Unwilling to debate the central question of whether to authorize hostilities against the Islamic State before an election, the senators and representatives occupy the perceived political safe-ground of declaring they are in favor of finding and arming “moderate” Syrian rebels. They are quite sure that idea will not blow up in their faces, at least for several months. Later, after the 2014 congressional elections and just as the 2016 presidential elections start to dazzle them in its headlights, they want us to think they can debate war and peace in a manner to make us proud.
Further, achieving consensus that it would be unhelpful to their re-election this November to close down the federal government because of tantrums over the budget, they instead grope for passing a “continuing resolution” for 2015 that mechanically holds federal appropriations to the same level as for 2014. Those 2014 appropriations were themselves determined by an “Omnibus” appropriations act, the major hallmarks of which were non-transparency, feckless and truncated debate, and political fixing–far more so than in the “regular order” of enacting separate appropriations bills for federal agencies.
At a time when Congress busies itself piling dysfunction upon dysfunction, it is time to discuss something at least one of them is doing right.
Last July, the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee put together its specific recommendations for the Department of Defense Appropriations bill for 2015. The leader of that effort was Subcommittee Chairman, Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-IL). Parsing through the bill and its accompanying committee report, I astonished myself by finding three highly significant and uplifting actions by the subcommittee chairman and his staff.
I describe this ray of hope at the website of POGO’s Straus Military Reform Project at http://www.pogo.org/our-work/straus-military-reform-project/congress/2014/a-ray-of-light-from-senator-durbin.html.
Winslow T. Wheeler
Straus Military Reform Project
Center for Defense Information
Project On Government Oversight