A Washington (DC) maxim is that Congress acts only when there is either “a crisis or a consensus.” That is, either something is so basic that everyone agrees and forms a consensus, or there is a crisis (such as a war or a natural disaster) that brings everyone into agreement to do something. Otherwise, little gets done in Washington government.
The saying has been popular since at least the 1980s. One citation (below) credits Richard Darman, budget director to President George H. W. Bush, but the saying was in use before President George H. W. Bush took office in 1989.
Redeeming the City:
Theology, politics, and urban policy
By Ronald D .Pasquariello, Donald W. Shriver and Alan F. Geyer
New York, NY: Pilgrim Press
As far as Congress is concerned, urban policy is likely to continue to be haphazard, occasional, and indirect, with any major change awaiting chance, crisis, or consensus.
Google News Archive
20 October 1988, Victoria (TX) Advocate, ‘Committee Official Says State Income Tax Option for Future,” pg. 3D, cols. 2-4:
AUSTIN (AP)—Texas isn’t ready for a state personal income tax, but the levy should be viewed as an option for the future, the vice chairman of the Select Committee on Tax Equity said Friday.
“The history of the Texas tax system—and indeed, the history of most tax systems—illustrates time and again that no change of this magnitude can be achieved success fully without crisis or consensus,” the report said.
Oversight hearings on European Community’s 1992 program : hearings before the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions Supervision, Regulation and Insurance of the Committee on Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred First Congress, first session, September 26, 27, and 28, 1989
By United States. Congress. House. Committee on Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs. Subcommittee on Financial Institutions Supervision, Regulation and Insurance.
Washington, DC: U.S. G.P.O. : For sale by the Supt. of Docs., Congressional Sales Office, U.S. G.P.O.
We implore the Congress to begin the process in earnest. In the past some have said that Congress only acts when there is a consensus or a crisis.
AIRLINES WORSENING ECONOMICS DISCUSSED (997 words)
February 8, 1991, MORNING EDITION
DEMPSEY I would say that I’m a little disappointed with Congress because Congress responds to consensus or crisis.
Article: Backing off: American Treasury bonds. (government regulation and auction rules)
Article from:The Economist (US)
Article date:June 13, 1992
CONSENSUS or crisis are preconditions for change in Washington, DC. Neither exists when it comes to redesigning the way the American government sells its debt.
Google News Archive
14 November 1994, Eugene (OR) Register-Guard, “Politics of avoidance breeds cynicism among voters” by Robert Samuelson, pg. 11A, col. 4:
In a democracy, change occurs through consensus or crisis. Elected officials are supposed to prevent crisis by creating consensus. If they are incapable, their constituents will dismiss them as inept.
Google Groups: gov.us.fed.congress.record.senate
Subject: 1999CRS9348A DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT,, Part 3/4
The Solicitor said:
A hoary maxim of life on Capitol Hill is that Congress acts only when there is either a crisis or a consensus.
ENERGY: What They Agree On
It’s often said that Congress passes legislation only when facing a crisis or a consensus.
Google Groups: alt.impeach.bush
From: “Bruce Olin”
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 2004 16:10:07 GMT
Local: Wed, Nov 24 2004 11:10 am
Subject: E-voting faces new scrutiny
“The $64,000 question is whether or not the GAO finds enough problems in the 2004 election results to spur Congress to help the Help America Vote Act,” said Doug Chapin, director of Electionline.org, a nonpartisan voting-information site. “Election reform is driven by either consensus or crisis, and in the absence of either, reform will move slowly, if at all, in the next Congress...There is some concern that if there are only a number of smaller problems, they might just slip under Congress’ radar.”
American Public Power Association
Climate Change: Take Time, Get it Right
Public Power magazine
By Alan Richardson
It is frequently said that Congress acts in times of crisis or consensus.
The Fiscal Times
Deficit-Cutting, Consensus, and Crisis
By LAWRENCE HAAS, The Fiscal Times
Posted: Jul 13, 2010
As Richard Darman, budget director to President George H.W. Bush, liked to say (and as many others have attested over the years), “there are two theories about how things happen in Washington: consensus or crisis.”
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Friday, October 01, 2010 • Permalink