Summertime Blues

Summertime Blues

Last week I wrote columns on the possible "compromise" on the anti-democratic "Employee Free Choice Act" (HR 1409/S 560) and the proposed "millionaire" surtax designed to pay for health care reforms.  I'd like to say that all of the problems with EFCA and the health care bill have been worked out, but this is July, not April Fools Day.  Very little seems to have changed from last week, other than the fact that legislators are increasingly short-tempered and sleep-deprived from hours of negotiations.

When frustration abounds, members of Congress and Senators often say things or propose things that are questionable.  Here are two such tidbits from the past week:

  • During his speech at a National Press Club luncheon, Representative John Conyers (D-MI), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, apparently questioned the point of lawmakers reading through the House health care bill before voting on it: "I love these members, they get up and say, 'Read the bill.' What good is reading the bill if it's a thousand pages and you don't have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?"
  • According to a July 28th article in Roll Call, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is considering ways to speed compromise legislation on union organizing and arbitration through the Senate to head off opponents.  The article quotes an unnamed leadership aide as saying, "This is not the kind of thing where we could have a long, drawn-out rollout. We'd have to say, 'Here's the deal,' and then get to the floor and get it passed before anyone can mobilize against it."

Speaking from experience as former Hill staffer, good policy does not get made when driven by tired, frustrated lawmakers scratching and clawing to cobble together the minimum number of votes required to pass major legislation.  It's time for Congress to take their summer break…the work will still be there when they return in September.

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