Were it not for the weirdly mesmerizing quality of the Donald Trump phenomenon, Paul Ryan, the relatively new Speaker of the House of Representatives would be drawing a lot more attention for making Congress actually work for a change.
“Work”, like in getting things accomplished.
Friday Congress passed a bill funding the government through the 2016 budget year, so we won’t face budget brinkmanship this time around. Earlier in his six week tenure as Speaker, laws were past to overhaul the No Child Left Behind education act as well as “a bipartisan bill to improve the nation’s aging and congested highways and transit systems,” as stated in an ABC break down of 2015 bi-partisan legislation.”
Our Congress seems best known for legislation it has blocked, like immigration reform, rather than what it has accomplished. While a number of factors coming together led to this avalanche of agreements, the biggest single factor in my mind has been the shift from John Boehner to Paul Ryan as Speaker.
Ryan’s ability to shepherd the budget deal is the most impressive. It would be tough to imagine Boehner being able to get his far right contingent to go along with a deal that adds some $600 billion to our national debt, though most of that loss lies in tax cuts, so it is more palatable to them. Still, it goes against their line in the sand of less government spending, not more.
Ryan can get away with something like this because he admits that the kind of process that led to this bill is lousy and he promises to change the way things are done in the House. Unlike with Boehner, the far right caucus trusts him (for the moment). While they tend to be viewed as grenade throwers by the liberal press, they have often indicated their naysaying was not just a matter of the issues but of the way they were ignored by Boehner except when they refused to go along with him.
Of course, you can find staunch critics of all this legislation, and Ryan himself, portrayed by one very liberal source as a “puppet of the Koch brothers.” My position is it is demoralizing at home and nerve wracking to much of the world when the Congress of the United States continuously argues over the same issues and seldom resolves anything.
One’s viewpoint depends on what one values most. While I have liberal leanings, I think of myself more as a pragmatist when it comes to the operation of government.
“The full faith and credit of the United States” is not just a slogan to me, but something we should value enough not to appear dysfunctional to the world at large, a world with various countries that would like to cut into the central role our nation plays in international commerce, the safest place for investment and the home of the “dollar”, the world’s touchstone currency.
This recent legislation, whatever its flaws, gives a sense of a government that can work together despite its differences, which raises my holiday spirit. Thanks Congress, especially Paul Ryan.
P. S. – The ABC article linked above outlines bi-partisan agreements by this year’s Congress. For a better picture of the omnibus bill that included the budget, check out this article in The Guardian. As Paul Ryan summed it up: “Democrats won some, they lost some. We won some, we lost some.”
Ah, its nice to hear “compromise” not being used as a dirty word, even if a number of special interests profited from this deal as the article indicates. That’s why “sausage making” is often used as a metaphor for legislation. I’m just happy that in 2016 I won’t have to hear much about budget strife, the need for a new national educational policy and the need to deal with our collapsing infrastructure. There are plenty of other things that need work.