This has been an unusually rotten week in Washington. The impeachment trial, doomed from the start, whimpered to a close. The President childishly refused to shake the offered hand of the Speaker of the House, who behaved just as childishly afterwards by ripping up her copy of his State of the Union address. That speech, a factually challenged ninety-minute ramble, had an all-world low point: awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh, a radio personality–one should refrain from calling him a journalist–whose only talent lies in pushing people’s buttons.
Wait a minute: I can think of somebody else with that talent.
Things were no better outside of Washington: Democrats can’t count ballots in Iowa, and the Department of Justice has come to Mississippi to investigate prison conditions. (That may sound like good news, but I suspect the fix is already in: the DOJ, currently run by the GOP, will find a way to exonerate the state’s Republican leadership, which will continue to underfund correctional facilities because “nothing’s wrong.”)
But back to the counting issue: many of the week’s problems lie with simple math. Democratic leaders apparently can’t count to 67, which is the number of senators required to impeach a president. Or pass a treaty. Or override a veto. Or expel a senator.
It won’t do any good, but I’d like to propose the use of even more simple math. Let’s require a 2/3 majority for any legislative body or committee to hold hearings. I’m not against hearings as part of a legitimate fact-finding process. However, they’ve become a large part of the reason that the machinery of government is stuck. They allow for political grandstanding–and, because most votes fall along party lines, not much else. Instead, let committees spend more time doing the things they’re supposed to do without hiding behind the delays caused by interminable hearings. The two parties might even rediscover how to play nicely with each other for the good of the people.
The last time the Congress managed to pass a budget was 2016. The government has been funded on a series of continuing resolutions since then.
Can’t we do better than that?