This editorial appeared in the Miami Herald.
Put together a lame-duck president, a lame-duck Congress, an election year, two wars and an incipient recession and what you get is the current mess in Washington. And what a mess it is.
While more Americans lose their jobs and the economy stalls, Democrats and Republicans — and the president, too — join hands in an apparent effort to see who can pull off the silliest political antics.
Last week was typical. On July 28, GOP senators blocked a bill that would aid victims of torture, disability and disease, insisting the legislation would add to the deficit and demanding that Congress first act to lower soaring gas prices.
Add to the deficit? Whom are they kidding?
That very day the White House predicted that President Bush would leave a record $482 billion deficit to his successor in the 2009 fiscal year. Where were the GOP's ”fiscal hawks“ while the administration piled up outrageous deficits year after year?
As for lowering soaring gas prices — that's a hoax. What the GOP majority wants, with the full backing of Bush, is a bill to allow energy companies — already flush with record profits — to drill in coastal waters. This would do nothing to reduce gasoline prices for years to come, if then, but it would allow the GOP to score political points with energy lobbyists. Senate Democrats are right to hold the line.
Meanwhile, over in the House, some Democrats attempted a hoax of their own. They tried, but thankfully failed, to persuade Congress to tap into the nation's oil bank for emergencies.
The relief offered by opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve spigot would prove short-lived. It's the equivalent of pawning the family silverware to buy enough fuel to enjoy one last, wild ride in a gas-guzzling V-8 before putting it up on blocks on the front yard.
Instead of playing these games, members of Congress should concentrate on bills that can actually pass. The omnibus measure blocked by GOP senators included the Emmett Till Unsolved Crime Act, aimed at investigating unsolved civil-rights era crimes; the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act; a runaway and homeless youth bill; a bill to combat child exploitation by pornographers; a measure to create a database for Lou Gehrig's disease victims; and aid for new mothers suffering depression.
These laws would actually do some good. They are needed. So would a bill designed to protect journalists from having to identify their sources in court, which failed on Wednesday because it could not get enough votes to break a Republican filibuster. The bill, sponsored by one of the ranking Republicans in the chamber, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, passed the House 398-21, but it, too, fell victim to the Senate deadlock over coastal drilling.
Congress has done some good, such as passing the giant housing-rescue bill that might prevent a total collapse of the market, but members have spent too much time playing politics. This will be the last week of the session before the August recess.
Members are scheduled to return after Labor Day, but if they keep on behaving like this, why bother? They might as well stay home and save us all the trouble of having to put up with yet another round of partisan bickering.