Addressing legislation in Congress is like a barn dance. The caller’s voice rises and falls in cadence and dancers do their favorite do-si-do. But instead of a colorful show, we repeatedly see discord and conflict. Dancers are out of step. Each side of the aisle aims to trip the other. There is certainly no friendly competition.
When rivalry takes precedence, the often artful choreography of politics becomes an eyesore and the American people are the ones who suffer. We have seen this dismal dance before.
On Friday of last week, the Republican-run House of Representatives passed a spending plan that would keep the government afloat through the end of this year, but ensure that the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare)—set to launch in October—would be dead in the water.
Republicans, many of them Tea Partiers, have made many promises to strike down Obamacare. For these politicians, this vote could be seen as a victory—or at least, a point in their favor come 2014′s re-election cycle. But it is a hollow victory.
Many of these Republicans were elected as a result of ridiculous gerrymandering (not that they are the only guilty party). They represent a small portion of the population that is shrinking day-by-day. This vote did not represent the majority of America. It was merely a vote of principle; it does little to affect change, and serves mainly to curry favor with a small, active base of voters.
So, then, the Democratic-led Senate is likely to reject or amend the bill, and Obama will certainly not agree to a deal that invalidates what is touted as the greatest political victory of his presidency. Nor should he. But dragging out the process, though part of what our politics has become, wastes time that could be used to come to solid agreements on other important issues. Instead of fighting every three months over last-minute, stop-gap legislation, Congress needs to put aside differences and come up with a truly workable budget.
With representatives as split and deadlocked as ever, it would appear that we have long days of back-and-forth ahead of us. Compromise needs to take the form of quick, reasonable cuts to large, unwieldy programs (such as to the over-bloated defense system) rather than causing harm in order to gain political points. That money could be put into programs meant to help better American lives.
As it is, negotiations will effectively be back to square one. Barring an unprecedented miracle, the US government will careen toward the doom of shutdown over the next few days, with a last-minute deal made to (temporarily) save us all.
We have seen this all before. It is hard to believe that anyone in our government has our best interests at heart when their time is spent pleading with the cameras instead of with each other. We do not need to hear the same talking points over and over. We do not want the blame game to dominate the news cycle. We need a solid, long-term budget that focuses on more social programs and less on babysitting the world.
Let’s add some fresh moves and change this tired choreography.