and repeal Obamacare – even when they know the bills will die in the Senate. Issues such as tax reform, immigration, and entitlement reform will not be addressed before the next election. This is to say nothing of the 2013 government shutdown that took place in large part due to politics determining Washington’s approach to policy.
Due to the ineffectiveness of those in Washington, American dissatisfaction with the government has never been higher. According to Gallup, an astonishing 65 percent of Americans are unhappy with the government. This dissatisfaction is especially prevalent among Republicans and Independents; both groups have a 28 percent satisfaction rating for the Government. These numbers are historic lows for both groups. As can be expected with such low overall ratings, 66 percent of Americans are unhappy with the sheer size and power that the federal government holds.
Of course, the hyper-partisanship that has gripped Washington can be found within the states too. From Democratic governor Cuomo’s rejection of conservatives in New York to Arizona’s SB 1062 – the extreme “right to discriminate” legislation – politics stands in the way of progress at the state level too. The need to appease “the base” will spur legislatures to tackle bills that have very limited impact on its citizens, such as Indiana’s HJR-3 and attempts in Kansas, Missouri and Georgia to copy Arizona’s SB 1062. These efforts take time and energy away from issues that would have a much broader effect on the people of the state.
November will give Americans a chance to influence the culture of politics across the nation. While the politics will always play a role in the policy making in Washington, voters need to replace elected officials who accept the current status-quo with ones who understand the power of compromise and will get results.
Who or what do you think are the biggest impediments to Congressional progress? Who needs to be booted? Who would be productive replacements and why?
About the author – Samuel Genson is a former congressional aide and lobbyist. He is the founding editor of The MidWest Wing and a columnist for the Independent Voter Network. You can follow him on Twitter via @SamEagle76 or @MidWestWing.