America has a problem going unnoticed amid so much focus on the Bush Administration and the current cycle of presidential politics.
It’s the Congress.
More specifically, it’s the Congress’ inability to do anything, and it’s a problem that Congress and America must deal with. With Congressional approval at an all time low of 14 percent, it’s clear Americans are fed up with partisan paralysis.
For years I’ve raised concern about Washington’s inability to produce results on critical fronts – under both Republican and Democratic leadership.
We’ve failed to produce an energy policy. We haven’t dealt with health care or prescription drugs to the extent we should. And most recently, the Democratic leadership pulled the defense authorization bill from the floor because they didn’t have enough votes to force a “surrender” in Iraq.
Their action postponed consideration of a military pay raise and hundreds of resources our military men and women need, not just for the Iraq mission, but for training and equipment to support their missions worldwide. It’s especially troubling since America is at war.
I regret to report that there is ONE thing Congress does well: Talk. Since January, the Democratic-led Congress has opened more than 300 investigations and conducted a staggering 600 oversight hearings – an average of six per day. Oversight is an important congressional function, but 600 hearings? That’s extreme by any measure, and too often these hearings are producing nothing but rhetoric.
Meanwhile, what should be Congress’ priority – funding the government – remains undone. A dozen spending bills necessary to keep the federal government operating beyond September 30 – including veterans programs, the Post Office, national parks – have seen no action in the full Senate.
For Mississippians, the Senate’s idleness is local. The Senate can’t seem to confirm any Mississippian for the crucial 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The latest nominee – like the two previous ones – is bottled up in committee at the behest of Washington-based, liberal special interest groups, insisting on a candidate who will make laws from the bench, advocated by the groups.
No one in Congress believes Judge Leslie Southwick isn’t well qualified. He’s being smeared by liberal attack dogs in Washington because he’s a conservative from Mississippi. And unfortunately some on the Senate Judiciary Committee have acquiesced to this shameful surrogate attack.
But this is not the only impact on Mississippi. When the Democratic leadership cast aside the defense bill, they put off needed improvements that will rebuild and reform operation of the Armed Forces Retirement home in Gulfport. This facility, destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, is one of only two in the nation for our military retirees. Its residents are exiled, living in Washington. They want to come home, but they’re waiting on Congress.
How do we fix all this? How can America get the Congress it deserves, one that actually takes on tough issues – challenges problems and produces results?
If the gridlock continues, Americans soon will ask of their leaders: Have you been willing to take on challenging issues, take tough stands, help bring about a solution or offer an alternative? And they’ll vote accordingly. The stagnation will end when America demands that their leaders lead.
No one is going to agree with every solution to every problem, but all Americans should insist their Congress make sincere efforts to solve problems. If we don’t, America has an even bigger problem.
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column.
Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email