FAITH (and BENEFITS) RESTORED
Members of both houses of the United States Congress have been summoned back into session starting Monday, December 30th, to address the problem of expiring unemployment benefits.
A spokesman for the congressional leadership told reporters today that the benefits crisis had "fallen through the cracks" during the regular sessions of Congress. "Everyone was preoccupied with the economy and the growing problems in Iraq and the Middle East," he explained, "and simply forgot to address extending these benefits. It is to correct that oversight that this special session has been called."
The session is unusual for two reasons: a special session of Congress has never before been called by the congressional leadership itself – it is usually called by the President; and a session of Congress has never before been scheduled between Christmas and New Year's Day.
"We know this is a highly unusual procedure," the spokesman said, "but the Congress is responsible first to the people of this nation, and when a crisis occurs it is our moral obligation to address it as promptly and effectively as possible."
Congressmen and Senators are streaming into the nation's capital from all over the nation, coming by car, plane, boat, and helicopter. They have interrupted their individual holidays to make certain that the less fortunate among us are taken care of.
Needless to say, there are naysayers. They are complaining that lawmakers managed to take care of big business, oil interests and other fat cats before adjourning. Some of the more vicous among them are even pointing out that Congress managed to enact a hefty raise for its own members – while ignoring the plight of the long-term unemployed – before adjourning this fall.
"It's easy to criticize when you aren't the one with your butt on the line and you don't have to make the hard decisions," one congressman – who wanted to remain anonymous – said in response to the critics. "There's no question that we have made some bad decisions and taken some wrong turns. But, that's the nature of democracy. The important thing is that when mistakes are recognized that your elected representatives do something to correct it, and that they do it quickly."
In response to the question about where the money for extended unemployment benefits can be found in this environment of an impending war, a poor economy and rising deficits, our anonymous lawmaker had a ready answer: "If money to prevent the cutoff of extended unemployment benefits can't be found in the existing budget, then I and my colleagues will be more than willing to rescind our recent pay raise to provide it," he said. "It would be unconscionable for the congress to get a pay raise while our less-fortunate constituents struggle to make ends meet."