Optimism misplaced with current Congress

Overall, I’m a pretty optimistic fellow. In fact, my wife often refers to me as a Pollyanna, always assuming the best of people and situations. Needless to say, my optimism is often ill founded and more often than I like to admit results in disappointment.

Viewing the world through rose-colored glasses is something of a rarity among journalists. We tend to the cynical more often than not, based, I suppose, on years of observing and reporting the foibles of humanity and arriving at the inevitable conclusion that we are a flawed group, vulnerable to our own worst impulses.

Yet I remain fairly confident in our ability to improve, to rise above our failings, to defeat our inner demons.

Except for Congress.

I read earlier this week that the latest poll showed Congress’ approval numbers at an all-time low and their record for accomplishing anything so far this session on a record pace as the least productive in history, even worse than the last one, which set a bar hard to crawl under.

Their latest failure was the House of Representatives defeating a farm bill that came out of the hard-working and largely bi-partisan House agriculture committee after several years of public hearings, testimony and compromise. Each side blamed the other. Wait, let me rephrase that.  Extremes on each side blamed the other. One side complained that the farm bill spent too much; the other said it cut too much. Two targets, crop insurance and nutrition, stand out as poster pieces for the entrenched combatants.

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My tinted glasses no longer color my vision on this issue. I can’t see a pathway to passing this legislation in this sharply divided Congress. The Senate bill passed with significant bi-partisan support, but the House has already soundly rejected that proposal.

As it has the Senate’s—again bi-partisan—immigration reform bill. I can’t imagine that legislation gaining much traction with a House divided along the extreme lines currently in place either. The big sticking point appears to be how to treat the 11 million or 12 million—one loses count—undocumented people currently living in the country. The Senate bill, as I understand it, offers a path to citizenship. Many in the House reject that stance and contend that amnesty for those who have broken our laws is unconscionable.

Some also contend that the Senate bill pays too little attention to border security.

As far as border security is concerned, it seems obvious that a country must control its borders. It also seems obvious that to do so we have to have the “boots on the ground” to patrol and enforce. That requires funds and this congress, at least a faction of it, seems reluctant to spend more money on anything. We also need a feasible guest worker program.

As for the 12 million undocumented, I have no solution better than a pathway to citizenship. What’s the alternative, round them all up and send them packing? Where do we hold them? How do we transport them to wherever they have to go? How much will it cost? Who pays the tab?

I’m not saying the path to citizenship should be an easy one. I believe being a citizen of this country is one of the world’s greatest opportunities, so it should come with a certain amount of responsibility, a commitment to service and a willingness to make some restitution by those who got here by less than acceptable avenues. That seems a common-sense solution—viewed through the eyes of an optimist.

But when has common sense made a whit of difference to this Congress?


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TAGS: Legislative
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