Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice) is known as one of the most serious members of Congress. Yet if you search for Harman's name on THOMAS, the Library of Congress' website, you come up with, amid substantive legislative proposals, these resolutions the congresswoman is cosponsoring:
H.CON.RES.64: Urging the president to designate 2009 as the "Year of the Military Family."
H.CON.RES.109: Honoring the 20th anniversary of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in the nation's capital and its transition to the Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure on June 6, 2009, and for other purposes.
H.RES.49: Honoring Karen Bass for becoming the first African American woman elected speaker of the California Assembly.
H.RES.211: Supporting the goals and ideals of National Women's History Month.
And there are more.
But we don't mean to pick on Harman. Other representatives routinely sponsor or cosponsor resolutions that range in subject matter from the serious to the not-so-arguably trivial, such as those honoring the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Apache leader Geronimo and the "distinctive American art form" of country music. All of these resolutions are nonbinding.
True to its mantra of less government, the incoming Republican majority in the House aims to eliminate or scale back such nonbinding resolutions. We're tempted to go along, if only because nonbinding resolutions provide conservatives with a prop for their indictment of government. Take away the resolutions, and it will be obvious that Congress is engaged in serious business.
It's conceivable that outright abolition of resolutions might yield to a compromise in which only "significant" ones reach the floor. (A recent resolution honoring Confucius, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Al Green of Texas, probably wouldn't make the cut.) The danger of a two-tier process, however, is that it could be swayed by the majority party's preferences. We'd hate to see a system that would refuse to declare a National Nutrition Month but happily proclaim National Tea Party Week.