“Revolutions in government” seem to come to Washington about every 16 years, these days. In part, that’s because reformers quickly learn it’s not easy to alter the course of the mighty river known as political “business as usual.”
Of the more than 2,100 bills considered on the floor of the House during the most recent Congress, about a third involved naming a post office, congratulating someone for something, or another form of unanimous “declaration.”
Yes, each such vote can be conducted in mere minutes. But, “Members still must break away from their schedule to do so, usually walking from offices or committee rooms to the Capitol,” The Los Angeles Times reports. “The process can take up to an hour.”
But creating a photo opportunity for the folks back home is still good politics, and members soon found ways around the new rules. “When people grumble about an ‘out-of-control government,’ I doubt it has anything to do with members taking a few moment to honor and congratulate the people and places they are elected to serve,” grumbles Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., who recently sponsored a resolution congratulating the town of Tarboro, N.C., on its 250th birthday.
So incoming Republican reformers now seek to pare back or eliminate the “visiting firemen” resolutions.
“I do not suspect that Jefferson or Madison ever envisioned Congress honoring the 2,560th anniversary of the birth of Confucius,” declares Eric Cantor, R-Va., the next House Majority Leader. “I believe people want our time, energy and efforts focused on other priorities.”
He said a mouthful. Abandoning such frivolities — or, perhaps, allowing staff to rubber-stamp such proclamations after giving members adequate notice — is a step worth trying. Voters do indeed expect the Congress to now adopt other priorities — the sweeping away of 40 to 100 years of accumulated red tape and regulatory meddling that have left the genius of American entrepreneurship “yearning to breathe free.”
If the House wished to enact one final symbolic “resolution,” that might not be a bad choice.