The Bottom Line: Is Anyone in Congress Listening?
For hours and hours and days and days, representatives on both sides of the aisle in the House of Representatives droned on. One side continued to call for a clean continuing resolution (CR) bill to be brought to the floor for a vote; the other side continued to bring up individual items in the CR for a vote.
No matter the topic before the House, the majority of the Republicans pointed out the dire need for funding one program or another. Given their opportunity to speak, Democrats argued that the proposed action was nothing more than a ploy to appease citizens by funding high-profile popular programs, postpone a vote on the entire clean CR and make an end-around play to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Representatives from both parties supplemented with details of these basic points during press conferences, taking advantage of camera time to drive arguments further into the public psyche.
Simultaneously, citizens expressed their outrage with Congress, again repeating the same phrases: “They should be ashamed of themselves.” “They’re acting like children.” “I’m embarrassed for our country.”
Needless to say, a lot of talking has been going on, but it’s apparent no one is listening. If anyone had been, it wouldn’t have been necessary to reiterate the same arguments day after day. Each side had made their points … over and over again.
It would have been spellbinding TV for those addicted to C-SPAN if the talking points on both sides had changed one iota. But they didn’t. No new facts were brought to light. No big revelations. It was as if each representative believed that if the other side just heard the same argument with words from a congressional thesaurus or in a different tone of voice, their opponents would see the light.
The bottom line is that discussions, like the collaboration that Congress has rightly called for from the military and intelligence communities alike, are about more than talking … they’re also about listening. And if members of Congress had been listening—which is questionable considering the lack of bodies in seats in the House chamber except during voting times—they would have quickly realized that the discussion was over before the government shutdown began. Instead, their bottom line became about posturing, which shut down the most powerful country in the world in more ways than one.