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Rhinos and Tigers and Pork, Oh My!

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Congress has been home for one of its frequent recesses. This provides an opportunity for contact with constituents, reporting on what the members have been doing to earn their pay and reelection. It occurred to me that a standard stump speech might be helpful. It would go like this:

My fellow Americans:

It has been said that the best government is that which governs least. So, I am proud to report that your government - at least the legislative branch - has set some new records in non-governing. Let me just mention a few of the highlights.

We have investigated campaign financing. We have talked endlessly about campaign fund scandals. And in the end, thanks to the exertions of our leadership, we have managed to block anything of any consequence.

The same with tobacco. We have talked about keeping cigarettes away from kids. We have pointed fingers at the cigarette makers.

We have passed nothing. For a while there was a danger that Sen. John McCain might get a bill through the Senate. But in the end, we managed to stop that. And now the industry has taken us back to square one, which is square nowhere.

We have tied up contributions to the United Nations and to the International Monetary Fund with a clever anti-abortion amendment.

One way to appear to be doing things without actually doing them is by nonbinding resolutions.

So, without actually legislating, we endorsed more trade and investment in Africa.

We told President Clinton to consult us before bombing Iraq. We endorsed a Puerto Rico statehood plebiscite.

We talked about banning human cloning, but carefully avoided taking any action. We named a commission to study how to save Social Security.

Now, some of you may wonder if we spent so much time not doing things whether we did anything. Why, of course we did.

We renamed the National Airport the Reagan National Airport.

We extended for four years the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act. And, of course, we passed Senate and House versions of the Highway Transportation Act, $217 billion in the House version.

Now, I know you have heard a lot about that budget-busting bill containing a lot of pork - $18 billion worth, to be exact. But just remember that one man's pork - excuse me, one person's pork - is another's serving your district. And there is something for 80 percent of all congressional districts in this bill, including a new Bud Shuster interstate highway in Pennsylvania. But, of course, he's the committee chairman.

I thought that Speaker Newt Gingrich gave the best answer to charges of a do-nothing Congress. His "Dear Member" letter said: "We're doing a lot that's conservative and nothing liberal."

So, my fellow Americans, enjoy this recess knowing that your representative is going back to Washington to work with his colleagues to make sure we govern least.

* Daniel Schorr is senior news analyst for National Public Radio.


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