The Bottom Line: Is Anyone in Congress Listening?

October 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor
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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.

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Obviously no one with the authority to be the adult in our Congress is listening. We are WAY beyond who is right or wrong and should be at the point of doing what is right instead. I honestly feel that if they didn't get paid for three weeks they would try a little harder and not always wait until the all of the sand in the hour glass is gone before compromising. Whatever happened to the "behind closed doors deals" and when have public, televised negotiations ever worked? Frankly as a retired Army officer and a contractor to the Federal government in several different agencies - I don't see why we don't start recall petitions on the whole Congress on both sides of the aisle.

Well put, Tony. I'm with you about waiting until the hourglass is empty before getting serious about making decisions. Governing by crisis is no way to run a country as great as America.

I respectfully disagree. To me, the House understands an uncomfortable truth - As a nation we are broke, and we can no longer afford a government that spends precious taxpayer dollars on promoting its agendas and rewarding its friends. And in 90 days all Americans will be facing continually increasing levels of government intervention into their relationships with doctors and healthcare providers, governed by over 2,000 pages in just one law, and eventually over 100,000 pages of regulations.

The shutdown has cost me dearly in a number of ways, so I examined the content of the House's legislation. In one case, they only asked that the Executive Branch be subject to the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, like all American citizens, and asked the government to give the American people a one-year exemption from the provisions of Obamacare, as the administration had done for over 2,500 corporations. Is it extreme to say that what is fair for one is fair for all?

I only wish that there was more media coverage of the details - about how money was spend to make websites inaccessible, vs. just leaving them up. About how the Park Service was ordered to spend money closing off scenic overlooks so citizens could not see Mt. Rushmore, and how they added boat patrols to keep boaters and fishermen out of federally-owned waters. And when a Park Service employee spoke on how his agency was ordered to make life as difficult as possible for citizens, why was this story only carried in the Washington Times?

This small hiccup created an "Aha!" moment for me. The incredible differences in political philosophies in our nation became clear. I will never again support the party and politicians who, when given a choice, decided to make life as difficult as possible for the average citizen. Nor should you.

Thanks for taking the time to write and share your thoughts and opinions. That's what this country is all about! I agree that digging into the continuing resolution is necessary (we should dig into all proposed legislation!), but it should have been done long before we got to a government shutdown. And now, if House members on both sides of the aisle would just relate NEW information or arguments, it would at least show that there's more to say. Instead, it's a lot (and I mean A LOT) of repetition. Don't you agree that it's time that SOME decision is made?

Last week, I tuned into C-Span to see for myself what Congress was doing, or not doing. I can see both sides, yet the compelling argument for me was with the position to put a clean continuing resolution to a vote in the House, and to negotiate changes to legislated laws OUTSIDE the framework of a shut down. I too am ashamed and embarrassed that some of our leaders, elected to serve our nation, would allow their country and it's citizens to be damaged in so many ways. I doubt there are few who foresee the exponentially escalating damaging consequences, to our economy, and domestic and international confidence in our leader's ability to run a government. News coverage has demonstrated there are complex relationships between the many functions our government provides, the welfare of the American people, and our economy. It's now evident to me that even a small, partial unplanned and/or unexpected shut down of government has unanticipated consequences, some irrecoverable and some long-term.
Each side has its agenda, and hanging in the balance are personal hardships/devastation unfolding on a daily basis, and hourly fractional loss of domestic economic growth affecting us collectively. Perhaps the Democrats are willing to gamble that Republicans will keep their blinders on long enough so it leads to their consequential decimation in future elections.
On the plus side, perhaps the shut down will give us all a better appreciation for the services our government provides that perhaps many of us have come to take for granted, and an understanding how fragile, complex and inter-dependent each part of our government is to other parts. It's a big machine, never designed to stop abrubtly without breaking down, and we're watching people we empowered throw rocks and sticks into it ... and gambling on what happens.

Terrific analogy about government being a big machine and rocks and sticks being thrown in, Thomas! And yes, I think we've all come to take for granted the many services our government provides. Perhaps, it's the wake-up call we ALL needed!

Thanks for reading and writing, Thomas!

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