By Bill Press - 04/03/12 09:57 PM EDT
Happy spring! The cherry blossoms are gone, Congress is on Easter break, and the Major League Baseball season is under way.
But the Nats stadium is not the only place where “three strikes and you’re out” is being heard. It’s also echoing on Capitol Hill, where Congress had three chances to do the right thing before leaving town — and struck out on all three.
Not only that, on deficit reduction, the Ryan plan doesn’t add up, which is the first thing you expect from any budget. It would not balance the budget until 2022 — and even then, only by promising to eliminate an estimated $700 billion a year in certain tax loopholes — which he refuses to identify. How anyone could swallow this snake oil is bad enough. Why Republicans in Congress would vote for such a total fraud is stunning.
Next up: a Senate vote on subsidies to Big Oil. Yes, the big five oil companies are making historic profits: $137 billion in 2011. Yes, they’re sitting on a mountain of cash: $58 billion. But, yes, we’re still giving them government handouts, otherwise known as tax breaks, to the tune of $2 billion a year. Those subsidies made a lot of sense in 1916, when we started handing them out. They make no sense today. President Obama proposed shifting that money, instead, to developing renewable sources of energy. But Republican senators and a handful of oil-state Democrats shot it down. Their message: Welfare for the poor is bad; welfare for Big Oil is good.
Strike three: the highway bill. Here, at last, was a classic opportunity for members of Congress to put aside partisan differences and come together in common purpose: to repair our broken-down roads and bridges and build new ones. In the past, given the lead time required for major projects, highway bills typically budgeted five or six years out. This year, even with the mind-boggling partnership of James Inhofe and Barbara Boxer, the Senate could only pass a two-year transportation bill.
But even that was too much for House Republicans. While Democrats were ready to approve the Senate bill, Tea Party Republicans said no. And rather than pass a two-year bill with Democratic votes, Speaker Boehner once again caved in to his freshman caucus, accepting a ridiculous 90-day bill — giving neither construction companies, workers, nor local governments the certainty they needed to move forward.
All in all, it’s a sad record on which to leave town. Members should hang their heads in shame.
Press is host of the nationally syndicated “Bill Press Show.”