The U.S. Capitol Building
The U.S. Capitol Building
There is nothing more frustrating for a baseball fan than when your team leaves runners on base. Anyone who follows baseball knows that opportunities to score are hard to come by, and missed opportunities can cost you the game. With that in mind, if the U.S. Congress were a baseball team, its fan would be devastated to have watched the team leave at least 500 runners on base so far this season. Let me explain.
Just like in baseball, politics is a team sport. Legislation passed in the House of Representatives must be brought home by the Senate. However, if the Senate refuses to play ball and not even discuss bills passed by the House, they are essentially leaving runners on base and throwing away opportunities to score.
In this Congress, the House has passed more than 500 bills only to see them completely stalled in the Senate. The House continues to get a lot of hits, but the Senate is failing to turn these hits into runs. Since election day in 2016 Republicans have seen lots of hits, a few runs, countless errors, and 500 runners left on base. Somebody needs to go back to Spring Training.
With Republicans in control of the House, the Senate, and the White House, people assumed we would be able to do more for the American people. This isn’t President Trump’s fault. The lack of progress can largely be placed on a single, outmoded procedural mechanism holding back lawmakers from delivering more achievements – the Senate filibuster.
The filibuster in the Senate was designed to ensure debate. The practice has become so abused that today it is used to kill debate before it even starts.
President Trump is absolutely right in calling for an end to the filibuster. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, seems to be the only one benefiting from the filibuster while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is unfortunately stuck as a mere co-pilot. This is not what Americans wanted when they went to the polls in 2016.
To make a true difference in the lives of Americans, I envision sending legislation to the president’s desk on behalf of an empowered majority. Our current arrangement has made the Senate a graveyard of dead bills that were aimed to fix badly broken laws.
This dysfunction is only perpetuated by a broken appropriations process as well. I’ve talked with many of my colleagues and I’m not the only one frustrated with having tied hands.
Senator Kennedy from Louisiana was right on when he said, ‘Whoever designed this process is not qualified to run a food truck.’ On the House Natural Resources Committee, Representative Tom McClintock of California has also called for an end to the filibuster. The common theme is: the people are fed up with D.C. dysfunction.
Each year a growing number of innovative, productive policy solutions fail to pass Congress. It’s not because they are controversial or unvetted; it’s because a handful, or sometimes even one self-selected legislative king-maker chooses to hold a bill up.
Calls to return to “Regular Order” must be more than rhetorical ploys. Congress’ inability to function properly harms every sector, industry and resource in our country, including our natural resources.
According to Pew Research, a majority of the American public believe ‘their side’ in politics is losing whether that is Democrat or Republican. Our Congressional dysfunction is a problem, and it is a problem we can solve.
We need to fix the appropriations process to combine both authorizers and appropriators. We need to fix the filibuster to allow more beneficial legislation to be enacted by President Trump. Until we make good on our promises as a Congress, taxpayers will only continue to grow in frustration with Washington as they should.
When Americans voted in 2016 for President Trump and a Republican led House and Senate, they didn’t vote for conservative rhetoric and show votes. They wanted to move the nation in the right direction. It’s past time we gave our citizens the policy outcomes they voted for at the ballot box.
A dysfunctional federal government is a government unable to fully serve its citizens. Americans aren’t content with leaving runners on base. They’re tired of Congress continuing to squander the opportunities they gave them in the first place to make our country better.
Congress needs to change its game plan in real and substantive ways to allow national policy outcomes to better align with electoral results. Until we do that, we’ll continue leaving runners on base.
Republican Robert William Bishop is the U.S. Representative for Utah’s 1st congressional district, and Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee serving since 2003.