Rapture in Congress?

OK. I didn’t take the garbage out Saturday morning. And the world didn’t come to an end. Chill.

Apparently, though, some took the pending apocalypse much more seriously, making significant emotional and financial investments in Harold Camping’s forecast that the world would be kaput. Here’s from USA Today, “Apocalypse some other time“:

Camping used billboards, fliers and posters to spread the word. “I am utterly, absolutely absolutely convinced it is going to happen,” Camping said last week.

The figurative drumroll leading up to Saturday — and the anticlimactic non-event — seemed to generate more jokes than fear, Cathy Lynn Grossman reported in USA TODAY’s Faith & Reason blog. Some Rapture believers expressed shock when the end did not take place.

Robert Fitzpatrick, a doomsday believer and retiree who sank almost all he had — $140,000 — into warning fellow citizens about the impending end, told the New York Daily News he did not understand what went wrong.

“I can’t tell you what I feel right now,” Fitzpatrick, 60, said Saturday in New York’s Times Square, after Armageddon failed to happen. “Obviously, I haven’t understood it correctly because we’re still here.”

Wow. He would have been better off giving the cash to my “wealth adviser” at Merrill Lynch. Then he would experience a financial Armageddon. Oops. I digress.

I wonder if there are any parallels between Saturday’s nonevent and the doomsday message from Inside the Beltway about what will happen if we do — or don’t — raise the federal government’s debt limit.

According to estimates, the U.S. government is expected to hit the $14.294 trillion debt ceiling today. Gulp. Or not. Here’s from the online version of the WSJ, “As Debt Limit Reached, Agreement Still Far Off“:

The U.S. government is expected to hit the $14.294 trillion debt ceiling Monday, setting in motion an uncertain, 11-week political scramble to avoid a default.

The Treasury Department said Monday it will stop issuing and reinvesting government securities in certain government pension plans, part of a series of steps designed to delay a default until Aug. 2.

The Treasury’s moves buy time for the White House and congressional leaders to reach a deficit-reduction agreement that could clear the way for enough lawmakers to vote to raise the amount of money Congress allows the nation to borrow.

Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, said reaching the debt ceiling “should be a warning bell to the political system that it’s time to get serious about preserving our full faith and credit.” The Obama administration says a default would tip the U.S. back into a financial crisis.

But the pathway to a deal remains unclear, even to those doing the negotiating. The White House and Republicans are giving conflicting signals about how close they are to a deal. Vice President Joe Biden said last week the contours of an agreement were taking shape. House Speaker John Boehner painted a different picture Sunday, saying on CBS’s Face the Nation “I’m not seeing any real action.”

Many Republicans and some Democrats have said they won’t vote to increase the debt ceiling without an accompanying deal to cut spending or tackle such longer-term fiscal problems as health-care costs. They argue the debt ceiling is a good venue to force changes needed to help secure the nation’s solvency.

With all the talk — from both sides of the aisle — about a financial apocalypse, wonder why there isn’t any fire with all the hot air? Here’s from Sen. Tom Coburn, opining in WaPo, “Why is the Senate stalling on the debt debate?“:

Our country is facing the greatest threat to our freedom and future since 1941. Any honest view of our debt, deficits, size of government and demographic challenges shows we must make major changes if we are going to pass on the American way of life to our children. Each week seems to bring new warning signs: slower-than-expected growth (already as much as 25 to 33 percent every year, some estimate), higher-than-expected unemployment numbers, admonitions to get our act together from the international financial community.

If these facts are true — and very few policymakers deny them — why has the U.S. Senate become the least deliberative “greatest deliberative body” in the world?

The lack of leadership and initiative in the Senate is appalling. As of this week, the Senate has held just 72 roll call votes this year, about one per legislative day on mostly noncontroversial and inconsequential matters. By this time last year, we had taken more than twice that number of votes (152). By this time in 2009, we had taken 192 votes. If we continue to avoid tough choices, we will lose control of our economic destiny and go down in history as the Senate that lost America. Our epitaph will read: Never before in the field of legislating was so much ignored by so many for so long.

For the past several months I have been meeting with a small group of senators from both parties, informally known as the Gang of Six, that was designed to force the idle — not gridlocked — Senate, and then the House and the president, to enact a long-term deficit-reduction package. Our talks reached an impasse this week when, in my view, it became clear we would not be able to produce a balanced, specific and comprehensive deal that would improve on, and in some ways meet, the standard set by the Bowles-Simpson plan.

I understand the disappointment, and real danger, associated with our impasse. The question, though, is not how we tried and failed but why the Senate has not even tried. Commissions and “gangs” form when members lose confidence in the institutions in which they serve. Working groups have their place — but they should support, not replace, the open work of the full Senate. The truth is that we already have a permanent standing debt commission. It’s called Congress.

Well, I expect that as with all issues Inside the Beltway, there will be a resolution of the debt limit at the very last minute — with both sides pointing the finger of blame at the other.

In the meantime, when members of Congress constantly shout that the world is coming to an end, all I can do is say: chill.

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2 responses to “Rapture in Congress?

  1. burghthoughts

    All well and good but we need to focus on the biggest issue of the day: Can Steeler Nation rise up, off-set the Baltimore/Cleveland conspiracy, and bring Hines Ward and the “Mirror Ball” trophy home to Pittsburgh where it belongs?? We are counting on at least ten votes from Copley…and we have ways to check!!!

  2. Well, you better hope Kristy Alley doesn’t come out wearing a Terrible Towel skirt.

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