The Congressional Busy Season

As you probably already know, the current United States Congress ranks among the most dysfunctional in history. Given its state of inactivity, is it possible that our local legislators might be growing bored and fidgety with all of their free time?

Don’t count on it! Apparently, our elected officials aren’t concerned about their failure to pass productive legislation. Instead, they are spending their time proposing legislation that has no chance to pass into law, and passing legislation that serves no purpose.

Last week, for instance, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4890, the IRS Bonuses Tied to Measurable Metrics Act. If enacted into law, it would forbid the Internal Revenue Service from paying any bonus compensation to its employees until it “puts taxpayers first.”

At first glance, of course, one might conclude that this Act is a reasonable one. After all, why should any employee receive a bonus if he doesn’t put his customer, client, or constituent first?

The problem with the proposed legislation, though, is that it bans the payment of bonuses to any IRS employee. In other words, the Service would be unable to recognize, incentivize, or reward any individual employee who wishes to “put taxpayers first.” Under such circumstances, why would any employee actually choose to do so?

The proposed Act itself serves no purpose because President Obama has already declared that he would never sign the legislation. But Congress passed it any way, and then moved on to a proposal entitled No Budget, No Pay. Sponsored by Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, the Act proposes that Congressional leaders should not be paid any compensation when they fail to enact a federal budget into law on a timely basis.

But … hold on! Wait a minute! Didn’t President Obama sign a No Budget, No Pay Act into law three years ago? Well, yes … he did. But it only applied to that single year of budgetary activities. And it didn’t actually require Congress to fund its own budget; it simply required that the legislators pass a resolution to approve one. So Congress proceeded to approve a budget that year, and then never funded it.

Apparently, our legislators are quite fond of “no pay” legislation. But in the case of the IRS law, they proposed it while knowing that there was no chance of it ever becoming law. And in the case of their own budget law, they passed it with terms and conditions that would ensure that they would never actually lose any pay.

Nice, eh? It’s the Congressional busy season, and our legislative leaders are busy at work, doing what they do best.