In 2007, the newly minted Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, promised that Congress would remain in session for full five-day work weeks, just like most Americans. Three years later, Speaker Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic Congress have all but forgotten the promise they made to hardworking taxpayers. The House adjourned this past Wednesday for the October recess after being in session for just two days this week. With the expiration of the Bush Tax Cuts looming, the failure to pass a National Defense Authorization Act, and the ongoing absence of a budget for the next fiscal year — taking more time off should be the last thing on the Democratic Leadership’s mind. Since when did campaigning for Congressional seats come before the peoples’ work? This is yet another example with how out-of-touch the Democrats are with reality.
On January 1st, should Congress choose not to extend the Bush Tax Cuts, all Americans will be impacted by the largest tax hike in U.S. history. Failure to renew them will leave small businesses unable to expand or hire new employees, therefore killing more jobs and contributing further to the unemployment epidemic that plagues our nation. This past week could have been put to good use by holding bipartisan and open debates on extending the tax cuts — something on which Republicans and many Democrats agree. Instead, the Majority opted to ignore the voices of taxpayers — who remain adamantly opposed to any tax increases, especially in this sluggish economy.
Another disappointing result of heading home early that particularly pains me is Congress’s inaction on passing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2011. It is one thing for Republicans and Democrats to fundamentally disagree on things like stimulus funding or financial services industry reform, but it is another to recess without passing a bill that provides for the safety of our troops overseas and for the defense of our nation. I believe this is one of the single most important areas of responsibility for the federal government, and I would have kept this Congress in session for as long as it took to ensure passage of the NDAA. Our men and women in harms way deserve that commitment. Instead, the Majority chose to bog this bill down with controversial amendments — like the DREAM Act, and repealing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy — simply to further their own partisan political agenda. The NDAA will sadly remain tied up in the Senate until Congress returns from the campaign trail.
Lastly, I’d like to point out that House Democrats were unable and unwilling to rein in their reckless spending — they didn’t even consider passing a budget for Fiscal Year 2011. Every family, and every working man and woman, has to decide what they can and cannot afford in order to thrive. If something is too costly, the answer is not to buy it anyways and see what happens later. I am appalled that for the first time in the history of the Budget Act, this Democratic Congress has failed to write a House budget resolution.
This irresponsibility cannot be chalked up to a “lack of time,” as this Congress has been in session for less than Speaker Pelosi promised. In fact, in the first six months of their current reign in the Majority and fresh off of their “five-day work week” pledge, the Democrats managed only six — out of a possible twenty-one — full work weeks. It has since been a very slippery slope to the current work culture of Congressional Democrats — that of the two-day work week.
Americans are not absent-minded. The people of this nation have not forgotten what Speaker Pelosi promised them back in 2007 and they are angry that Congress has tried to pull the wool over their eyes. Over the past year, there has been plenty of time for the Majority to bring meaningful legislation to the floor for passage — such as the Bush Tax Cuts, the NDAA, and the Congressional Budget.
Instead, Congressional Democrats have abused House procedure to pass the failed “stimulus” bill, unsuccessful cap-and-trade legislation, and the government takeover of our nation’s health care system. The bottom line is that lawmakers should still be in Washington working instead of retreating to the campaign trail. The American people have to go to work every day, and so should the men and women they elected to Congress.
Rep. Phil Gingrey represents the Eleventh District of Georgia.