Our Congressional Representatives

February 12, 2012

Our U.S. economy is still shaky. A payroll tax cut was enacted to help increase the spending power of middle-class Americans, and it is due to expire at the end of February.

Class action lawsuits and medical malpractice lawsuits have driven up costs across our health care system, and could potentially be ameliorated through comprehensive tort reform.

There are dozens – probably hundreds – of serious domestic issues that our Congress could be working on.

Instead, they are currently focused on contraception.

Let’s set the record straight: Members of Congress who seek to limit the availability of affordable birth control all enjoy contraception insurance as part of the government managed Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB).

This benefit has been in place since 1998, and it “…ensures that federal employees participating in FEHB have insurance coverage of FDA-approved prescription contraceptives and related services.”

Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 10 that ‘insurance plans shouldn’t cover contraception services because birth control “costs a few dollars” and is only a “minor expense” for women.’

Good to know.

In my job – in my life – I am forced to prioritize my time and my efforts. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could spend all my time focused on minor issues that I think are “fun”?

That seems to be what our leaders in Congress are all about these days.

To paraphrase an old fable, “Rome is burning while our Congressional leaders are fiddling.”

We pay each and every member of Congress a base annual salary of $174,000, plus deluxe health care and pension benefits, and perks for things like travel and mail. There are various stipends for leadership roles as committee chairs, majority leader, minority leader, etc.

Most recent estimates of the total annual costs of our federal legislative body – Senate and House of Representatives — are in the $5 Billion range.

Now, some might point out that spending for the House and Senate, which includes salaries, mailings, and committee expenses, represents only .07 percent of total federal spending. The entire legislative branch includes additional expenses for the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, the Library of Congress, and some other functions.

That seems like a really good deal — if we are getting focus on critical issues and real results.

There are some – including voters, political scientists and lawmakers themselves– who have said that the 112th Congress (which convened on January 3, 2011) was our worst ever.

The 2011 session began with a House vote to repeal President Obama’s health-care law and ended with a flip-flop over the 60-day tax-cut extender — with detours in between for the two parties to flirt with shutting down the government, jeopardize the nation’s credit and various assorted legislative mayhem.

As a citizen, a taxpayer and a voter, I don’t much care what political party a person claims as their own.

What I do care about is: When they run for public office and get elected, our representatives put aside their personal agendas and work for the best long-term interests of our country.

Is that too much to ask for?

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