Published on -8/3/2012, 10:14 AM
With the start of school right around the corner, most northwest Kansans might be looking at squeezing in one more week of vacation or at least a long weekend. That's how it goes in hard-working America. Whether working outdoors or in an office, we have our nose to the grindstone the vast majority of the year -- and reward ourselves with short breaks on occasion.
Quite the different story for our elected leaders in Washington. Congress had all of three days work scheduled for August. Apparently, that was too much. Both chambers adjourned Thursday after two days' labor and won't return to the capital until Sept. 10. The five-week vacation is known as the August recess.
As senators and representatives head to their home districts to raise money, assure constituents the only reason gridlock exists is because of the other party's members, work on campaigns, weigh in on the presidential race, and gladhand the public, there is not much to point to that details how much they've accomplished.
No bills have passed both legislative chambers regarding a farm bill. Cyber security remains up in the air. No consensus has been found regarding which businesses and income brackets deserve continued tax breaks or even further assistance. Dealing with the drought gripping the nation will be postponed until snow falls. No reductions in defense spending have been demanded despite the conclusion of the Iraq War. The economy is not at full strength. And still looming is an automatic $110 billion in automatic spending cuts for the Pentagon and domestic programs that nobody wants but will take effect in January unless Congress finds a compromise.
At least there was an agreement between House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., regarding an extension of funding for all federal programs for six months, which will allow the government to remain open after Sept. 30.
It seems as if extensions of existing programs and appropriations is all this Congress is capable of nowadays. There appears no doubt whatsoever the country is heading for a fiscal cliff if this doesn't change -- and change soon. It will not matter who wins what election in November. Congress needs to become a functioning body once again.
Perhaps members could use this latest five-week vacation planning to get something accomplished. It is not enough to simply derail what the other party is doing.
The American public, regardless of the overall apathy and disgust, needs Congress to do the nation's work. Taxpayers already are obligated to pay for retirement and health care for each member of Congress. We pay the high salaries and perks of the job. We envy the ability to vacation as much as legislators do.
But we need something in return. We need you to do your job.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry