Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Beware the Ides of July

By Carol Gee

Let's call this period "The Ides of July." On July 15, 2007 (an Ide Day,*) Congress was deep into the debate over the war and Olympia Snowe was deciding to "defect" to the other side. Words without substance, however, marked the debate's eventual outcome. The bill was then pulled from the floor. And the Iraq war debate will be effectively off limits until "The Big September Report Due Date."

(*my quote from an older Southwest Blogger post)

"Beware of the Ides of March"
Does this saying give you a vague sense of foreboding?
Do you wonder what you should worry about on that day?
If you are like me, you think, "I should know this, but I don't."

Beware the Ides of March -- refers to a sense of impending doom, according to Wikipedia. The original Ides of March were made famous by the assassination on March 15, 44 BC. of Julius Caesar, retold in Shakespeare's play of the same name.

Bound by structure and habit, Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle hit creative lows this summer. There seemed to be a dearth of new ideas. It is as if it were March 15, and something bad would happen if you showed up in the Senate with a workable innovation. Now deep discouragement is the general public view of the legislative process. To Congress it must feel like the summer doldrums. But they are bravely soldiering on before their scheduled August recess.

Today in Congress both the Senate and the House are in session. Ten Senate committees or sub committees will meet, as well as 19 from the U.S. House. Tuesdays usually see party Caucus planning lunches for around the noon hour. The big news this week is that the House Judiciary Committee and the White House are on a collision course over the Justice Department's firing of U.S. attorneys. Tomorrow will see the committee vote whether to issue contempt citations to Joshua Bolten and Harriet Miers, provoking a potential constitutional showdown over "who is in charge over there."

This July Capitol visitors are on their own. Another congressional issue bubbling up is the construction of the Capitol Visitor Center. It has not gone well. Hearings will commence in the House next week on the project. According to (7/24/07) The Washington Post's Lindsey Layton,

The visitor center is expected to open next year under the east side of the Capitol at a cost of $600 million -- about double the original estimate and three years late, earning the nickname "Pig Dig" from the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste. The three-level, 580,000-square-foot center will include workspace for Congress, 26 bathrooms and a cafeteria that can accommodate 550 people.

Beware amateur poets -- About Congress I am an eternal optimist. I think things will have to get better. With that I conclude with my own little poem -- about the original Ides of March. It carries the same name as Shakespeare's play; it is edited and considerably shorter:

"Honey, the Ides are here"

Have no fear.
It was Shakespeare
Who brought you here.
Julius Caesar was the play.
March 15, 44 B.C. was the day.

Caesar was warned not to go to the Senate.
Doomed he was. Caesar they did assassinate.
"Ides of March" -- the fifteenth was that doomed day.
Mark Ides "new" now -- drama of old no longer resonates.

References:

  1. Legislative votes recorded: Congress Votes Project database
  2. New Faces in Congress -- elected last year

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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