Although Georgetown’s comparatively small endowment limits its ability to award financial aid, the shortfall is made up in federal aid in the form of Pell Grants, work-study, and student loans. Unfortunately, because of the deep discretionary spending cuts represented by the sequester, in the coming year Georgetown will suffer $117,417 in cuts to the federal work-study program. These cuts could hinder the University from supplementing the incomes of hundreds of in-need students across campus.
Congress’s failure to come to an agreement on March 1 on the across-the-board spending cuts is a devastating symbol and reminder of the impotence of the legislative branch in the current political climate. It is merely another piece of data in what has become a debilitating trend of political paralysis.
If Congress could not come together on an issue of such grave importance, it is unreasonable to expect them to enact any piece of legislation, no matter how small, that actually benefits the American people. Even the Violence Against Women Act, an annual bill that has traditionally enjoyed strong bipartisan support, was put through the wringer under the flimsiest of pretenses.
Time after time, Congress has disappointed. Despite the strong public support behind expanded background checks for gun sales—up to 90 percent according to some polls—the Senate stubbornly drew party lines earlier this month and voted against an amendment that would serve as a compromise.
The job description was apparently unclear to members of Congress. Their purpose is not to further the polarizing priorities of each political party, but to craft laws that will serve to aid their fellow Americans.
While Democrats and Republicans have come together on immigration reform, it is only one issue in a culture that where petty jabs count more than even the most basic legislation. It is now standard procedure in the Senate to filibuster, which requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass the smallest of amendments. This is the same number of votes needed to pass a Constitutional Amendment. Each bill now requires the same number of votes as the Thirteenth Amendment—and that’s only in the Senate.
What Congress does not seem to understand is that it is as vulnerable to the electorate as we are to its childishness. When a legislator uses public safety as a political bargaining chip, she should lose her job. When a legislator makes financial aid for disadvantaged college students a hostage for brownie points within his party, he should lose his job.
While President Obama recently proposed a Fiscal Year 2014 budget that would add $150 million to Federal Work-Study spending, it is still contingent on Congress passing it—and as it has become painfully clear, to expect members of Congress to serve the people who elected them and the students who depend on them is optimistic.