This is what Republicans and Democrats do in Congress when they come back from summer vacation in the run-up to midterm elections: They indulge in political theater.
Two examples of scripted futility: Last week, the Republican-run House approved a bill to allow insurance companies to sell health coverage that does not meet the standards set by the Affordable Care Act. This was done in the knowledge that it had no chance of success in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
For its part, the Senate took up a Democratic-supported constitutional amendment that aims to nullify the Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United case, which made a mess of federal campaign funding restrictions. The vote was 54-42 to continue the debate but it failed for the lack of 60 votes (Democrat Bob Casey voted yes, Republican Pat Toomey no).
Because this time-wasting was political theater, voters are invited to critique it on the strength of the plots. Here’s our review:
In the House, Republicans have held so many votes to kill Obamacare that it has become absurd — and Thursday’s vote on insurance coverage was just a variation on the same old theme.
In the Senate, the Citizens United amendment was denied a major role because of the conservative belief that a constitutional amendment would be an offense against free speech. Nonsense. It is about limiting the corrupting influence of mega-money. The proposed amendment has a section that explicitly says, “Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.”
The Citizens United amendment deserved to be taken seriously. But this didn’t happen in the best Congress money can buy — which, of course, is the problem.