Back in the early 1860s, Virginia City was an interesting place to be.  The discovery of gold, and especially silver, turned it into a boomtown almost overnight.  In turn this attracted an amazing variety of characters who provided the Old West with much of its color.  Not content to allow absurdly true events to stand alone, a young newspaper reporter drifted into town about that time and began penning stories under the byline Mark Twain.  One such fabricated news event dealt with the discovery of a man in an area south of Gravelly Ford who had died some hundred years prior and become petrified by limestone sediment which kept him locked sitting in a position some might describe as off-putting.

Come January of 2013, our nation will see its 113th Congress seated. They will continue to make resolutions and pass legislation, building upon the framework laid down over the past couple of centuries by their predecessors.  But how much of what was put in place by prior members of this august body holds actual sway on actions undertaken today?  We need not go too far back in history to make this question extremely relevant.  The current discussions involve expiring dispensations, sequestration, and mandated limits to our national debt, all of which tend to get bound up in the concept of a fiscal cliff, the result of choices deferred by quite recent congressional wrangling.

Is history just as frozen as Twain’s literary creation?  Do decisions made by a previous Congress have any binding power on the current one or is all such legislation dead and turned to stone?  We are about to find out.  The entire reason some of the restrictions put in place by the departing Congress and its predecessor exist is to force a needed change on that future which is rapidly becoming the present.  Unable to compromise in their own time, these prior bodies put in place legislation which would become effective should no solution be found to such complex issues as our nation debt and runaway spending.  Will the incoming Congress keep that bargain?  The petrified man may be holding his breath, but I’m not.  Congress has faced this issue before, by some counts around 100 times before.  Engraved on the stone pages of history is a record of never failing to raise the debt ceiling yet again regardless of the consequences ultimately to fall on the future.