This summer's congressional recess: an embarrassment
The 114th Congress has adjourned for a seven week recess, and left several key pieces of legislation undecided
For the next month, the mind of the political class will not be on the most major legislative issues facing the United States, but rather Republicans and Democrats alike are embarking on a seven-week recess for the summer and party conventions. Seven weeks will go by without resolutions to important policy questions posed by leaders from across the government. The American people should be outraged that their elected officials are taking this vacation to go play politics without first carrying out their duties as public servants.
Bills to fully fund requests from the Centers for Disease Control to prevent and combat the Zika emergency will remain in limbo as hundreds of legislators flock to Cleveland and Philadelphia. Multiple proposals to attempt to curb gun violence following the attack in Orlando will go untouched, with Republican leaders in the House of Representatives scrapping a vote that was originally scheduled for last Friday. Government funding will also inch closer to running out, with the deadline to pass a new budget for the federal government set to expire on September 30, less than a month after returning from recess.
In addition to the important legislation before Congress, the House Freedom Caucus, a far-right group of lawmakers, submitted a privileged resolution last Thursday in an attempt to force a House vote to initiate impeachment proceedings on John Koskinen, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. Some conservatives have been lobbying for Koskinen’s impeachment for months following accusations of politically targeted audits on conservative organizations. The resolution will now loom over lawmakers until their return, and will have to be addressed within two days. The IRS is primarily charged with collecting taxes, but the agency also determines tax-exempt statuses for organizations. Conservatives allege that the IRS has intentionally targeted right-leaning organizations for audit and flat denial from tax-exempt status. The IRS has confirmed that internal investigations have revealed bias in auditing, and the matter remains under investigation.
Perhaps the lack of Zika funding is the most egregious and telling of how gridlocked even this 114th Congress remains, having been slightly more productive than the past two, which were ranked among the least productive sessions of Congress in the history of the U.S.. The virus, which is expected to hit the U.S. this summer, will likely impact all states. In fact, Florida is now investigating two cases of Zika that are not believed to have been brought from travel abroad-- meaning they are the first local transmissions of the virus, either through sex or other contact. This public health emergency has prompted the White House to ask for billions in funding on top of rollover money from the Ebola crisis last year. If Congress cannot take care of the health and safety of the people it represents before vacation, then what should the American people be left to expect?
The work ethic and productiveness of Congress has declined dramatically over the years, with the most recent Gallup poll showing that only 16 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. This is a rating that transcends the party holding the majority—Congressional approval has been below one third for years. This leaves the questions, how are so many incumbents reelected? Why do we allow the status quo of scheduled recess to stand in the face of major issues? Perhaps it is not even the length of the recess that is so poor, but the fact that lawmakers can look citizens in the eyes, take their taxpayer-funded salary, and say they are working for us. The ballot boxes on November 8th should serve the nation well—perhaps we can finally find lawmakers who are willing to go to work for us, no matter the time of year.
Kris Schneider is sophomore in the School of Communication and is a columnist for The Eagle.