Dana Milbank
Opinion writer November 1, 2011

Where are the jobs?

God knows.

Dana Milbank writes about political theater in the nation’s capital. He joined the Post as a political reporter in 2000. View Archive

After preaching for weeks about the urgency of Washington taking action to create jobs, lawmakers decided to put their mammon where their mouths are. And so on Tuesday evening they descended from the mountaintop and came forth to anoint a jobs bill of biblical proportions:

H.Con.Res 13 — Reaffirming ‘In God We Trust’ as the official motto of the United States.”

The grace of this legislation, taken up on the House floor, was not immediately revealed to all. “In God We Trust” has been the nation’s official motto for 55 years, engraved on the currency and public buildings. There is no emerging movement to change that. But House Republicans chose to look beyond the absence of immediate threats and instead protect the motto against yet-unimagined threats in the future.

The legislation “provides Congress with the opportunity to renew its support of a principle that was venerated by the founders of this country, and by its presidents, on a bipartisan basis,” supporters claimed in their analysis.

The infidel opposition took a rather different view of the GOP jobs bill. “We are focused on jobs measures,” said Brian Fallon, spokesman for Senate Democrats. “The House Republicans will hopefully get the message to do the same, God willing.”

On the House floor, the chaplain opened the day’s session with a prayer asking God, “may all that is done this day in the people’s house be for Your greater honor and glory.”

The lawmakers took that quite literally.

“They are far more than words!” howled Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), the sponsor of the resolution. “They are the very fabric that has built and sustained the greatest nation the world has ever known.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), leading the opposition, complained that, “although the American people are concerned about restoring our economy and creating jobs, today we are returning to irrelevant issues that do nothing to promote economic growth to put Americans back to work.”

But it was no use. The godless Democrats were crushed, 396 to 9, by an overwhelming, bipartisan majority of the God-fearing.

The brave majority struck its blow for trusting God even though the resolution may have violated House Republicans’ own promises not to bring up ceremonial resolutions or to take up bills on the floor without hearings. The caucus has forbidden suspending House rules to pass a bill if it “expresses appreciation, commends, congratulates, celebrates, recognizes the accomplishments of, or celebrates the anniversary of, an entity, event, group, individual, institution, team or government program.” (It might be argued that God, though an entity, is exempt from the provision.)

So what, pray tell, are Republicans up to? They can tell their constituents that they are doing the Lord’s work in the Devil’s town. Because it is still too early to complain about efforts by the ACLU to snuff out Christmas, the In-God-We-Trust legislation provides a stand-in straw man. There’s certainly some appetite for this: Internet rumors proliferated after President Obama’s inauguration, warning that he was seeking to remove “In God We Trust” from U.S. coins.

But it also conveys an impression to independent voters that, at a time of economic crisis, Republicans continue to focus on God, gays and guns.

Of course, there may be innocent explanations for the In God We Trust bill. “God” and “job” are both three-letter words with the same vowel. House Republicans may have been confused by the similarity, much like the dyslexic agnostic who wonders if there is a dog.

Notably, the House majority saw no need to protect the nation’s other motto, the one from the Great Seal of the United States that also appears on currency: e pluribus unum. But give the GOP credit for its tenacity: To continue to pursue social policies even while the nation cries out for economic relief requires the patience of Job — not to be confused with jobs.

In support of the God bill, the legislation’s champions quoted John F. Kennedy: “The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.” But they left out a better-known Kennedy passage, from his inaugural address: “Let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

danamilbank@washpost.com

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