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Congress: If they can get along on the field, why not at work?

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You probably missed this news blurb, but Democrats and Republicans met in the 53rd Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game June 25. The Jackasses routed the Elephant 15-6 before God cut the game short after 8 innings.

Republicans showed an improvement after losing 22-0 last year. The Democrats were again paced by ringer Rep. Cedric Richmond (LA). The congressman said he knew he wouldn’t repeat his shutout from last year’s game. “I knew they were going to get some hits. I wasn’t in shape and didn’t get a chance to practice as much as I wanted. But give them some credit. They got some seeing-eye hits. A few were actually hit OK.”

Richmond pitched the entire game and had a great night fielding, but GOP hurlers intentionally walked him in four of five at bats. The walks drew boos from the Democratic fans, who called Republicans “cowards,” according to Roll Call. Richmond was a pitcher at Morehouse College back in the day.

“It was nice to see Republicans and Democrats smiling in the same place,” said Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) after playing in his first Congressional Baseball Game. He added, “It was a blast.”

Broken Congress

If Congress can play ball together on the field for charity, why can’t it play ball in the chambers for the country? Democrats have little say in the House and Republicans have less power in the Senate.

Congress’ most important job is to pass a federal budget by Oct. 1 of each year. They haven’t accomplished this task in 20 years. Instead, lawmakers rely on either pass patchwork bills or extensions of the last spending bill to keep the government going. Even worse House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid abdicated Capitol Hill’s banking roll to the president. The Columbus Dispatch had some excellent article on how poisoned Congress is June 1.

By passing such extensions, critics say, Congress is ceding its authority to determine how federal money is spent. Instead of serving as a steward of taxpayer dollars, critics say, they have thrown up their hands, slashing funding indiscriminately or just relying on older spending measures — the equivalent of submitting the same term paper time after time.

Once upon a time parties worked together on the House Appropriations Committee to make deals and function “properly.” That led to massive debt, but regional or district gains. For example, a bridge could be built or fixed. Now the budget “is actually the one thing they know every year that they’re going to have to do,” said Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a taxpayer watchdog. “And so it’s inexcusable they don’t get it done.”

Boehner stopped earmarks – the way local projects such as bridges were placed in the budget – three years ago claiming they were pork. That is classic example of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

For everyday Americans, the dysfunctional Senate affects their lives in many ways. The Senate has failed to approve bills to extend emergency unemployment benefits, build the controversial Keystone pipeline from Canada or extend for another year about $85 billion in tax breaks, including the $250 deduction for teachers who foot the bill for classroom expenses and mortgage-debt forgiveness for people with negative equity in their homes.

In his latest visit to the National Press Club June 27 retiring Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), a former chairman of the appropriations committee, defended compromise. “Compromise is not a dirty word and it is not an evil thing. Conciliation is not a bad idea. Cooperation is not an unspeakable act,” he said.

Dingell remembered helping pass a series of amendments to the Clean Air Act. The final vote was 401 to 21. “It took me 13 hours to get a bill that both sides agreed to on the floor but it took me 13 years to do the work to make that possible,” he said.

Congress “means coming together. It means a body which has come together and it is a part of the historic understandings that this country had when we had a Congress which worked.”

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