There’s something going on in Washington, D.C.—something unusual, but something we might be able to explain.
Congress is being boring.
That’s right. The last few weeks, both the House and Senate have taken up relatively mundane bills. Nothing has generated much interest or heat. The knives are sheathed. Things are quiet. We’re in a lull.
Sure, the House is going to take up a bill this coming week to lop out a piece of President Obama’s signature health care legislation. But both Republicans and Democrats have criticized Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board because it could make Medicare cuts without congressional approval.
If there’s a big debate on H.R. 5, the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2011, it’s not going to change any voters’ minds about how to vote this year.
And that’s the reason we’re in a lull. There’s a big election this fall.
Election years are different from other years. In the out years, there’s always a chance that legislation will pass that gets something done. The two parties don’t have to look for issues to fight about as a display for voters.
But in an election year, everything is a display for voters. Politicians preen like peacocks and butt heads like rams, all a great show for you, America.
It doesn’t do any good, in election years, to compromise and be productive.
But you don’t want to make a big display of “fighting for what’s right” too early in the year. If you do, it will be forgotten by the time November rolls around. March is no time for politicians to be burning their energy and their access to the media.
So everyone’s hanging back, waiting until we’re a little further into the year. That’s when the fighting and prancing will start.
Another reason for the lull is the genuine lack of clarity in the presidential race. Republicans have not definitively settled on Mitt Romney as their candidate. It still could be Rick Santorum or a third candidate who sees enough weakness in President Obama and the current Republican field and decides to make a surprise entrance.
Without a definitive Republican candidate, the issues in the presidential battle are unclear. Therefore, Republican leaders in the House and Democratic leaders in the Senate don’t know which kinds of shells to start lobbing at the other party.
Maybe it’s going to be a race about moral values (Santorum)—watch the Rs and Ds spring to energizing their bases on that one! Or maybe it’s going to be a race about … whatever it is that Mitt Romney stands for. Then we’ll hear a lot about jobs, competence, which steady hand we want on the tiller, and whatever else matters in a Romney v. Obama race.
Until the politicians know which Republican will run against President Obama, they won’t know which kind of fights they should be having to impress us, the voters. So everyone’s sitting back, biding their time.
That’s a couple of reasons why the last few weeks around here haven’t been all that interesting. We are in a … LULL!