congressional dysfunction

DC Dithers as the World Swirls

Terrorists abduct schoolgirls in Nigeria. Tornados devastate the South. The housing market remains shaky. Climate change is blamed for rising number of deaths due to heat stroke.

Then Monica Lewinsky resurfaced in a tell-all essay and Republicans pencil in yet another congressional hearing on Benghazi. And politicians wonder why people regard Washington, DC as irrelevant.

After finally getting the green light from a proud, but internationally embarrassed Nigeria government, the United States is sending help to locate and rescue almost 300 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Some worry help may be coming too late, even as the terrorist group pulls off more daring abductions. Nobody knows where the schoolgirls are.

President Obama flew to Arkansas to commiserate with victims of the latest serious tornado that killed at least 15 people and left a wake of destruction in its 40-mile path. He reassured victims and local leaders the nation stands behind the survivors who face rebuilding their community for the second time in three years. While people expressed appreciation for Obama's visit, one woman who lost her son in the tornado said all the President really could do is "be here."

New Fed Chair Janice Yellen said the U.S. economy remains vulnerable after a cold winter and amid a sluggish housing market.

Scientists issued another grim warning about climate change, saying its effects are already being felt in harsher droughts, more torrential rainstorms and more severe wildfires. They said average temperatures on the planet could increase 10 degrees by the end of this century, as climate change effects accelerate.

Vote No, Hope Yes Caucus

Congress works in wondrous ways with GOP members voting no on bills they hope will pass so they aren't blamed for the results of not passing.The House and Senate votes this week to raise the federal debt ceiling to avoid the threat of default highlighted what a New York Times analyst called the "Vote No, Hope Yes Caucus" in Congress.

Debt ceiling legislation passed in the GOP-controlled House with only 28 Republican "yes" votes. Times reporter Carl Hulse said that "was the lowest percentage for a majority on passage since the House began publishing electronic data on votes in 1991."

The Senate struggled to close off debate with the required 60 votes until GOP leaders relented and provided the handful of votes needed to bring up the legislation for an actual vote.

"The results in both the Senate and House," Hulse concluded, "illustrate the countervailing political forces at work on Capitol Hill and how the current partisan environment makes governing so difficult."