US Senate Needs to Get To Work: Paul Cook
Recent polling has made one thing clear: Americans are unhappy with Congress. I work there myself, and I have to tell you, I agree.
Surprisingly, our biggest problem isn’t partisanship, it’s the Senate. While the House of Representatives has passed routine and exceptional legislation this year, the Senate is practically moribund, sitting on 364 bills passed by the House, 252 of which received strong bipartisan support. Moreover, the Senate has passed a budget only once since Barack Obama became president. What’s worse, the Senate’s inaction is based in part on the desire to protect politically vulnerable senators from taking tough votes. That’s unacceptable. It’s time for the do-nothing Senate to get to work and put our country above their careers.
The biggest responsibility of Congress is to draft and pass the federal budget, a pivotal check against the authority of the president. Twelve bills in our annual appropriations dictate to federal departments how much can be spent and for what purpose. Having passed seven this year, the House is on track to complete all 12 prior to the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1. Unfortunately, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has yet to allow discussion on any of these bills in the Senate.
The short remaining timeline makes it extremely likely that the government will go on life support via a “continuing resolution” just to keep government operating. Rather than debate our spending priorities, Reid’s inaction will lead to a thousand-page budget bill with little review. The American people deserve a better budget process.
Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the responsibility to provide for our military. As a retired Marine colonel, I take this responsibility very seriously. The National Defense Authorization Act, which equips our troops and provides for national security, has a 52-year history of timely completion. That consistency is uncommon in Washington. The House passed this year’s version of the bill on May 22. Once again, Reid has refused to allow the Senate version of the bill onto the floor. If this bill expires, our military will no longer have the authority or the resources to protect our nation and its interests. This will only serve to encourage attacks by terrorist groups and rogue nations.
In spite of a verbal commitment to provide comprehensive tax reform, the Senate Finance Committee has not provided a single bill that would accomplish this goal. Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., of the House Ways and Means Committee released a draft reform bill to start a discussion with the Senate, but it was met with nothing but partisan criticism. The House has answered the call by passing smaller reforms, renewing the Child Tax Credit, and modernizing the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The Senate has refused to act on even these common-sense tax reforms.
Finally, while the House delayed its August district work period in order to pass a border security bill, Reid’s Senate took no action and simply left Washington.
The Senate’s abrogation of duty paves the way for the president to issue unilateral and unconstitutional executive orders. This stifles public debate and ignores the American majority which demands fiscal responsibility and a secure border. What some might see as sour grapes from the House perspective, I see as fighting for the future of our country. We’re elected to serve. We’re elected to work. If Reid and other senators in power refuse to work, they must answer to the people. I’m urging House leadership and I urge all Americans to send the message to the Senate: Get to work now. Our country depends on it.
Rep. Paul Cook, R-Yucaipa, represents California’s 8th Congressional District.