Donâ€™t Just Stand There! Do Nothing!
By: Thomas Lindaman
On January 4th, Democrats took control of the House of Representatives and tenuous control of the Senate. With the change of power comes the possibility of something big government types dread.
Having to beg Ted Kennedy for political favors. Heck, the last lobbyist who asked Kennedy for a favor when he was in the majority broke his back carrying the portable wetbar around the Kennedy compound.
But there is something even more frightening than being Kennedyâ€™s liquor boy. That something is gridlock. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, gridlock refers to when Congress canâ€™t do its Constitutionally-mandated job of passing bills because the two major parties canâ€™t agree on what needs to be done. Why does this bother big government types? Well, when you consider their veins run red with the bureaucratic tape of the same hue, having Congress unable to pass more laws makes them edgy. Think crack addicts with fashions by Brooks Brothers.
Gridlock also tends to force the two major parties to work together to pass bills that will pass muster with their constituents. Thatâ€™s something we havenâ€™t had a lot of in at least 12 years because one party has held Congress and the White House. With the Democrats taking control, some of the rightâ€™s favorite pet projects will have to take a back seat or be altered somewhat to bring it more to the center. In short, funding for faith-based programs designed to teach the 14-toed sloth of the Upper Lower Middle Amazon River basin how to speak in tongues is going to have to wait a bit.
However, itâ€™s not just Republicans who will have to count their nickels and dimes. Democrats are in the same boat because their pet projects will be held under the same scrutiny. In short, funding for a refuge for gay 14-toed sloth of the Upper Lower Middle Amazon River basin who were taught to speak in tongues will also have to wait. Instead, we might have more sensible spending, like a study on why weâ€™re spending so much money on 14-toed sloth in the first place.
Even though the House controls spending bills, and Democrats hold a decent-sized majority in the House, thereâ€™s a possibility that gridlock in the Senate could curtail any wild ideas from the House. In the Senate, the split is 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and 2 Independents who plan to caucus with the Democrats. Then, factor into this situation the fact that South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson (who just happens to be a Democrat) has been sidelined by a medical condition. That reduces the vote count to 99 instead of 100. Democrats would have to get both Independents to vote for anything they propose, or else they donâ€™t get what they want, and thatâ€™s if votes are along strict party lines to begin with. Given some of the squirrelly Democrats and Republicans there, itâ€™s not a lock by any means, but for the sake of argument (and since itâ€™s my column), letâ€™s say it happens.
Even if Senator Johnson comes back and votes, the ever-unpredictable Joe Lieberman could break ranks with the Democrats, leaving a 50-50 tie. And guess who gets to break the tie. Vice President Dick Cheney. Oops. That alone may make Senate Democrats more willing to either work with Republicans or not work at all. You know, just like John Kerry does.
There is one downside to gridlock. If thereâ€™s a highly charged bill, those who want to see it defeated can easily get it bogged down in Congress to the point that whoever proposed the bill will withdraw it instead of watching it get voted down. With some bills, like the PATRIOT Act or appropriations bills for the war on terrorism, gridlock can doom even the best bills if the political fortunes donâ€™t shine upon it. But, like I said earlier, it also guarantees horrible bills may go the way of
Britney Spearsâ€™s chances of being Mother of the Year, so you have a tradeoff to consider.
As a big believer in small government, Iâ€™m enamored with gridlock. I think itâ€™s the greatest manmade political concept since the Electoral College (who, once again, was snubbed by the BCS for a bowl game). Sure, if gridlock happens, weâ€™ll be paying Congress for not doing their jobs, but how exactly is that different from the way things are right now?