The Bad-News Boys


The Congress of the United States is without a doubt, to use one of the vice president’s favorite phrases, the most incompetent, inept, cowardly and corrupt legislative body on the world stage.

The members of Congress do not do their duty. One reason they don’t is because they are the biggest time-wasters on the planet. Flipping around C-SPAN the other night, I saw a congressman take the floor to lament the fact that there was a shooting in a small Missouri town. Dearly beloved, there have been shootings in small Missouri towns long before Missouri’s most famous son, Jesse James, roamed the state. And lest anyone take this as a slam against Missouri, there have been shootings in small towns in every state of the union. Such affairs are not worthy of Congress’ time.

Then another congressman took the floor to eulogize a colleague who just died. Heck-fire, man, go to his funeral or send his family a sympathy card. Don’t waste time spreading heifer dust on the floor of the House. Those who knew him will either lament or smile, depending on their opinion of him, and the vast majority of Americans who never heard of him don’t give a flip. Americans die every day, and death is a matter for private grief, not official congressional bloviating.

You see, Congress, which takes more time off than most malingerers, doesn’t do its job even when it does show up for work. The members have a budget to pass, and they almost never pass it on time. They have oversight duties to perform, which they rarely perform because they are too busy grandstanding about matters that are none of their business, such as the health habits of baseball players or cigarette smokers.

Generally speaking, Congress doesn’t show up on Mondays or Fridays, which leaves its members only three days a week to get their work done. Of course, they claim to be working even when they are not present, but what they mean is they are out campaigning and raising money for their re-election. If they really were working, then the legislative process would move faster, instead of like a molasses-coated ox trudging along in mud up to its belly.

The spectacle of the members of Congress jumping to their feet to applaud President George W. Bush at his State of the Union speech tells you all you want to know about their intelligence and courage, both of which are virtually absent. Bush’s speech should have been called the state of his ego and delusions.

At the most recent congressional election, the American people gave the Democrats a majority in both Houses and learned rather quickly that a majority of Democrats are just as cowardly and worthless as a majority of Republicans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has turned out to be an airhead, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a timid whiner. Neither of them could lead a two-float parade.

The Constitution quite plainly spells out a limited number of areas where Congress has the authority to act. The operative word is "limited." Congress does not have the authority to legislate on any topic it pleases. One of its most important duties is to set the budget. People often blame the president because he submits a budget. That is only a formality, however. The president has no power to authorize any spending or to levy taxes. The budget is the job of Congress, so you can squarely and fairly blame Congress for every penny of the mammoth budget deficit.

Congress also has the sole duty to declare war, a duty it has shirked since 1941. The authority to declare war does not mean passing a resolution authorizing the use of force. No such authority is needed if American forces are attacked, and if they are not attacked, no president has the authority to launch an undeclared war of aggression.

These 435 members of the House and 100 senators are (expletive) away your birthright. You ought to be angry about that.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.