Does This Congress Have the Courage to Make History?

The first week of June has been remarkable in our nation’s history. It was this week in 1776 that a congressional committee was formed to start drafting a Bill of Particulars for King George to consider. Just a month later, it was ratified as the Declaration of Independence.

It was during this week in 1942 that the battle of Midway — the turning point in World War II in the Pacific — was fought. Within days, Congress was deliberating appropriations for more carriers. In 1944, this was the week during which hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers were hurled ashore at Normandy, beginning the liberation of Europe. Shortly thereafter, both the House and Senate began to examine how Europe would be rebuilt after the war. Now, ponder the history that Congress has made this week in 2005. It’s pathetic.

Thanks to a Senate more concerned about its own petty “perks,” personal privileges and arcane procedures, we still don’t have an ambassador in Baghdad. Though we have been without one for three months now — a constant hindrance to coordination between American and Iraqi forces in the midst of a war — the Senate is in no rush to act. Apparently the solons, secure in their sinecures, aren’t bothered by the casualty figures.

Few Americans see the United Nations as anything but hopelessly corrupt, woefully incompetent and unabashedly ambitious. Yet, the U.S. Senate, proud of its shiny new “filibuster deal” and operating in its own alternate universe, can find no reason to expedite the confirmation of the hard-nosed John Bolton as head of our U.N. mission. Sen. George Voinovich, an erstwhile Republican from Ohio, was so anxious about sending a steel-spined ambassador into the U.N. kleptocracy that he got as teary-eyed as an unwed mother getting a new car from Oprah. Barbara Boxer couldn’t have done it any better.

Even John McCain, not exactly known as a “team player” in GOP circles, tried to goad his colleagues into action: “The U.N. needs the presence of a tough, hard, dedicated individual. I think we realize it’s time to move ahead with the people’s business.”

Nice try, John, but it didn’t work. We ought to have someone there to look after our interests and the billions of our tax dollars being squandered by Kofi & Co. But our senators aren’t concerned enough to hasten Mr. Bolton’s arrival in Turtle Bay.

Nor do these people who seem to do so little appear to care much about how the rest of us get to work. Have any of them noticed that while they dither, we’re paying near-record prices for gasoline, electricity and diesel fuel, as the Senate sits on the energy bill?

The “upper chamber” isn’t alone in its nonfeasance. The House has done little of import this spring either, unless, of course, one considers members of the House Government Reform Committee lining up to get autographs from steroid-pumped baseball players to be noteworthy. Could they have forgotten that the C-SPAN cameras were on?

Instead of doing the “people’s business,” House Democrats have decided it’s more fun to hold a witch hunt for “dirt” on Tom DeLay. In the process, they realized they needed to clean up their own dirt and correct reports of their own lobbyist-funded junkets. In fairness, it must be recorded that the House did pass a bill (sure to be vetoed) to spend the people’s money on embryonic stem cell research.

Have they all — in both parties and both houses — forgotten that young Americans are dying in Iraqi killing fields? As the American taxpayers pony up billions to help rebuild Iraq, how many, if any, in Congress realize that the electrical generating equipment being purchased from our European “allies” won’t work? Do any of our congressmen or senators know or care that Afghanistan is now producing more opium today than it did under the Taliban?

Do they think we haven’t noticed that Social Security is on the ropes? Up on the Hill, they say they don’t like the president’s proposals for dealing with the problem. Where are the congressional ideas for how to fix it or keep Medicare from going broke? Immigration reform and new trade agreements languish in Congress without the promise of near-term action. In his Rose Garden press conference this week, President Bush said it right: “My attitude toward Congress will be reflected on whether or not they’re capable of getting anything done.”

Unfortunately, there isn’t much time to get things done. Now that they are back from their five-day “Memorial Day Weekend,” they have just 30 days left on their legislative calendar (meaning, “work”) before they “recess” until after Labor Day! Hopefully, the soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry don’t get wind of this “grueling” schedule. They are on a 13-month tour in Iraq, having reported to the war from a 13-month tour of duty in Korea. Unlike members of Congress, these soldiers don’t have the option of shirking their duties, arguing over procedural technicalities, throwing tantrums when things don’t go their way, blaming others for failures then proclaiming it all “successful,” while collecting their paychecks.

For members of the House and Senate unmoved by the cries of their countrymen to “get something done!” and those lacking the courage to confront their self-centered colleagues, there is another model from history that they can consider. It was this week in 1989 that a brave young man stood before a column of tanks in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. He made history. Will this Congress?

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