Leaving one's job without finishing one's work is an offense that will usually lead to a reprimand or firing if done repeatedly. But imagine having a job where someone can fail to complete their work every day - and that is expected. Well, that job exists and it is called being a member of Congress.
This year Congress is poised to leave town at the end of this month without passing 10 of the 13 appropriations bills, including appropriations for the John McCain's least favorite thing - pork. With Democrats in control, hog calling will surely reach new heights. It's a guarantee that hundreds of needless and unwarranted earmarked appropriations to repave back alleys, create baseball fields in senior communities and spend money on other senseless federal projects will be discovered weeks if not months after the 1,000-plus-page bill has been passed - especially when one factors in the major problem that stalled the spending bills this year.
Republicans became so irate over the Congress' lack of will to pass sensible energy legislation that they started a strategy to load up the spending bills with oil- and natural -gas-drilling provisions. Democrats blocked them, and now it is likely that the Capitol Hill doors will be closed without passage of a bill to lift the ban on offshore drilling or expand drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf.
But what will cause the pork to come flying off the grill in honor of the end of summer is this: The price of gas was so high that people changed their driving habits, reducing gas-tax revenues that replenish the Federal Highway Trust Fund. This is the environmentalists' dream. And, in the wake of the 2006 election, the pendulum has swung left.
White House opposes (mostly because the administration has sold the farm bailing out corporate banks.) At any rate, taxpayers cannot afford another stimulus and even if there was one, Republicans would rightly try to load it up with drilling provisions. That leaves only one option: a mammoth omnibus spending bill with loads of hidden treasures for members of Congress facing tough elections.
Make no mistake, this is business as usual. No matter who is running Congress, this is how it operates. Republicans played these games for more than half of the time they were in power. Ever since the 1995-1996 government shutdown when Bill Clinton won re-election, members of Congress have brazenly used their power not for the people but to keep themselves and their president in power. Now that the Democrats are in power, it has only gotten worse. A 12-year hiatus from the majority after having it for 40 years was apparently just too much for them to bear.
Normally when a Congress does nothing, it is actually a good thing. But the past few years, congressional inaction has hurt the country in ways we could never have imagined.