A friend of mine recent posted the following query in social media earlier this week: What are your top three issues for the CD1 race? I’ve been struggling for three days to come up with three topics of substance I think Congress could be reliably counted upon for action. So far, I have some pipe dreams but nothing to put on an actionable list.
First, of course, would be some sort of fiscal responsibility—HA! No one even pretends about that one anymore. The GOP will throw it out occasionally as a way to oppose whatever it is the Democrats are proposing, but we all know they don’t really mean it. The Trump administration generated nearly as much debt in four years as Obama did in eight, but that is totally okay because he has an R after his name. Last week the Republicans had a huge opportunity to take on this issue headfirst in their response to the President’s address to Congress. Nope. And a number of GOP Senators are quietly placing earmarks in the budget. Because they can.
Let’s also just plan on not having a budget by October 1. Because we haven’t since 1998. No wonder the executive branch keeps pulling back power from the legislative branch. Y’all; you have one job. And you haven’t done that one on time in 23 years.
But I would like the 535 members of Congress to get their collective act together on both of those topics. Pass a budget on time. And put on your big kid underpants and take some of your power back. Even if the guy in the Oval Office is wearing the right color tie for your caucus this year.
The continued erosion of legislative power and the increase of executive orders in each successive administration in this century is a bad trend for this country. The first 100 days of a new administration should be more than undoing the previous guy’s executive orders, but that is what the last two administrations have been. And you, Congress, have let that happen with extreme partisanship. Placing all your trust in the executive branch because of a current emergency or because you happen to have the power in both chambers and the White House is shortsighted in the extreme. It’s time to think ahead and rebalance the branches of government.
I’d like to see some movement toward anti-trust legislation in Big Tech and the entertainment industry. And regulation in that market extends to protections for our personal data as consumers of both technology and digital entertainment, which are minimal at best.
But you know what? If Congress passed a budget and did nothing else, I’d be okay with that, too. The issues I mention above are really just pipe dreams. Nothing substantive will happen this year except maybe a budget and more stimulus.
There is so much money and regulation pouring out from the two previous stimulus bills that we already see positive and negative impact. Many small businesses—especially restaurants and bars—are struggling to fully reopen. Some have been closed for over a year and will need to spend over $100,000 just to open the doors again. But there are federal funds just for that. Simultaneously they are challenged to find employees, due to both uncertainty about safety and having to compete with current enhanced unemployment benefits.
So I have mixed feelings about the “infrastructure” bill being debated now. Roads, bridges—sure. It could make electric vehicles as they exist now a nationwide reality with funding for a network of charging stations across the country. That’s intriguing. But this bill goes far beyond that and promises infrastructure spending at very local levels: schools, local water systems, pedestrian safety and local economic development. We still have billions in New Mexico from the last stimulus, and just over a billion of that is still unspoken for as the governor and the legislature argue about who gets to say how it is spent.
If we have an extra billion dollars lying around in NM still waiting for allocation, and we’re already having difficulty getting people to come back to work, maybe, just maybe, Congress has done enough. Take a break. Take a look at regulating Google already. Just do no harm.
Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive and former Navy officer. She lives amicably with her Democratic husband and Republican mother north of I-40 where they run two head of dog, and two of cat. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.