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Washington Week

October 17, 2010 - 6:00pm

"Extreme" seems to be the buzz word for incumbent members of Congress as they campaign against conservative or tea party-backed opponents in the upcoming November elections. We heard this extreme reference eight times during the recent U.S. Senate debate between Charlie Crist, Marco Rubio and Kendrick Meek.

The same is true for the Nevada U.S. Senate contest between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sharron Angle. Their debate this past week was sprinkled with the extreme reference. As I channel-surfed during the weekend, the talk shows had democratic congressional incumbents echoing the extreme theme over and over again.

Having heard this reference repeatedly, I decided to turn to my old Websters Dictionary to find the exact meaning. The word that jumped out at me describing the word extreme was outlandish. Funny, outlandish is a word I would use when describing the current 111th Congress, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

For those who arent aware, this Congress made the history books this year in two major categories, only this history-making doesnt come with a shiny plaque or trophy. Instead, this Congress gets the history award for failing to do what every Congress in the history of our country has been able to do. You see, this Congress failed to pass a budget resolution and failed to enact at least one of the 12 individual spending bills that fund our federal government. The background behind these two annual congressional responsibilities goes like this:

The formal congressional budget process was created in 1974 when Congress passed the budget and impoundment act. This budget resolution serves as a blueprint or guideline for congressional spending for the entire year. Every year since 1974 Congress has passed a budget resolution through one or both houses. Not this year.

The formal appropriations process was created in 1866-67. Congress is required under our Constitution to fund the federal government through these spending/appropriations bills. Every year since 1866 Congress has passed at least some or all of these appropriations bills through both houses. Not this year.

In order for many incumbent members of Congress to use the extreme reference when describing their campaign opponents, maybe they should each spend a few minutes consulting their own dictionaries.After their brief reference lesson, stay tuned to see if the same incumbent members of Congress recall the old saying, People who live in glass houses ...

Elizabeth B. Letchworth is a retired, elected United States Senate Secretary for the Majority and Minority. Currently she is a senior legislative adviser for Covington & Burling, LLC and is the founder of www

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