Oh, my. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says he is not going to talk to President Barack Obama one on one anymore.
The speaker represents my hometown in Ohio, and I can tell you that pouting and refusing to talk to each other are not the way we do things. True, there may be shouting. Yes, there is often weird logic employed. Often there is no consensus. But we enjoy our face-to-face confrontations. It’s the American way!
Weren’t you stunned when you heard that Boehner refused to take four phone calls from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a fellow Republican? Christie was furious that the speaker adjourned the 112th House without voting on money to help the suffering victims of Hurricane Sandy. Who would not want to be screamed at by the vociferous Christie?
The 113th Congress is not starting off well. Having just narrowly averted falling off the infamous “fiscal cliff,” in the next few months we will have even more showdowns. There is the battle over automatic spending cuts that will either be catastrophic or essential, depending on your point of view. There is the battle over whether the nation should pay the debts Congress already incurred. And then there is whether to shut down the entire government because something called a continuing resolution expires. It’s like “Days of Our Lives,” the never-ending soap opera.
There simply has to be common ground. But wait! There is. Here are some issues on which the deeply divided members of Congress certainly can agree:
Boehner has the worst job in Washington. People should stop criticizing him for crying in public. Or swearing at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
We have crossed a threshold. Washington used to believe that a billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you have real money. Today it’s a trillion here and a trillion there and pretty soon you have another year’s deficit.
Motherhood is not what it used to be. If you’re a politician, don’t talk about it.
Apple pie can be dangerous if the apples have chemicals on them.
The National Rifle Association rules. Yesterday, it was “guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Today: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” (Congress has a lot of guards with guns.)
Every member of Congress came to Washington to root out waste, fraud and abuse. While some people think one legislator’s waste is another legislator’s prime pork, there are some spending programs all can accept.
Slashing $500 billion over 10 years from defense spending is a good idea except for research and development on weapons being built in any powerful senator’s backyard, ammunition for troop training and air conditioning in VIP visitor centers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s a good thing the fiscal cliff was averted even though the deal included $480 million for Puerto Rican and Virgin Island rum production, $59 million for algae growers, $15 million for the movie industry to film in the United States and $40 billion a year for racetrack owners for their tracks, bleachers and concession stands.
OK, so the 112th Congress was the paragon of least productive Congress in U.S. history in terms of bills passed, which pleases Tea Partiers no end but alarms everyone else. Apparently, it was also the least popular Congress of all time. It also created the fiscal cliff out of thin air before it saved us from it.
The 113th has nowhere to go but up or it could be even worse. It’s kind of intriguing, really.
Is that Boehner over there in the corner crying?
Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986.