One of the oldest and most popular political jokes, which I already knew as an eight-year-old, is as follows. If pro is the opposite of con, then what is the opposite of progress? Congress.
Of course, if Congress was to agree on this joke, it would take at least three all-night sessions, a 10-hour filibuster by the Democrats, an impassioned tweetstorm from President Trump about how it’s Obama’s fault and finally, a watered-down version of the original joke with several riders added for it to pass goes to the president’s desk.
The final joke might read something like this. If Chuck Schumer is a senator just like Mitch McConnell, why are they so bad at making legislation? Because Mitch McConnell looks like a turtle.
The answer doesn’t have any bearing on the question (even though it’s true). And oftentimes, Congress is exactly like that. Votes don’t add up, bills become appropriated and hijacked from their original purpose and the same legislators who claim to want compromise and bipartisanship go right ahead and subtly insult each other.
Take the latest (and only) major piece of legislation made during Trump’s tenure so far. A budget funding the government through September went from being a conservative’s dream to a relatively moderate budget with concessions for the Democrats, including things Trump had advocated against strongly.
And while it might not seem like a problem to have such a deadlocked Congress, especially if you don’t support the agenda of the president, think again. Congress is responsible for a lot of things, like funding the government or updating old legislation, a list that will likely increase as Trump’s tenure passes on.
However, almost more important than the legislation itself are the people who are behind it. And unfortunately for America, the congresspeople in office vary greatly in quality, anywhere from top-notch legislators to the aforementioned turtle, McConnell.
And to our detriment, the latter holds a lot of power. McConnell is currently the Senate Majority Leader, the most powerful senator in the body. Now, McConnell is a step above some other congressmen in office right now. Abhorrent as his politics might be, McConnell is said to be relatively likable by his fellow senators and has stuck to certain principles of the Senate.
However, praising him any more would either require a lot of exaggeration, or outright lying, which McConnell is quite familiar with. Back last year, when the Supreme Court seat now filled by Neil Gorsuch first opened up, McConnell erroneously claimed that Senate tradition was to leave vacant seats open on the bench in election years, allowing the next president to fill them. This outright lie worked, however, and the seat remained open until Trump took office.
However, McConnell seemingly forgot that he said this as well. In an op-ed for the Washington Post last month, McConnell said, “Some Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), even mused openly about holding the seat vacant indefinitely.”
A quick Google search just told me that turtles only typically have memories for about seven months. I guess we might have to give the majority leader a pass on this one.
Looking beyond McConnell, the other chamber of Congress also warrants your attention. The House of Representatives is typically looked down upon privately by its Senate sibling, and after focusing on few of its members, it’s not hard to tell why.
Speaker Paul Ryan is truly the spiritual successor to John Boehner, always looking like he’s three steps away from tears. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz went from promising to investigate Hillary Clinton, to promising to investigate a remark by Kellyanne Conway, to promising to retire when his term ends. Similarly, Devin Nunes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, ended up recusing himself from all investigations involving Donald Trump’s Russian ties after being exposed meeting with Trump at the White House.
The last one is particularly interesting, mostly because I was under the impression that Vladimir Putin was the person who illicitly visited Trump in his house. Regardless, it’s pretty clear that the entirety of Congress is all kinds of crazy.
Thankfully, the pain could lessen come 2018. With a historically unpopular president in the White House, Republicans will likely have some explaining to do before next year’s midterm elections, which typically benefit the opposition regardless. Democrats have a very real chance to take back control of the House, and while the Senate is a bit less likely, a Democratic gain in the chamber or even a 50-50 split is far from impossible.
In either case, we’ll likely still be stuck with an orange for a president, barring an impeachment. However, regardless of whether Trump remains in office, as he likely will at least until the term ends, it would be a welcome relief to hear a bit less from the reptile cosplayer.
The Denome’s Advocate is a bi-weekly political column with a liberal slant.
Follow Thomas Denome on Twitter at @thomas_denome