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This will take an Act of Congress
Stan St. Clair

In this election year we have heard a lot about Congress and what needs, or doesn’t need, to be done.

Stating that it would or should not take an Act of Congress to accomplish something is an idiom which means that it is almost impossible to get it done. The U.S. Congress was founded in 1789, and is notorious for disagreement between the political parties, hedging, “stonewalling,” and filibustering, thus taking an enormous amount of time to agree upon passage of a bill into law. The term “Act of Congress” can apply to either public law or private law. Literal use of this term goes back to its inception.

A clear example of “take an Act of Congress” is found in Dickerman’s United States Treasury Counterfeit Detector by John Holler, October 1, 1899:

“It will take an Act of Congress to remedy this, but it is quite within the authority of the Treasury Department to give us a currency that is possible for the public to familiarize itself with …”

Clearly figurative use came as early as 1906 on “The American Battleship in Commission as Seen by an Enlisted Man” by Thomas Byer, on page 243:

“I thought it would take an Act of Congress to take the political job away from you that you had on the Philly.”

Just remember as you vote that some things really do take an Act of Congress, and electing the proper officials on both the state and national levels determines how our legislative bodies will vote!

Early voting begins Wednesday. See you at the polls!

If you would like to know the origin of a favorite expression, text the author at 931-212-3303 or email him at