Under the cover of darkness, the House of Representatives finally, painfully, approved the deal that pulled the nation back from the fiscal cliff. Thus the 112th session of Congress came to a close.
Good riddance to bad rubbish is the first thought in looking at this particular version of the House, where politics and stymieing President Obama were more important than producing legislation to help move the nation and its citizens forward. Sadly though, the makeup of the House for the 113th session is pretty much going to mirror last session, what with 90 percent of lawmakers who sought re-election last November keeping their seats.
That may mean the American public is going to see plenty of the same shenanigans, where gridlock masquerades as progress and stalemate is the model for governance.
We’d like to urge the House to prove otherwise. But it’s not looking good.
Take example “A” — the Hurricane Sandy relief bill. It’s shameful that the House didn’t take up the matter during the last hours of the 112th session, after the Senate passed the legislation. Failing to act holds up $60.4 billion in aid — money meant to get those knocked down by Sandy back up, primarily in New York and New Jersey.
“Never before has this country walked away from its obligation to help Americans in the wake of a natural disaster, but today, the House Republican Leadership told New Jersey and New York to drop dead,” U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said. “I cannot recall a congressional act to be so inconsistent with our core principle that we are the United States of America than the House Republican Leadership’s decision to kill a vote on the Sandy relief package.”
Even many of the Republican House members from New York and New Jersey were aghast at failure to vote, with Rep. Peter King of New York calling it “a knife in the back” of New Yorkers.
What the public has been hearing as an excuse for not voting on the measure is that the bill has been pumped full of pork. But that’s no excuse for both chambers of Congress to have put off acting on aid for as long as they have.
And there’s no excuse whatsoever for the lack of leadership exhibited by House Speaker John Boehner, who apparently was willing to continue delaying a vote until a fire-storm of anger erupted within his own party.
Now the plan is to vote today on $9 billion worth of relief with a vote on the rest coming Jan. 15, the first day of the new Congress. This split will give members of the House time to come up with a plan for corresponding budget cuts.
Meet the new Congress, same as the old Congress ... and isn’t that a shame.