When the going gets tough in Congress, the tough lawmakers get going — on their campaigns. And that’s about it.
At least, that’s the way it looks. Job one is getting re-elected. Job two, or lower, is anything else, including that national deficit thing that lawmakers and presidential hopefuls hammer on while on the campaign trail and then only give lip service to once they are elected to positions in which they can actually do something about it.
In some plain-spoken remarks reported Monday, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, told the Atlanta Press Club that there’s a good reason why the national deficit reduction plan put forth last year by something unheard of in today’s politics — a truly bipartisan group of lawmakers — has been summarily ignored by Senate leadership in both parties.
Tough decisions, he said, would have to be made — decisions that very likely won’t be popular with the home folks.
“Leadership on both sides has not been a real fan of our plan,” Chambliss said of the deficit reduction plan proposed last year by the “Gang of Six,” a group of three Democratic and three Republican senators, which included Chambliss.
After the Gang of Six made its proposals last year, Congress reacted by appointing a so-called “Super Congress” to attack the deficit problem and write its own penalties if the effort to write down the debt by at least $1.2 trillion over a 10-year period didn’t come to fruition. This Super Congress comprised of six Republicans and six Democrats equally split between the House and Senate. After a series of secret meetings, the panel announced during the holidays late last year that it had failed — miserably.
The first clue that the effort was doomed was the fact that none of senators in the Gang of Six — a group who had already exhibited a willingness to reach across the political and ideological aisles for the good of the nation — was appointed to serve on the Super Congress panel. After it flopped, Congress now has only to figure out a way to avoid the across-the-board budget cuts set to take effect in 2013, conveniently after this November’s elections. For lawmakers, finding ways around spending constrictions is rarely a problem.
Meanwhile, the national debt continues to rise unchecked.
“And if the Gang of Six plan does come up, and there is a chance it might, there are going to have to be some hard and tough votes made,” Chambliss said.
That translates to — at best — a brief, cursory glance at a bitter-tasting medicine that might stop some of the financial bleeding, followed by a prescription to instead continue with transfusion after transfusion of borrowed cash to keep the “patient” — the federal government — functioning.
One trait of Congress that has been proven time and again is that when it comes to the job of working within a budget, it has no stomach for it. As long as there is a line of credit that will fund programs, tax breaks and perks that make the voters back home happy, America’s lawmakers — the vast majority of them, at least — are more than content to secure their future by placing their nation’s future at risk.
They hope you won’t remember that when you get their campaign circulars thinly disguised as “reports from Congress” over the next few weeks (mailed for them for free, by the way, despite the financial crisis facing the U.S. Postal Service), listen to their recorded campaign pitches when your phone rings at suppertime, suddenly see photo ops of them all over the district, and see their names on ballots this summer and in the fall.
And if voters do have short memories and refused to hold their elected officials accountable, nothing will change.