Focusing on fluffy bills a waste of time

Congress has been busy since President Barack Obama was elected. Members have had to address the stimulus plan and health care, two of the most important facets of Obama’s goals while in office. But the bills being passed in Congress don’t always involve issues that will affect the country as a whole.

Sometimes, Congress finds itself caught up in fluffy talk known as commemorative legislation. This is responsible for a multitude of arbitrary honors and distinctions that designate certain days to individuals or achievements. Congress recently honored Confucius’ 2560th birthday and issued a resolution that congratulated the Yankees on winning the 2009 World Series, according to a CNN.com report.

With the current political landscape in this country, Congress cannot afford to focus on commemorative legislation even though its members know commemorative legislation can be the key to incumbency.

Senators and representatives are supposed to please the people who elected them because they want to be re-elected. If they cannot please their districts by accurately representing their voters’ opinions on issues like health care, immigration and the like, they can salvage their voters’ respect by supporting district heroes or recognizing important days.

In the case of the Yankees’ World Series victory, New York representatives Eliot Engel and Jose Serrano banded together in the House to see to it that the team received its congratulatory recognition.

But as fewer congressmen and women opt to represent their own opinions rather their constituency’s, it seems like they want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to be able to vote on conscience when it comes to national issues, but seek their constituents’ counsel only when it comes to remembering Joe Smith’s 100th birthday.

The idea of these bills is centered upon the idea of appeasing the voters because they are not a congressman’s top priority, as much as he or she will claim they are.

Commemorative legislation is like a rotten apple. On the outside, it looks shiny, fresh and delicious. On the inside, however, there are intricate tunnels that politicians have chewed as they scheme to rally voters and achieve re-election.

Voters pick the commemorative legislation apple without inspecting it. They see the outside of the apple, which seems like a kind sentiment (“It’s so nice that Rep. Engel took time out of his busy schedule to support his local team.”) Then, they take a bite to find that the legislation was skin deep. The meat of their congressmen and women’s decisions is not what they expected, but they didn’t know because it was masked by commemorative legislation.

On rare occasion, it can be a tool to enact positive change. For instance, days designated to recognize unjust war practices in Africa or raise funds for disease can educate an uninformed audience. Sadly, most of the commemorative legislation honors a materialistic baseball monopoly like the Yankees or the 34 years of legislation has made the square dance the national folk dance.

Wyatt Kanyer is a sophomore news-editorial journalism major from Yakima, Wash.