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Experts Say US Congress Paralyzed by Partisan Posturing

  • Cindy Saine

CAPITOL HILL — Republicans who hold the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives have passed more than 20 ideologically-based bills in recent months. But the bills -- on issues such as repealing parts of President Barack Obama's health care reform law -- have no chance of passing in the Democratic-controlled Senate or of ever becoming law.

The Republican-led House of Representatives has been busy passing socially and fiscally conservative bills on limiting abortion and restricting government regulation of corporations. At the same time, the House took months to pass student loan and highway funding bills -- popular measures that in the past, would have passed easily with a broad, bipartisan majority.

House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, expressed frustration about the bickering over the student loan bill.

"But why do people insist that we have to have a political fight, on something where there is no fight. There is absolutely no fight. People want to politicize this, because it is an election year. But my God, do we have to fight about everything?," Boehner said.

Democrats blamed Republicans for the deadlock, objecting to Republican insistence on financing popular measures by cutting social welfare programs for the poor.

"But instead the majority is engaging in another partisan attack on public health funding, funding that improves the lives of Americans and the productivity of our work force. I strongly oppose this position," said Rep. Lois Capps.

In the end, the House managed to pass the highway bill and the student loans bill just before they were due to expire. The student loan bill saves millions of college students from having the interest rates double on their federally-subsidized student loans.

Political analyst Norman Ornstein of the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute says House Republicans have passed a number of ideologically-driven bills to please their conservative Tea Party base.

"Look, there is no question that the Republicans in the House, using their majority, have been able to pass a number of things that have no chance of making it through the Senate," Ornstein said.

The problem, he says, is that now the House of Representatives is not doing much else.

"You know, there is nothing illegitimate about taking positions and saying here is where we stand. Where it moves into a territory that damages the congressional reputation is if you don't supplement that with at least some attempt at problem-solving in other areas," Ornstein said.

Retiring Congressman Barney Frank, a liberal Democrat, says the breakdown of functioning in Congress has been recent -- and he blames the influence of Tea Party members.

"Even more though was the victory in 2010, within the Republican Party, of a very angry group of people who don't believe in governance and who believe that you should not cooperate," Frank said.

Most conservatives argue that the U.S. government is too big already, and that it should not be interfering in health care and other personal matters. It will be up to voters in November to determine who is in charge in the White House and Congress -- and how big a role the federal government should play in American's lives.

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