Published On: Mon, Jun 3rd, 2019

‘Divided government’ stymies congressional attention to US economy

The return of divided government to the nation’s capital this year – combining a democratically controlled House with a Senate boasting a Republican edge – has made it difficult for federal lawmakers to get much of anything done.
And with a GOP president in the White House – particularly one who is resoundingly despised by virtually every member of the Democratic Party — it seems the peoples’ business is getting very short shrift in the 116th Congress.
As 2019 began, political writers opined that a Capitol with authority split between two parties might end up neither helping constituents nor benefiting the economy. As we move into the sixth month of the year, it appears those predictors were right.
Beyond that, both political parties suffer additional woes of their own. The GOP often finds it difficult to reach an agreement among its members or form a consensus.
At the same time, Democrats seem almost incapable of focusing on representing constituents. Instead, nearly two dozen have thrown their hats into the 2020 presidential ring and have basically ignored issues in their districts. And practically all Democrats have ignored their inboxes in favor of concentrating on the Mueller Report, then interpreting and reinterpreting it to locate the Trump-Russia connection that the former special prosecutor couldn’t find.
Now that the report has been fully read to all – except for some minor redactions – and Robert Mueller himself has resigned after trying one last time to explain the multi-page document, Democrats have ramped up their efforts to impeach President Trump even though the Mueller Report lacks any reference to impeachable offenses.
At this writing, we can report that the U.S. economy continues to do well, with job creation and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) reports exceeding expectations. This is happening with little participation by Congress.
Nearly six months ago, William Gale and Mark Mazur at the Brookings Institute wrote that the U.S. could face dire problems – many of them economics-oriented – if the so-called “divided government’ failed to establish bipartisan cooperation. Clearly, the two parties have burned the olive branch rather than extend it, so governmental teamwork has become a non-entity on Capitol Hill.
Those writers, in their January 2019 article, said: “In theory, split government is an ideal time for legislators to compromise on big issues. Compromise involves sacrifices by both sides, and with divided government, politicians of each party can blame the other side for legislative items that they know need to be included, but that their constituents may not like.”
“But in these polarized times, it is quite possible that lawmakers will double down on partisan positions and familiar gridlock will prevail.”
The opinion writers were exact in their prognostication. Not only have partisans doubled down, they have increased their hate-filled speeches, lacing them with vulgarities and words not considered polite or politically correct.
Consider the following comments delivered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi following a meeting with House Democrats on recent court successes and Democrats’ oversight efforts to hold President Trump and this administration accountable:
“It was a very positive meeting, a respectful sharing of ideas and a very impressive presentation by our chairs. We do believe it’s important to follow the facts, we believe that no one is above the law, including the President of the United States, and we believe that the President of the United States is engaged in a cover-up – in a cover-up. And that was the nature of the meeting.”
Nothing for constituents to see here. But instead, a big boost for congressional egos – and a slap for the nation’s chief executive.
Think back to the president’s State of the Union address, a discourse muddied from the start by the government shutdown. Trump tossed out lots of grist for debate that night, including, but not limited to, bipartisanship, the economy, jobs, unemployment, tax reform, energy production, unity, the opioid crisis, prison reform, immigration, border security and the border wall. Democrats refused to acknowledge much of what Trump said, instead, choosing to act like spiteful brats.
Of particular note were the congresswomen dressed in white who remained steadfastly in their seats to protest Trump’s plan to introduce a bill that would require doctors who are trying to perform an abortion who survive an abortion to live.
One final measure of congressional inaction. On Jan. 3, 2019, Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Maryland) introduced in the House a bill to expand voting rights, limit partisan gerrymandering, strengthen ethics rules and limit the influence of private donor money in politics. Ironically, that measure was called the “For the People Act.”
The bill passed the House – along party lines, of course — and went over to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring it up for a vote. However, he did allow a Senate vote on Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ so-called “Green New Deal.” The plan was resoundingly defeated, with all Democratic members voting “present.”
Dems claimed it was McConnell’s intent to kill the bill. If so, they fed into the failure.
It certainly seems that Gale and Mazur were right in their prediction for the 2019 congressional session. Six months ago, they warned: “Indeed, there is a good chance that tax and fiscal issues will simply get overshadowed by other issues and the larger context of political divisiveness.”
But there is a bright side to this situation. It underscores the great advantage of a country with less influence from the government in the public administration; where the private sector, having confidence in the government, makes the necessary investments and creates the wealth for all.
Right now, the US has the lowest unemployment rate in 49 years, a solid GDP growth of 3.2%, a strong inflow of capital from other countries and a resumption of export growth.
In addition, never before has this nation been able to boast of full employment for minorities along with real and substantial increases in their wages.

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