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August 3, 2013

Americans need a vacation from gridlock

By Sam Pollak
The Daily Star

---- — Exhausted from a nonstop regimen of doing nothing, members of Congress — the best politicians money can buy — are badly in need of a vacation.

The poor dears are absolutely pooped, having not passed an immigration bill … or a farm bill … or a transportation and housing bill … or a reasonable gun-control bill … or come up with a plan to allow the United States of America to pay its bills.

So while thousands of Americans suffer under the effects of an unnecessary sequestration caused by their representatives’ obduracy, Congress is taking five weeks off.

It will be rather difficult to tell the difference.

Each legislative proposal made by President Barack Obama — even those incorporating traditionally Republican ideas — is dead on arrival in the House of Representatives, and no one in the GOP has a kind word to say about it at the funeral.

On Tuesday, the president proposed cutting the corporate tax rate — something Republicans have been wanting for a long time — and use the expected increased tax revenue for worker training and to invest in jobs making infrastructure improvements.

However, the Republicans wouldn’t take “yes” for an answer.

“This proposal allows President Obama to support President Obama’s position on taxes and President Obama’s position on spending, while leaving small businesses and American families behind,” said House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman.

So, with all the problems facing the country they profess to love, in the last week before their recess, House Republicans hurried to pass a bill to … repeal Obamacare … again.

It is the 40th bill they have passed to repeal Obamacare.

It is the 40th time they have wasted time and money knowing full-well that the repeal stood no chance in the Democratic Party-controlled Senate.

Meanwhile, in that Senate, a faction of Tea Party Republicans wants to shut down the government if that’s what it would take to repeal Obamacare. That unrealistic and potentially politically suicidal idea was immediately rejected by the Republicans’ common sense caucus.

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn did the math and said the GOP couldn’t come close to enough votes to get past the Senate or an Obama veto. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina called shutting down the government to defund Obamacare the “dumbest idea” he ever heard of. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama said it was foolish, and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said it was bad policy and bad politics.

“The American people want common-sense solutions,” Collins said. “They don’t want us to pursue policies that are pointless, that are going to end in governments shutting down, more partisanship, more gridlock. They want us to actually get things done.”

A recent Rasmussen poll showed Congress’ approval rating at less than 10 percent, making Obama’s worst-of-his-presidency 45 percent look astronomical by comparison.

“The American people are interested in seeing some result from the Congress,” said Sen. John McCain, one of the few members of the GOP willing to work with Obama on anything. Referring to the poll, he said “members of Congress ranked just below a colonoscopy. We’d like to get above a colonoscopy.”

At least a colonoscopy gets something accomplished, which is more than we can say about the Republicans in the Senate, who have smashed all records for filibustering bills and presidential appointments.

Americans crave the comity, dignity and reasonable debate on the issues that used to be a hallmark of the Senate. They desire achievement  and honorable compromise over take-no-prisoners party politics. A case in point is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Christie is a Republican in a very Democratic state. His approval rating is close to 70 percent and he is a sure bet for re-election. He’s combative to the point of being coarse on occasion and is not the least bit reluctant to fire back at anyone who criticizes him.

So why is he so popular?

Because in October, when Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast and caused an estimated $68 billion in damages, Christie put his constituents ahead of politics. One of Mitt Romney’s fiercest advocates in the presidential campaign, Christie had ripped Obama at every opportunity. But when New Jersey needed massive federal aid, Christie worked closely with Obama to get it.

Seeing the Democratic president and the Republican governor touring the disaster areas together, being friendly with each other and doing their best to help people just warmed the cockles of Americans fed up with the petty mendacity they see every day in Washington and in the nation’s statehouses.

Those no-longer-frigid cockles probably helped Obama get re-elected and have made Christie a frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.

While all those lawmakers are on vacation, it would be nice if they took a lesson from Christie and decided to give turmoil and gridlock a rest, too.

Sam Pollak is the editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at spollak@thedailystar.com or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/sampollak.