Last-minute Congressional logjam: Few pros, plenty of cons
The tax cut deal, it appears, is all over but the shouting. Liberal Democrats are in revolt, publicly expressing anger over the bill, but signs show the White House may have enough support for the bill to pass. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has called it "essentially final."
If that's true, the most difficult leadership challenge for President Obama and the rest of Congress will be to redirect attention to the enormous tasks ahead of them all. You may think your December has a long to-do list, but Congress faces the extraordinary job of passing a nuclear arms treaty and a $1.1 trillion bill to keep the government running within the next two weeks.
While there's not as clear-cut of a looming deadline for the START treaty--though Obama has made promises to Russia it would happen--the delay in the government funding bill is yet another example of our leaders procrastinating on some of the most important issues they face. The 12 appropriations bills that Congress is trying to pass, either individually or as part of a massive omnibus bill, should have been passed and signed into law by Sept. 30. But with a public disillusioned over government spending, politicians pushed a vote on the measure until after the election.
Perhaps there's an upside to the last-minute logjam Congress faces. We all work better under pressure, and the threat of a deadline could push the two sides to negotiate a little more. Whatever you may think of the tax cut deal--and it's hard for anyone concerned about the deficit not to see the extensions as troubling--the expiring cuts did at least force the two sides to come to some version of a compromise.
But I'd argue the likely downsides are greater. Democrats are trying to push through tacked-on measures and line-item earmarks that, while small relative to much bigger budget issues, are political dynamite. Meanwhile, Republicans are arguing against such add-ons to a stopgap bill, even though they may be to programs in need of greater funding. Whatever gets pushed through Congress is likely to have a combination of line-item earmarks the country doesn't need and underfunded areas that require more resources.
Whatever the outcome of the bill, and it's not likely to be pretty with that mishmash of agendas, the even more troubling downside is what it says about how our leaders view rules and deadlines in the face of political gain. Putting off tough decisions may help you look better in the short term, but it's hardly leadership. Making the details and intricacies of a trillion dollar budget a top priority that doesn't get pushed to the last minute, however, is.
December 8, 2010; 1:16 PM ET |
Federal government leadership
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