Sunday, October 03, 2010

Feckless Congress Flies The Coop



Leadership: How can a Congress with such a large majority of Democrats, plus a Democratic president, tell voters with a straight face that it can't pass a budget? Answer: For them, acting is less popular than stalling.

In the 14th-century poem "Parlement of Foules," Chaucer dreams of a comic parliamentary debate of birds. In 21st century America, our birdbrain legislature is a nightmare come true.

Why would a Congress so firmly in the hands of one party and one ideology have to enact a continuing resolution to forestall a government shutdown, instead of passing a budget as required under law? When it has no worries about the president vetoing such a spending plan (he isn't running for re-election this year), why can't it get its act together?

Because congressional Democrats are in a state of panic. They know an electoral catastrophe is looming, and inaction is easier to defend than action — especially actions such as spending trillions and letting the biggest tax increase in history take effect.

This is the first time in modern history that both the Senate and House of Representatives have not been able to pass a simple budget resolution. With discretionary spending up 28% over the last two years, as the Heritage Foundation has noted, Democrats' laughable claims of a spending freeze will leave voters cold.

Another reason House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and their Democratic majority wanted to get out of Dodge without finishing what they started is that a vote on the Bush tax cuts might very well have blown up in their faces — thanks to moderate Democrats who want to keep their jobs.

But even if Pelosi and Reid had won a vote on the tax cuts, vulnerable Democrats would still be on the record. Those voting for the big tax increases would be hurt electorally by such a roll call, of course. But those voting to keep the Bush tax cuts would be an embarrassment to Democratic leaders. Better to wait till after the election and have a lame-duck vote, safe from the ire of the ballot box.

As independent Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman told the Associated Press: "It was going to be mutually assured destruction" if they held votes or debates on the matters before them.

It seems like any vote would have been the equivalent of a Republican campaign ad. Passing a budget would have brought the voters' attention to the fact that this Congress is spending America into a new space-time continuum.

Voting on the ethics cases before it — such as that of Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., pushed out as House Ways and Means Committee chairman but embarrassingly poised to be re-elected in his Harlem district — would let Americans see the corruption at the heart of Washington's power center.

But there's no escaping the voters. They will now take note that America's Parliament Most Foul has flown the coop rather than fulfill its responsibilities.

New Fiscal Year, Same Fiscal Irresponsibility By Rep. Charles Djou



Friday marks the start of a new fiscal year for the federal government and provides an opportunity to assess the fiscal health of our nation. The diagnosis is grim.

The federal government now spends $7 million a minute. Our national debt is more than $13 trillion, which means every man, woman and child owes $42,000 to foreign governments and other debt holders.

In the next two years, our debt will exceed the size of our economy. Within three years, the government will spend more than $1 billion a day just to pay the interest on our debt. The debt will double in 10 years.

Unprecedented fiscal recklessness is to blame. Nonsecurity discretionary spending has increased by nearly 90% over the past three years. The federal government is spending money it doesn't have while working families and small businesses must find ways to make do with less.

What has all this spending done for Americans? Since the $800 billion stimulus package was passed in early 2009, we have lost nearly 3 million jobs and the unemployment rate has consistently hovered around 10%. And every business in America knows that where reckless spending is found, higher tax rates are sure to follow.

After spending so wildly with nothing to show for it, the new fiscal year ought to mark the beginning of renewed fiscal restraint. Sadly, we're beginning fiscal year 2011 on even shakier footing.

For the first time since modern budgeting rules were adopted in 1974, the U.S. House of Representatives will fail to pass a budget. Without a budget, we cannot set priorities, review our debt, rationally consider our revenue or direct the course of spending for our nation.

The news only gets worse. By Oct. 1 of each year, Congress is also supposed to have passed the 12 appropriations bills that fund the federal government for the new fiscal year. This year, Congress has yet to pass any of these 12 critical appropriation measures.

But hope is not lost. Fiscal 2011 does not have to be like last year. We can turn things around. We can pass a budget, end the spending binge and make the necessary appropriations. We can provide the certainty that businesses need to grow and create jobs.

The first step is to cancel unspent stimulus funds and block any attempt to extend the timeline for spending such funds. We can save another $100 billion by returning government spending to pre-stimulus levels. Next, we should cap discretionary spending, cut Congress' budget and end the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

By making these common-sense reforms, we will return our nation to economic stability and prosperity. It's not too late. This should be our fiscal new year's resolution.

• Djou is a newly elected congressman representing Hawaii's 1st Congressional District, the first Republican in 20 years to do so.