Whose Substantive Agenda?


Though preferred solutions to these issues might differ, I think that the issues identified in these Gallup polls–which potential voters rank as the most important facing the country, or the most important in determining their votes in the congressional elections, would be hard to argue with: The situation in Iraq, terrorism, the economy & jobs, immigration, education and health care. Right now we are in the midst of the election season, and candidates are, to a greater or lesser extent, putting before the public their views on these issues, while trying, during the last few days that remain on the pre-election legislative calendar, to address some of these concerns (for example, building a wall to deter illegal immigration, adotping new rules governing the treatment of terrorism suspects held by the United States, and approving spending for operations in Iraq and Afghinistan. As citizens, we may or may not agree with what Congress is doing, we might prefer a more robust debate on these issues, we might even have preferred it if members of Congress had begun addressing these concerns much earlier in this legislative session rather than schedule so few working days.

Be that as it may, inside the Beltway Cocoon, Congress’s belated interest in the people’s business is getting in the way of Congress’s real business, Jeffrey Birnbaum of The Washington Post reports:

Congress plans to recess at the end of this week and to return only briefly after the Nov. 7 elections to complete some odds and ends. Along the way, energy companies, physicians, small-business owners and high-tech firms — all favorites of the Republican majority — have been deprived of legislative victories.

“That’s the source of a lot of frustration,” said John J. Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable, one of Washington’s most potent corporate lobbies and a frequent GOP ally. “The substantive agenda is getting run over by the political agenda.”

Washington lobbyists and voters from back home who are visiting at the behest of trade associations are packing congressional offices — making last-minute pitches for pet proposals such as beefed-up write-offs for restaurant renovations and the extension of an expired tax credit for corporate research.

The “substantive agenda” to Washington insiders is often at odds with the “political agenda” — apparently here defined as the silly concerns of the voting public like war and health care and having a decent family income that distract attention from important concerns like giving beefed-up write-offs for restaurant renovations and extensions of corporate tax credits.