Pettiness on display in Congress

Published 11:32 pm Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Republican budget committee chairmen in the U.S. House and Senate have their fingers in their ears and are loudly yelling, “We can’t heaaaar you!” to the Obama administration. In truth, they look like grumpy grade-schoolers in need of a timeout.

So, what’s new, you ask? Republicans in Congress have a well-deserved reputation for frosty relations with President Barack Obama. One of their members — Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. — called the president a liar during a congressional address. House Republicans have voted to repeal Obamacare more than 60 times. Yet, this most recent episode is different.

By tradition, congressional budget committees allow a president’s budget director to give testimony on behalf of the proposed budget produced by the White House. It’s a hearing, nothing more and nothing less. Partisans play their roles, either knocking down the budget or praising it. Others are welcome to bring genuine inquiry to the process, closely examining what the proposal would do and what it would not do.

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Not this time, say Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., the chairmen of their respective budget committees. Shaun Donovan, the White House’s budget director, isn’t welcome in the committees, they say.

Price and Enzi issued a joint statement this month: “Rather than spend time on a proposal that, if anything like this administration’s previous budgets, will double down on the same failed policies that have led to the worst economic recovery in modern times, Congress should continue our work on building a budget that balances and that will foster a healthy economy.”

A couple of points:

— They are rejecting the budget before even seeing it. It was released on Tuesday. Any political party anxious to present itself to Americans as serious and intellectually engaged would reject this sort of immature actions.

— Note the phrase “worst economic recovery in modern times.” Buried in it is the word “recovery.” Unemployment is now half what it was in Obama’s first term, from 10 percent to 4.9 percent. Budget deficits are way down from 2009 and account for only 2.5 percent of the gross domestic product. There’s plenty more to be done, but Obama’s job-creation numbers at this point are better than those of the administrations of George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Combined.

Perhaps the most important point is that this just looks bad. Not bad in a political sense. No, this is a harsh light shining on the pettiness and dysfunction of our elected leadership in Congress. They can and should do better.

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