Stupid Congress Tricks

What exactly do our Senators and Representatives do all day in Congress? I would like to think they are busy looking out for our best interests and passing laws to make this a better country. However, like many, I have always assumed they were more interested in fundraising and pork barrel politics. The truth, however, turns out to be much more mundane. Instead, they are passing resolutions that recognize the importance of NASCAR, honoring fast food restaurants in Kentucky, and commemorating the 50th anniversary of Marshmallow Peeps. In short, they aren't doing much of anything.

I was recently reading the congressional web site, and the contents aren't pretty. I'm no masochist. I was only there because I wanted to discover the identities of the five Representatives who voted against the anti-spam bill.* Before I knew it, though, I found myself examining the record of the 108th Congress in all its silliness. I think I liked it better when I just assumed everyone in Congress was corrupt.

Sure, there are important laws passed, but most seem to be a colossal waste of time. For example, just last week, the House of Representatives passed a motion "expressing the sense of Congress regarding the importance of motor sports." It passed 414-0. Now, regardless of your position on motor sports, do we need Congress to waste time passing the NASCAR Is Cool Act of 2003? What's next? A resolution regarding the importance of pro wrestling?

Strangely, there are several resolutions about sports each year. For just about every sports team in the nation that wins a championship, there's a congratulatory motion passed in Congress. In June, our government even took the time to congratulate the University of Central Florida Varsity Cheerleading Team on "their historic victory as the 2003 Division 1-A College Cheerleading National Championship." I realize that cheerleaders may be an important national resource -- I believe Senator Kennedy voted for this twice -- but really aren't there more important things for our government to be doing?

It's not just sports either. Earlier this year, the House voted to recognize Dinah Washington as "one of the most talented vocalists in American popular music history." I agree. I like Dinah Washington too, though I chose to recognize her instead by illegally downloading MP3s of her songs rather than passing a resolution in Congress. I guess we all have different ways of showing our respect.

On the same day, Lena Horne was honored as well. It's a nice gesture, but I worry about who Congress will commemorate fifty years from now. "Whereas they were the most kick-ass heavy metal band of the 1980s, now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives, That it is the sense of Congress that Whitesnake should be recognized for their achievements in popular music."

Admittedly, many of the worst speeches aren't made on the floor of Congress. Without actually giving the speech, members of Congress will often enter the text into the congressional record as a favor to whichever group they are trying to please. It's mostly harmless, but still somebody is spending a lot of time writing these speeches. We hear much about frivolous lawsuits, but all this seems just as wasteful.

Perhaps the most ridiculous item was the motion honoring the 50th anniversary of Marshmallow Peeps. Here's an actual quote from Representative Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania: "Mr. Speaker, I rise to offer congratulations to the confectioners at Just Born, Incorporated, as they celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of their most recognized and celebrated products, not to mention my daughter's favorite, Marshmallow Peeps."

Thank you, Congressman. It's about time Congress acted on that all important Marshmallow Peep issue. Hopefully, gummy bear legislation isn't far behind.

* Mike Honda, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Dennis Kucinich, Zoe Lofgren, and Ron Paul.


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