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Eye on future

Barely one week into the new year, and we can hazard educated guesses concerning what the American public is thinking about. In no particular order: The recent cold snap, fond memories of the holidays other than taking down the decorations, how long one's resolutions will last, and remembering to write 2014 on checks if you're still using that technology.

Appropriately, it is in this state of low expectations that the second session of the 113th Congress began this week. Following a first session long on speeches and short on action, we'll keep our enthusiasm tempered until proven otherwise.

No dearth of issues confronts the nation's lawmakers, but collective will and legislative cooperation have not surfaced much on The Hill of late. The Senate was able to confirm Janet Yellen this week to be the next chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, but don't look for many bills to make it through both chambers.

If we had a functional Congress, we might be able to expect legislation addressing some of today's pressing issues to make it to the president's desk for signatures. Solutions are desperately needed for Social Security benefits, immigration, the tax code, military readiness, international trade relations, poverty, an overdue farm bill, unemployment benefits ... the list could, and does, go on and on.

But we do not anticipate action on any of them. Instead, we're prepared for a repeat of the first session.

Most likely there will be a short-term spending bill to keep the government running beyond Jan. 15. Sometime in late February or early March is when the nation's borrowing limit will need to be increased once again -- and that's when gridlock will return full force.

It's becoming a predictable pattern, one we all are guilty of reinforcing via voting habits. Whether one doesn't vote at all or continues sending the same politicians back to Washington, we reinforce established behavioral patterns with re-elections.

We're not even advocating a throw-the-bums-out approach in the fall election. But the American public has between now and November to figure out what kind of future we want, and then determine the best individuals to bring about that vision. If we merely re-elect the same bunch, there is no reason to even dream anything will change in the nation's capital.

We would encourage all voters to begin articulating what they want. Not what they don't want -- that's too easy and already used by current leaders. Let's determine together what we expect of Congress. Only then will we be able to demand it.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net