1,000 votes and very few accomplishments

Published 1:18 pm Monday, November 5, 2007

By By Jo Bonner
Last month, the House passed an historic milestone – of sorts – the House cast its 1,000th vote of the year. Not since the Constitution was ratified has the House cast as many votes in the first half of a Congress.
I would have hoped that during the last ten months, Congress would have accomplished more. So far, 107 bills have been signed into law during the 110th Congress. Out of those, 47, roughly half, have named post offices, courthouses, or roads.
Naming roads and post offices is not what my colleagues and I were sent to Washington, D.C. to do. And late last week, Speaker Pelosi and her leadership team even held an event in front of the Capitol to celebrate these "accomplishments."
Last week marked another milestone for the 110th Congress: not since 1987 has Congress failed to send a single appropriations bill to the president's desk this late in the year. The 2008 fiscal year began over a month ago, but only seven of the 12 annual spending bills have passed both houses of Congress.
As many in the majority are patting themselves on the back and talking about all the great things they have done this year – it is becoming increasingly apparent that most Americans do not agree.
According to the latest Reuters/Zogby survey, Congress has an 11 percent approval rating, its lowest in history. And I certainly understand why – we are simply not getting as much done as we should.
The minority party has been consistently shut out of negotiations on the majority of legislation this year. Many bills have been brought to the floor under a closed rule, meaning no amendments can be added. Additionally, many bills are brought to the House floor without having had any consideration in committee – illustrating how contentious the mood in Congress has truly become.
As I have mentioned repeatedly in this column over the last several weeks, my Republican colleagues and I have been more than willing to compromise to pass a mutually agreeable children's health insurance bill.
Unfortunately, the majority has consistently refused to negotiate or compromise on this important legislation – which is why the president has yet to receive a bill he can sign.
Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, last month introduced a new tax bill, which is becoming known as the "Mother of All Tax Hikes." His bill would be the single largest tax increase in American history – $1.3 trillion!
This legislation would add a four percent surtax on Americans earning more than $150,000 a year or couples earning more than $200,000.
This plan would also allow the historic tax cuts enacted by Congress in 2001 and 2003 to expire – allowing the top individual income top tax rate in the United States to rise from 35 percent to 44 percent.
According to Congressman Jim McCrery, the ranking member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, this high tax rate will affect approximately 10 million taxpayers directly, including small business owners and farmers.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, estimates that the tax will cost our economy between 170,000 and 250,000 jobs. In other words, the record job creation we have seen over the past four years – 8.1 million new jobs since August 2003 – would end.
Higher taxes – more regulations – removing "God" from Capitol flag certificates – no wonder so many Americans and indeed so many south Alabamians are scratching their heads in wonderment about what we in Congress are really doing.
Nevertheless, the United States of America is still the greatest country in the world. I am hopeful that with the next 1,000 votes we will truly work together on behalf of the American people in order to make meaningful accomplishments.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website http://bonner.house.gov.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.

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