Members of the House of Representatives will be on the floor today, taking the time to vote on a measure Republicans consider important. Is it a jobs bill? No. A measure to boost economic growth? Afraid not. The Chinese currency bill that already passed the Senate? Fat chance. Maybe legislation related to immigration or energy policy? We should be so lucky.
It turns out, the GOP proposal that will reach the floor today has to do with support for the national motto.
House Republicans on Tuesday will try to pass a resolution reaffirming that “In God We Trust” is the national motto of the United States.
The concurrent resolution, sponsored by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), would not have the force of law, but instead is aimed at “supporting and encouraging the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools and other government institutions.”
The bill briefly outlines the history of government references to God, and adds in that “if religion and morality are taken out of the market-place of ideas, the very freedom on which the United States was founded cannot be secured.”
Remember when Republican leaders said they’d curtail the practice of voting on symbolic resolutions that have no purpose other than making House members feel better? Well, forget it.
Keep in mind, the entire House of Representatives will be spending time on this today for no apparent reason. “In God We Trust” is already the motto, and there is no effort afoot to change that. In effect, this resolution is largely intended to say, “Just in case anyone forgot, the national motto is still the national motto.”
What a valuable use of congressional time.
Last week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said President Obama has decided “to quit governing.” As proof, Boehner pointed to Obama’s effort to rally support for an ambitious jobs agenda.
Mr. Speaker, today your caucus is going to spend time “affirming” the national motto in the midst of a jobs crisis. Tell me again who’s quit governing?
Adding insult to injury, the resolution’s conservative backers don’t even have their history right. The measure states as fact that “In God We Trust” has been an integral part of United States society since its founding.” That’s clearly wrong. The phrase makes no appearances in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, or any of the Founding Fathers’ writings. Early American leaders chose “E pluribus unum” as the motto on the Great Seal of the United States in 1782, and this was the country’s unofficial motto for nearly two centuries. That changed in 1956 when, as some kind of symbolic Cold War gesture, Congress chose “In God We Trust” as the official national motto. But given that the nation’s “founding” pre-dates 1956, the claim isn’t at all true.
But this would still be a waste of time, even if conservatives understood history. The national motto is not facing any danger. The American middle class is. The sooner congressional Republicans get their priorities straight, the better.