To use the lexicon of Congress, the American public holds the national legislative "in minimum high regard." That's far too kind. The latest poll I have seen shows approval at 11 percent.

Last week, I saw a classic demonstration of why this is true. Whether you are interested in the topic or not, the role of the Senate committee chairman and the role of the elected representative on the Washington, D.C. statehood issue graphically reveals the phony and fraudulent use of the legislative process. A little background is necessary.


There are people (I am one of them) who feel that the 640,000 residents of the nation's capital deserve the same rights as every other American.

D.C. citizens are not really full American citizens. They have partial or third-class citizenship. They pay federal income tax, but they don't have representation in the U.S. Congress. (Thus our license plate: "Taxation Without Representation.") They serve in our armed forces and fight and die in our wars. Their judges are not appointed by a local elected official, but by the president. Every law that the local legislature passes can be overturned by the U.S. Congress.

D.C. is without a doubt the last colony. The remedy for this undemocratic and un-American situation is to make Washington the 51st state.

On Jan. 24, 2013, the new chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Kerry says Paris climate deal alone 'is not enough' | EPA halts planned Taiwan trip for Wheeler| EPA sued over rule extending life of toxic coal ash ponds Overnight Energy: Biden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' | GM reverses on Trump, exits suit challenging California's tougher emissions standards | United Nations agency says greenhouse gas emissions accumulating despite lockdown decline GSA transition delay 'poses serious risk' to Native Americans, Udall says MORE (D-Del.), introduced a bill to accomplish this goal. D.C. advocates were overjoyed. Twenty-one years ago in the U.S. Senate, a similar bill was introduced, but the chairman of the relevant committee, John Glenn (D-Ohio), had no interest in pushing it. He and subcommittee chairman Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.) had an "informational" hearing. This is not even a hearing on the bill. It is a public relations exercise, devoid of meaning.

This time, things were supposed to be different. The bill was going to the committee where the introducer was actually the chair of the committee. Now begins the story of why Americans are so anti-Congress.

I had the naive and unsophisticated perception that Carper wanted to see his own bill moved and brought to the floor and be passed. He introduced the bill on Jan. 24, 2013. It was not until Sept. 15, 2014 that he deigned to hold a hearing on his own bill.

Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) are members of the committee and said they would vote for the bill. (Levin and Baldwin are co-sponsors.) Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) never expressed a position. They are the other Democratic members of the committee.

One would think that if Carper sincerely and genuinely wanted his own bill to be passed, that he would speak to the uncommitted Democratic senators on his committee and urge them to be for his bill.

After the hearing, I asked him if he had done such a thing. He never answered my questions. When I then asked him if he planned to ask them in the future, once again — no reply. The truth is that Carper really did not care if his own bill came out of his own committee. His purpose was to look good. He felt that introducing a bill was sufficient. Getting it to become a law was not his responsibility.

The role of Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonRecord number of Black women elected to Congress in 2020 Lawmakers say infrastructure efforts are falling victim to deepening partisan divide The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden blitz battleground states MORE (D-D.C.) is even more disturbing and disingenuous. She has a vote in committee, but not on the House floor. She was first elected in 1990. The last vote for D.C. statehood was in November 1993. She gushes about getting two-thirds of the Democrats at that time to vote yes. The magic number for passage was 218. Democrats had a healthy majority at that time.

To Norton, trying but losing is defined as victory. When I asked her this time whether she had contacted any of the uncommitted Democratic senators, she replied "You talk to them." I reminded her she was D.C.'s elected representative.

You see, Norton was going along with the Carper caper. Make believe something is happening, when nothing is. Norton didn't even ask Carper (privately or publicly) to move his own bill. Her testimony was gushing with praise for just holding a hearing.

Neither Carper or Norton wanted or sought action. They were co-conspirators in this sham and charade. They had the nerve to define their inaction and passivity as progress. Both Carper and Norton weren't serious. They should not be taken seriously.

Worse, their behavior was all too common of members of Congress. This is the all-too-usual practice. Make believe something is going on when the opposite is occurring.

No wonder the country is fed up.

Plotkin is a political analyst and a contributor to the BBC on American politics.