In a time when there was less animosity between Democrats and Republicans, this budget might be scrutinized for what it’s spent on. But no one would cover it as “Lawmakers unveil massive $1.1 trillion spending bill in bipartisan compromise” as The Washington Post did, nor would they say “‘Pretty Good’ Budget Deal Looks Good Enough To Avoid Shutdown” as did NPR. The headline would instead read something like, “Bipartisan budget bill will not cover abortions but will cover Obamacare.” It would not be a shocker that Congress had compromised.
Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill, with it passing the House Jan. 15, the Senate Thursday and Obama signed it on Friday afternoon. According to The Washington Post, the bill will both ease the sequester and provide money for new plans.
Coming in at more than 1,500 pages long the bill is set to provide money across the board in a series of compromises between Democrats and Republicans. One of the most obvious compromises is the money in the bill: more than what Republicans wanted, but less than what Democrats wanted.
The bill is set to fund every agency in the federal government, with increases in some areas such as NASA, and cuts in the Internal Revenue Service and foreign aid. The bill will also pay to implement Obamacare.
This should be a routine bill that gets passed every year. But it’s not routine anymore for Congress to agree to pass a budget, or to even pass a spending bill. According to a New York Times opinion piece, “The last time Congress approved a series of spending bills to pay for the government — its most basic job — was in 2011.”
That was three years ago.
Why is this bill getting passed now? The GOP got burned in the sequester, cuts to federal spending that went into effect in March, last year. This bill will avoid such a fiasco for at least another year as it will fund those agencies for at least a year. Democrats, seeing how unpopular the sequester was, are just as determined to avoid another one.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, and with the government. This divide between Republicans and Democrats? It’s ridiculous. There is no point other than to make names into brands so that Congressmen can get votes from when it comes time for re-election.
Americans should not have to watch their state parks close because Congress is dysfunctional. Americans should not be unable to mail bills because the post office was closed. Americans should not have to watch men and women they elected squabble among themselves like kindergartners and shut down the government for 16 days. It should not be such an extreme circumstance as a sequester that prompts both sides to work together.
According to November data from Gallup, Congress had a 9 percent approval rating. Congress did so poorly in the polls in the entirety of 2013 that the approval rating average was 14 percent.
It shouldn’t be this way. Congress has to compromise, and currently, that’s not a thing they’re doing well.
What needs to happen isn’t just on Congress’s end. We, as the people of the United States, need to tell our Congress to get things done. Yes, we have different opinions on what is going on in the world, with our own individual takes. But according to a Gallup poll published Jan. 8, 42 percent of Americans identify as independents. While some of this has to do with the Republican party falling in favor, overall, the fact remains that more Americans don’t identify as extremists on either side.
That means compromise. That means we need to make our own opinions clear. Call your Congressman. Get a conversation going. Write letters. Vote. Political participation, making our opinions clear, is what could — and will — change Congress.