They can't agree on a budget, or what to do about taxes, or much of anything else, but members of Congress have managed to get one piece of legislation through both houses that will make a difference to their constituents when it comes to watching TV.
You've probably noticed that when your favorite programs go to commercial breaks that certain ads -- including, it seems, a large portion of local car dealership spots -- blast out at a considerably higher volume than the show you were watching 30 seconds prior. That's because the Federal Communication Commission has never had the power to regulate the volume of ads on the airwaves. Enter the CALM Act, which stands for Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation. The Senate passed the bill last week, and it will be reconciled with a similar piece of legislation the House passed in order to land on the President's desk.
Under the law, the FCC will have to make stations adhere to "internationally accepted standards of television advertisement volumes." That will be music to the ears of people who watch TV the old-fashioned way -- without a DVR to fast-forward through ads or an HDTV that can automatically calibrate the volume based on source material. More and more people are finding ways to circumvent commercials altogether, however, so the problem is becoming less of a nuisance with each passing day.
Leave it to Congress to legislate away an issue that's been known for ages but that technology was nearly rendering irrelevant anyway.