EDITORIAL: Restoring faith in the political process

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 6, 2022

There’s an old episode of The Simpsons from 1995 where the city of Springfield is threatened by an approaching comet.

With doomsday imminent, the residents turn to Washington, D.C. for help in evacuating, after the only bridge out of the city was accidentally destroyed earlier in the episode.

Cut to a scene in the Capitol, where Congress brings up a bill to assist Springfield, which is set to pass unanimously.

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Then, just as the vote occurs, a randomm meddling congressman announces he is tacking on a rider onto the bill for $50 million to support obscene art.

Thus, the bogged-down bill dies and Springfield is on its own to face annihilation from the comet.

The sharp satire, for which the show was known in its heydey, is perfectly illustrative of the way Americans often view a legislative branch that can not ever seem to get anything accomplished, no matter how much the public supports something.

And that sentiment was pervasive this last week, during the debate over the PACT Act, which we discussed in this space in our last edition, a bill to provide care for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.

Shortly after we went to press, the bill finally passed the Senate, and is now, thankfully, headed to the White House to be signed into law.

And it was the same bill that was blocked just days earlier by a Republican-led filibuster.

The saga of the bill with some senators first voting for it, then blocking it, then ultimately voting for it was political gaming at its worst.

This is the case with Ohio’s Rob Portman, who inexplicably switched positions over the course of the votes.

The mess involving the PACT Act vote is the kind of thing we see often in D.C. – whether it is lawmakers opposing disaster aid for other parts of the country, then, when their own state is hit, demanding federal funds immediately, or those who are aghast at spending by the other party going silent when their party takes control and does the same.

It’s the kind of thing that feeds into cynicism of government, but, fortunately, the PACT Act was not a victim of these games in the end.

The difference was due to the outrage of veterans advocacy groups, who quickly took to the media and explained what was happening with the vote.

And, through reporting on this, the national media fulfilled its role in being a watchdog on lawmakers.

This is something we need to see more of. The machinations of Congress can sometimes be complex, convoluted and a bore to follow, but the real world results of what happens under the Capitol dome impact us all.

Strong organizing by its supporters and citizen involvement, coupled with thorough reporting kept the public apprised of what was at stake.

We are now set to see one of the largest expansions of care in the Veterans Administration, bringing much-needed services to veterans who have slipped through the cracks of the system dealing with health impacts of their service.

It’s a rare thing to see the system made to work, and we should be thankful for all who stepped up and made a difference.