Vote-a-Rama Part III: Wake Up, Congress

Several weeks ago the Senate held a “vote-a-rama” related  to amends to the federal budget. This is the third of a three part series of reactions to this event by Widener University students studying Congress this semester.

by Andrea Stickley

Widener University Political Science Major

Ladies and gentlemen, Congress has now found a way to act like a bunch of six year olds….and get paid for it! Introducing vote-a-rama, the newest invention that Congress has come up with that allows an all out debate and no compromise. It sounds like a word a six year old would come up with and sounds like how a six year old would act; and yet, it was created by our nation’s lawmakers. Something seems wrong with this picture. If Congress actually believes that they are going to accomplish something by holding this budget debate and comparing amendments, they’ve got another thing coming.

Wake up, Congress. Democrats and Republicans having different ideas is not a new discovery. The whole nation is aware of the fact that you guys can’t agree on issues. That’s not the problem. It’s the fact that Congress can’t come to a compromise. So, your solution to this is to hold a debate about the fact that you already know you have different amendments to request? Somehow this doesn’t seem like a smart idea or an effective use of time. Why not, instead of just rehashing all the things that you don’t agree on and will never agree on, you spend your time talking about things you can agree on? Wow, what a simplistic idea.

Unless, of course, there is nothing left that Congress can agree on…

Vote-a-Rama Part II: “You can’t always get what you want”

Several weeks ago the Senate held a “vote-a-rama” related  to amends to the federal budget. This is the second of a three part series of reactions to this event by Widener University students studying Congress this semester.

 by Erica Szpynda

Widener University Economics Major

The Rolling Stones sang:

“You can’t always get what you want

But if you try sometimes well you just might find

You get what you need “

These few lyrics speak much about compromise.  Congress’s job is to WORK TOGETHER, to debate and to figure out what is needed for our country.  However, a series of nonbinding votes, just for the sake of voting is not what our country needs.

The Senate took part in a Vote-a-Rama.  This means that each party is limited to 25 hours of debate, to propose amendments to each of the budget proposals.  At least we know there will not be filibusters in an attempt to stop legislation, since debate is limited.  On the other hand, this means that the Senate will spend 50 hours in session to get nothing accomplished.  This can be viewed the same as going to a typical 9-5 job for OVER a week, and not being able to show your boss anything you accomplished.  Wait, I am wrong, Congress can show their bosses (also known as the voters) that they did accomplish something: Blocking many “bad” budget proposals.

Instead of this cut throat competition to make everyone vote on issues that can be used against them in the next election, Congress should be working on actually passing a budget.  This circus needs to stop for the sake of the nation’s credit score and the faith their bosses have in them.  This is just another reason for why pests have a better approval rating than Congress.  Hopefully, they can realize “You can’t always get what you want, BUT if you try… You get what you need.”

Let the Games Begin

by Andrea Stickley
Widener University Political Science Major
The gauntlet has been thrown down and a challenged issued.
In a time when Congress should be working together to pass legislation and get the country moving forward (anyone out there remember the fact that we have money problems and gun control issues) a division has ensued between the House and the Senate. House Speaker John Boehner says that he is tired of the Senate just sitting on their hands and not doing anything, so it’s time for them to step up to the plate. No longer will the House initiate legislation, and thus, take the fall when things go wrong. It’s now in the Senate’s court to start doing things.
I hate to break it to you boys, but you’re not actually on opposing teams. In case you forget, both the Senate and the House make up one Congress in one nation. Anyone catch the word one there, that appears twice in that sentence. This means you need to work together, not against each other. It seems that occasionally those in Congress forget that they’re all batting for the same team, the United States. Instead, they think it’s my team against yours to see who can get more accomplished and be liked more by the American people.
It doesn’t matter who initiates more legislation or is liked better. The key is to just keep working together to actually get things accomplished. It has to be a team effort. If the Senate decides not to do their job, then eventually people will be able to see that. However, if the House starts to just sit on their hands and not do anything, people will see that as well. There’s no I in team and no I in Congress. You can’t just decide to quit playing because you feel not everyone else is putting forth the same effort; that will only make things worse.
While the Senate maybe does need to pick up the pace and contribute to things, it doesn’t mean the House should back off their effort. So while Boehner may have issued this threat, it probably won’t last long or do that much good.

The Rules of Wasting Time

by Alexander Roux

Widener University Political Science Major

Recently the U.S. Senate has been discussing negotiations on a long existing tactic afforded to Senators, the ability to filibuster.  Via their institution’s rules, Senators can speak as long as they want on a specific bill during that bill’s debate phase.  One of the stereotypes surrounding this special tool of the Senate is that the minority party can use this tactic to stall and holdout a vote for as long as possible.

Filibustering does need reform, but it needs to go back to what the tool was originally.  Before1975 if a Senator wished to attempt blocking a vote and extend debate they were required to hold the floor of the Senate during that time, not return to their offices, or begin discussing the next piece of legislation.  In the 1930’s Senator Huey Long filibustered on the floor for over 15 hours while promoting his policies, his speech included reading Shakespeare and recipes for “pot-likkers.”  In 1946 Dennis Chavez’s filibuster lasted weeks, and in 1957 Senator Storm Thurmond’s filibuster lasted a record 24 hours and 18 minutes that included discussing his grandmother’s biscuit recipe.  Speeches lasting almost a day that required cots to be brought in may be a little extreme but it forced Senators to do their jobs.

Our Congress needs to see the return of rules that require them to stay in the Capitol and actually leave having accomplished and voted on proposed bills.  Maybe returning the filibuster to what it initially was could have a small impact on Congressmen, and if they were required to actually hold the floor maybe they wouldn’t use the stall tactic at all to threaten their fellow Congressmen.  However you feel on  the usage of filibustering I feel one thing is certain, changes made to the filibuster should make our Senators more accountable and require that they actually have to do the work associated with this special privilege they afford themselves.