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The Best Democratic Congress Ever?

The less Congress does, the better.

By Petrarch  |  August 22, 2008

As almost the entire United States does not know, Republican Congressmen have spent their vacation month in Washington instead of on the beach with Barack Obama.

Rather than act to permit American oil companies to drill for American oil on American territory, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gaveled the House into recess over the strenuous objections of the Republican minority.  Instead of just packing up and leaving like the rest of their colleagues, though, a good many Republicans decided to just stay put in the House and hold the debate Pelosi refused to allow, in her absence.

Unfortunately, being Speaker of the House doesn't just mean you hold the gavel.  It also means you have the keys to the lights, the sound system, and most importantly, the TV cameras.  So for the past three weeks, the Republican revolutionaries have pontificated to rapt audience of as many as a few hundred interested citizens, but no more.

There has been virtually no mention of the event in any of the major media.  Although talk radio and the right-wing Internet sites have been buzzing, it's no more than preaching to the choir.  Unless you are already sufficiently politically aware to listen to Rush or read Scragged, odds are you have no idea there even is a Congressional protest going on.

Such is the blackball power of the mainstream media, shamefully including even Fox in this case.

Your correspondent, however, had the opportunity to personally attend and observe the goings-on in the People's House, and a bittersweet experience it was.  It warms even the cynical heart of a Scragged writer to hear one's elected representatives actually making sense in their speeches - to hear them confronting a real problem (high gas prices and imported oil) and offering a real solution that would not only work in principle, but would easily work in practice: just get the government out of the way of the oil companies, let them drill wherever they think oil can be had, pay taxes on it, and sell it to us.

Alas, though the floor was filled with surprisingly attentive voters, we'll be driving anti-gravity cars on fusion power before the message crosses the country on nothing more than the power of the pols' vocal chords.  Thanks to the cooperation of the media, Nancy Pelosi can afford to ignore the handful of Republican would-be rabble-rousers - if the rabble don't even know about them, they aren't going to be roused.

One prop poster on display, though, made an interesting point.  It showed the worthy bills being considered by the Democratic Congress over the last year and a half while gas prices went through the roof.

In the background was a nice graph showing fuel's inexorable rise.  Then, at various points were noted the bills passed at various times: such august legislation as "National Train Day", the "Monkey Protection Act", and something incomprehensible about big cats.  Now, we're all in favor of cats and trains, though not so much monkeys - but the point is, surely there was something better they could be doing with their time?

Of course, every Congress generates their fair share of silly time-wasting bills, so carefully singling out a few for ridicule might not be entirely fair. The Wall Street Journal, though, agrees with the Republicans:

Barring a burst of legislative activity after Labor Day, this group of 535 men and women will have accomplished a rare feat. In two decades of record keeping, no sitting Congress has passed fewer public laws at this point in the session -- 294 so far -- than this one.

Here's where we have to disagree with both the Journal and the Republicans: this is not a result to be lamented, it's cause for celebration!

Fewer laws means fewer intrusions into our liberty and lives; fewer tax dollars wasted on salaries for bureaucrats; and fewer paperwork requirements for hard-pressed American businesses.  We have passed the point where additional laws solve problems; what we need is fewer laws.  The laws we want to see are laws repealing other laws, not still more rules we have to follow.

And, guess what?  The gas-price crisis is no different.  The reason we can't drill for our own oil is because Congress passed a moratorium decades ago, forbidding it.  But this moratorium is, and has always been, temporary - it's renewed a year at a time.

All Congress has to do to repeal it is to do nothing.  Without an act of Congress, on September 30 of this year, our offshore oil fields and Colorado shale are automatically opened to exploitation.  A little quick work at the Dept. of the Interior, hopefully prodded firmly by the executive branch, and oil companies will have their leases signed, sealed, and delivered.

The Republicans are calling for Nancy Pelosi to reconvene Congress to pass their "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less" act.  Do they seriously think the Democrats will pass their bill, if at all, without completely befouling it with onerous restrictions, regulations, tax increases, pork-barrel spending, and who knows what?

Far better just to leave well enough alone.  Don't call back Congress; encourage them to stay out on vacation!

All we need to do is keep them on the beach until the end of September when the restrictions on drilling expire; then American private enterprise can tackle the oil price crisis unimpeded by legislative lunacy.  Isn't that the American way?  And about time.

Who knows?  Maybe this Democratic Congress will accomplish something worthwhile after all, just by sitting on their hands.