Congress is Broken

It was funny, maybe the first five times. Then it became pathetic. Then it made me mad. Finally it ended, when I was asleep no less, and Kevin McCarthy finally was Speaker. The House was sworn in, and honestly that was it. They lacked the votes to get any rules passed. So the House went home, patting themselves on the back. After almost a week of work, they managed to put someone in charge and swear themselves in. They will spend the next two years being this unproductive. This was the easy part.

There are 435 House members and 100 Senators in a country of 330 million people, and they used that power for this performative bullshit. To be clear, the Senate is not nearly as bad as the new House, but both will largely spend their time in session trying to “message” to the country on the issues they want to talk about for the next two years. Neither will pass much actual law. We’ll be very lucky if the House can even raise the debt ceiling or fund the government at all, let alone pass any helpful laws.

It sort of amazes me that people want to be elected to Congress to go there and hold oversight hearings, stage sit-ins, and make TikToks, instead of writing bills, appropriating money, and passing legislation. You have members (in both parties) who served multiple terms in the Majority and the biggest legislative achievements they have are Post Office names. Getting clicks for performance art brings in small dollar donations, gets coverage, and raises name ID much more than real legislative work though. The incentive structure is all messed up, and Congress is full of people for whom the point is getting on camera- it’s literally why they are there.

The use of oversight committee hearings to get on television goes back to at least McCarthyism in the 1950’s, and just has been progressively worse since. We probably should have understood this during the baseball steroid hearings or the Benghazi hearings, but an increasing point of this stuff isn’t producing legislation or even legislative reports, they’re there to get on TV. Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert just spent a week using the election of a House Speaker to get on TV, with no substantive goal or demand, just basically to impress some activists somewhere that they showed their leader who is the boss. Nothing was achieved for the country. Just fame for them.

There are people who will argue it’s good that we just watched Congress debate their leader in the public sphere. Sure, maybe for two, three, or even five rounds. These folks spent at least twelve rounds voting the exact same, over and over. To foreign powers, it’s dysfunctional. To the domestic audience, it was clownery. To those in the know? These people aren’t capable of the job of serving in Congress. They literally won a seat in the most powerful legislature in the world just to impress strangers on the internet.

God help us.

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