THE BLOG
06/28/2013 03:52 pm ET | Updated Aug 28, 2013

I'm Just a Bill

Bill: "I'm just a bill. Yes, I'm only a bill. And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill."

Citizen: "Hey, Bill. I guess it's really tough to be a bill in Congress these days."

Bill: "Tough? Does a 50 pound sack of flour make a big biscuit? It totally sucks! It's nothing at all like the book says."

Citizen: "What do you mean? We have an established, time-honored legislative process. You know--"How a Bill Becomes a Law."

Bill: "I've heard that somewhere. Look, pal, everyone knows how it's supposed to work. But not these days! Congress has come apart like a two-dollar watch. Nobody cares about passing legislation. All they want to do is stop legislation. Nobody wants to debate. Nobody's willing to sit down and work out differences. You know -- compromise! One side won't even talk to the other. The guys who dreamed this whole thing up wouldn't recognize the place."

Citizen: "Come on. It can't be that bad. The Constitution says citizens of the United States elect people to work together to represent their best interests in Congress."

Bill: "Well then the citizens blew it."

Citizen: "How can that be?"

Bill: "Neither side works with the other. They barely speak to each other! So the chances of working together to pass a bill are somewhere between fat chance and 'Good night, sweet prince.' The Republicans have the majority in the House, so they can pass anything they want. And that's pretty much what they do. But almost all the bills they pass are so far out in right field that most Democrats wouldn't be caught dead voting for them."

Citizen: "But at least they're passing bills. Then the Senate passes its version of the bill and the two Houses get together to work out any differences; just like the book says."

Bill: "Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Listen: the Senate Democrats have a small majority. But under Senate rules, it takes 60 votes to bring a bill up for a vote or one Senator can stop it cold. So majority doesn't mean squat. Democrats have to get some Republicans to go along with even having a debate. Except if any Democrats support a bill, most of the Republicans will be against it -- no matter what it's about. Republicans will scream about bills they've always been for."

Citizen: "That doesn't make any sense. How does anything ever get done?"

Bill: "It doesn't! Let me give you an example. There's a Farm Bill. It pays for a lot of different programs: crop subsidies for giant agriculture corporations and price supports for some products. It also includes SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It used to be called Food Stamps, and it's financial assistance for very poor or disabled people to buy food. The Farm Bill has always passed both Houses with no problem because it has something in it for everyone's House district or state."

Citizen: "So what happened?"

Bill: "The Senate's version of the Farm Bill cut funding for SNAP, which meant Republicans liked it. But it was important enough and there were enough other important things in it that Senate Democrats went along and it passed by a huge margin."

Citizen: "That's great! A little bipartisanship, just like the book says."

Bill: "Not so fast, Skippy. The House won't touch the Senate bill with a ten foot pole. Democrats won't support it because they think it cut SNAP too much. And Republicans won't support it because they think it didn't cut enough from SNAP."

Citizen: "That doesn't make any sense. What happened to negotiating? What happened to working out differences?"

Bill: "There's this thing called the Tea Party. And I'm not talking about the guys who threw tea in Boston harbor or a bunch of little old ladies sitting around sipping chamomile. These guys are always angry and they don't take prisoners."

Citizen: "I've heard about them. But there aren't that many Tea Party types in Congress. They must be a minor annoyance."

Bill: "Minor annoyance? They're running the place! All the old Republican guys are absolutely terrified that if they cross the Tea Party, they'll have a Tea Party opponent in their next primary election and lose. Hell, the Republican leader in the Senate is trying to act like he's one of them. The Speaker of the House can't order breakfast without checking with them. And then, they're likely to spit on his pancakes, steal his bacon and leave him standing there with egg on his face."

Citizen: But-- the House of Representatives is the "People's House!"

Bill: "Are you kidding me? The House makes the Senate look efficient. The place is crazy as a box of frogs."

Citizen: "It sounds the Congress doesn't work. It's broken. None of this is the way the Founding Fathers designed it. How did it all go off the tracks?"

Bill: "People just aren't really thinking about the kind of people they're sending to Washington. They've been told for years that their own government is bad and evil and corrupt. So they got angry and quit believing in it. They started electing angry people who don't believe in government to come and run the government. How could it possibly work?"

"But what do I know? I'm only a bill."

I'm Just a Bill was written by Dave Fishberg for Schoolhouse Rock in 1975.

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