Thursday, April 28, 2022

What a wild turkey tells us about Washington -- April 28, 2022 column


A wild turkey is terrorizing people on a bike trail in the District of Columbia. Several runners and bicyclists report being menaced by the angry bird.

“There’s actually a pretty healthy turkey population in D.C. and the surrounding areas,” Dan Rauch, a wildlife biologist with the district’s department of the environment, told NBC 4 in Washington. “There’s at least a hundred, maybe even two, here in the District.”

Oh, come on. Everybody knows there are more turkeys than that in Washington.

At least that’s what the polls say. President Joe Biden and Congress both suffer from rock-bottom approval ratings. Only about 40% of people approve of the job Biden is doing, and Congress’s approval rating is even lower.

Only about 25% approve of the job Congress is doing, according to the latest Real Clear Politics poll average. Slightly more – but only slightly – think the country is moving in the right direction, about 30%, according to RCP’s poll average.

The rampaging turkey looks diligent compared with the do-nothings in Washington.  

It’s spring, but in the nation’s capital it feels like the dark days of fall – as in election season. The midterms may be six months away, but Democrats and Republicans are so busy attacking each other they can’t get anything accomplished.

The country is awash with problems – inflation, the pandemic (still with us) and the crisis at the border, chief among them. Government is supposed to solve problems, or at least try, but Democrats keep fighting among themselves and Republicans, who smell electoral blood in the water, won’t lift a finger to help.

Biden has failed to deliver on much of his agenda. Hardly anyone even mentions voting rights legislation anymore, even though more than a dozen states have passed more restrictive voting laws.

The Build Back Better package – scaled down from Biden’s original $4 trillion proposal to about $2 trillion – appears doomed, although some Democrats still hope to salvage about $1 trillion. They disagree about what should be their priority – maternal and child health, pre-K education, a child tax credit, clean energy measures – and about what can pass.

Nearly every day the news about the environment worsens: “megadrought” in California, wildfires, water shortages, and yet, again, nothing happens in Washington.

It always comes back to: What does Joe want? A spokesman for Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Monday he was agreeable to boosting energy production, lowering prescription drug costs and raising taxes on the rich, The Washington Post reported. But Manchin himself told reporters Tuesday there’s no formal agreement.

“I want to make sure ya’ll understand: There’s no false hopes here,” said Manchin, who also continues to hold out for fully paying for the package, a sticking point.

Manchin says he will run for re-election in 2024, so there’s no downside in his red state for his opposing Biden’s agenda.

Congress failed to pass aid to buy more coronavirus vaccines and treatment before leaving on spring break. Now, more aid for Ukraine is also in doubt, as Republicans warn they won’t allow Democrats to include coronavirus aid in the Ukraine package.

Republicans want a vote on lifting Title 42, the controversial Trump-era measure that allows the Department of Homeland Security to “expel” migrants at the border without allowing them to apply for asylum. The administration contends the emergency measure, a public health order, is no longer needed and planned to lift it May 23.

A federal judge in Louisiana has blocked the administration from phasing out the restrictions before May 23. Border crossings are up and are expected to surge even more.

Washington almost never blames itself for anything, so it was surprising to hear Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Michigan, lash out at both political parties.  

“Our immigration system is broken,” she declared at a hearing Wednesday. “Democrats and Republicans own that. Right now, Democrats have the House and Senate and White House and have done nothing to get comprehensive immigration reform.

“Four years ago, Republicans had the House, the Senate and the White House and did nothing” on immigration reform. Imploring her colleagues to introduce legislation to make the border situation better, she said: “Don’t just use it as a political cudgel.”

But they will. No wonder people are so grumpy.

©2022 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

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