Judd Gregg: End the Charade, Admit that Washington is Taking the Year Off
Writing today in The Hill, former New Hampshire Senator and Governor Judd Gregg has a novel suggestion for members of the elected branches of government in Washington: stop pretending like you're doing something. From the piece:
The president is in full campaign mode. So is Congress. The federal government has been put into a holding pattern until the November elections ... This being the situation, one might ask — Why don’t they all go home? They could leave Washington to the pundits and lobbyists.
... If Washington was vacated, it would be a more honest expression of the reality of the status of governance for the next six months. It might help the American people believe that there is some integrity to the situation.
Of course, this would give the bureaucracy a disproportionate role in the everyday activity of the government. But on the other hand, it would focus the fact that Washington is already run almost entirely by a professional, mid-level cadre of government workers.
Congress only engages at the margin in the day-to-day activities of the government and since no legislation is going to be done, no budget resolution passed or individual appropriations bills completed, even the role of Congress and the White House is dramatically reduced.
Of course, Gregg is writing with tongue somewhat in cheek. Later in the piece, he criticizes the current denizens of the Beltway for the fact that "they do not plan to govern" and for "a lack of leadership and problem solving in Washington." He seems to think the problem here is politicians' inattentiveness to the duties of office.
But while Gregg is trying to shame elected officials back to work, I'm thinking that I'd be happier with the original offer -- a Congress that's not around half of the time. When Rick Perry proposed a part-time Congress from the campaign trail, it was met with widespread derision in the press, received as the kind of notion that right-thinking people just don't entertain. But Senator Gregg's column points us to the real issue here: We already have a part-time Congress. We're just giving them full-time power and paying them (and the people populating the infrastructure that supports them) full-time money.