The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Congress Goes on Vacation

Congress on Vacation

So what exactly did they do to earn five weeks off?



Congress is on vacay for the month. In my head, I imagine their time off to be something like this. But honestly since it’s an election year, it’s most probably them giving stump speeches while their constituents scream obscenities at them. Livin’ the dream indeed!


While they are off, figured it would be a good time to look at some of the major legislation they passed – or with this Congress, didn’t pass – before they went on their August recess.  



VA Bill

The Good

Congress has passed a decent VA hospital bill!




Granted, it took years of incompetency by the VA organization, a massive scandal, patients dying at a VA hospital due to “waiting lists”, and a resignation from the department head to finally get action on the matter, but considering how inactive this congress has been, I think we should all just chalk this up as a win.


With a 91-3 vote in the Senate, the VA bill now goes to President Obama to be signed into law. Which rest assured, will be signed into law.


The bill gives the ability for the new VA secretary to address immediate crises in staffing to combat the maligned waiting lists that have made headlines in the last couple of months. Overall the bill does attempt to tackle the problem long waiting lists. While it is less than ideal that the majority of $17 billion legislation will come through halted bonuses from VA employees and by letting veterans seek private care, something needed to be done. And for that, we should all be thankful.



highway trust fund

The Bad

Even the staunchest of fiscal conservatives will agree that funding the Highway Trust Fund is essential. If you want to keep things like bridges and highways in respectable shape, you need that sweet, sweet federally subsidized cash to keep things truckin’. (Editor’s Note: HA! Vehicular puns!)


So yes the Congress did send legislation to President Obama to fund the Highway Trust Fund. Which is fantastic.


But it was only through next May.


And it was built on what experts are calling short-term “budget gimmicks”, which is akin to building a bridge out of toothpicks. Sure it CAN be done, but what rational human being would think that’s a good idea.


toothpick bridge

I believe this is what people refer to as a metaphor.


Frankly, Congress punted on the issue in this particular case. Funding a program like the Highway Trust Fund for less than a year – when traditionally it’s funded for six – isn’t very forward thinking. Though this move could be lucrative to the Republicans with the possibility of them controlling both the House and the Senate come next May. Also for Republicans, it will be a whole lot easier to discuss cutting gas taxes – which the majority of the Highway Trust Fund is funded by – when gas prices traditionally are at their peak come May.


Still of all the bills that you decide to play political power games with, why the Highway Trust Fund? It’s just too vital for the nation’s infrastructure.



Immigration debate

The Ugly

Seriously, with all that’s been going on in the news, how is there not an immigration bill!!! Like anything that even remotely addresses the problem would do! This frustration of inaction of any immigration legislation stems from the fallout of what we call around here as Cantor-ocalypse (or aka Cantor’s stunning primary defeat to the hands of Tea Party candidate Dave Brat). Many have claimed he lost his primary due to his discussions on comprehensive immigration reform, even though studies show otherwise.


The only utterance you heard coming from the GOP about immigration reform came in a carefully constructed statement from Speaker of the House John Boehner which basically reads as the GOP telling the American public to


deal with it


To be fair, the President himself is not escaping blame on this issue either. During the past few months President Obama did very little, in terms of using his clout as President, to push for a comprehensive immigration plan. By leaving Congress to try and figure it out, the best President Obama can do now with executive action is what? Throw more border agents at the US-Mexico border? That is at best a Band-Aid that has now become a gaping chest wound.


Republicans in the past have blamed President Obama’s actions for creating this current surge of young, undocumented immigrants. Yet if President Obama is to be blamed for anything, it’s that he didn’t do anything about this sooner.



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