With a new Congress, there are new beginnings. Even though the leadership remains the same, there are new Representatives, new Senators, and new Committee Chairs. The 112th Congress is gone. Good riddance, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out. The 113th Congress can look at the last two years as a guide, finish what the 112th couldn’t, and do it differently.
First off. Just Do It. The 112th was the least productive Congress since World War II. Now we don’t need to rename every post office, or pass resolutions “designating March 11, 2012 as ‘World Plumbing Day’.” But there are some decisions that need to be made. We can’t have Congress simply fiddling their thumbs while our fiscal house burns.
Start by actually passing a budget. The House and Senate haven’t operated under an agreed joint budget resolution since 2010. It’s really tough to get where you’re going if you don’t have a plan; especially when you aren’t even headed to the same destination.
With a budget, do the spending bills. We can’t keep our government on auto-pilot. And that includes the annual appropriations bills. Three out of the last four Congresses have had to take care of a spending bill mess left behind by the previous Congress. Buckle down and do the hard work of figuring out what our needs will be this year. Just because we spent money on something last year does not mean we need to this year. Then hold agencies accountable when they come asking for money.
But all this means you have to stop kicking the can. Putting off until tomorrow what you were supposed to do three days ago won’t make the decisions any easier. Congress needs to pull its head out of the sand and stop passing short term extensions. We are almost 100 days into Fiscal Year 2013 and we haven’t even settled on what we’re going to spend this fiscal year.
Stay in the game. Washington can’t even agree on one-year budgets, so they need to stop being paralyzed by elusive global deals that attempt to solve every problem at once. The 112th had multiple grand bargain summits, the Super Committee, and the Gang of Six/Eight. Backroom dealing hasn’t worked. A package to make necessary spending, tax, and entitlement reforms can’t be ginned up by two guys horse-trading away from the public. It’s a disservice to the more than 310 million Americans and it obviously doesn’t work. Concentrate on what you may reasonably be able to achieve and do it in the open.
Accept that you have to make some tough decisions. Agreements have to be made, compromise is required. Even one of the few things the 112th did – transportation reauthorization – is going to have to be redone by the 113th because the bill wasn’t a full extension and only lasts two years. We can’t afford a do-nothing Congress.
Make government work. Brinksmanship and hyperpartisanship do not serve the interests of our country. We can’t afford to keep the country in constant suspense on whether we’re going to go over the cliff or not pay our debts. Governing cannot be a game of chicken.
We have a newly elected President and newly elected members of the House and the Senate. We need our elected officials to grow up and do their utmost to give the public the government our great nation deserves, not the dysfunctional mess we saw for the last couple years.