Editorial October 2, 2015

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

“…they keep returning like in a horror movie where the evil entity is finally defeated only to unexpectedly return at the end.”

Call it old fashioned but a deliberative body such as the US Congress should be doing just that; deliberating issues over time, with thought and wisdom, and coming to a conclusion that both sides of the argument can accept. It’s called compromise and it is largely how things get done.

We haven’t seen much of that on the Hill for the past couple of years due mostly to the effort by what has now become the Freedom Caucus, a 30 to 50 strong group of House Republicans who are holding the line on cutting spending, cutting taxes, repealing Obamacare, and in this instance defunding Planned Parenthood. With that group to compromise is to lose.

You’re elected to office and your job is to represent the interests of those who elected you. In the case of these 30 to 50 Freedom Caucusoids their constituents appear dead set against any funding for Planned Parenthood, Inc. as a result of viral videos that some have concluded show that the women’s health organization was profiting from selling fetal tissues and body parts; a felony if convicted.

The problem is that there is no evidence of wrong doing, just the assumption that the person being interviewed was a bit too casual, a bit too nonchalant when discussing body parts of fetuses. The Associated Press reported “…state investigators in Missouri said they’d uncovered “no evidence whatsoever” that the state’s only surgical abortion facility sells fetal remains. At least five other states — Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and South Dakota — also have cleared Planned Parenthood of breaking laws.” On top of that Planned Parenthood said the video was heavily edited.

Attempts to pass defunding legislation develops a picture showing a series of knee-jerk reactions, one leading to another. That approach shows an absence of forethought. If they want to end abortions or stop Planned Parenthood from taking federal money, two serious endeavors, you would think that the obstacles to the goal, such as that States control how the Medicaid dollars are spent, would be thought out in advance.

The emotional side of the position is about protecting the life of an unborn child. You can look at the abortion issue simplistically; that life begins at conception and an abortion kills that life. That we know is true but the points of contention are the consideration of what a life, as we recognize a life, is, and when during gestation does that occur. The other point is the experience of the fetus during the procedure. From that concern we have the 20 week rule; it is believed that the fetus feels pain after twenty weeks and so suffers a rather brutal death.

The emotions driving those opposed to Planned Parenthood are causing a repeated over-reaction to that video and are missing a very important point; defunding Planned Parenthood will not stop abortions. It is pretty hard to find federal money for an abortion and the money comes from Medicaid or out-of-pocket. Just as with Obamacare they keep returning like in a horror movie where the evil entity is finally defeated only to unexpectedly return at the end. Such is the way emotional issues have driven redundancy on the issue.

Well then, let’s get rid of that Medicaid payment and so, just when you though it was over, HR 3495 comes forth giving States the right to deny Medicaid payments to any provider involved in the abortion business or process.

So where are we going with this? As the old saying goes, ‘If you are going nowhere, any road will get you there.’ Next up was an effort to actually try to change the content of HR 719, that allows for Planned Parenthood funding, through the rule governing debate. That rule, HCR 79 says that if is passed by both bodies then the clerk may add to the text the defunding of planned parenthood as proposed in previously House-passed legislation.

Too many people have divided opinions on abortion dictating that sooner or later Congress must come to terms with the issue, an effort most certainly requiring lengthy deliberation and soul searching. But it was a knee jerk about Planned Parenthood, and then knee jerk about the Medicaid and as this keeps happening it demonstrates a pretty ‘seat of your pants’ approach to addressing the issue showing us that it will only be at the end of this when we will see what we get without the deliberative process. More like Hollywood, More like, well, one of those horror movies.

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Quotes on the Issues

“Representative Bill Flores of Texas, head of the Republican Study Committee, said the hard-liners often seemed bent on destruction. ‘If you look at what’s happened the last few weeks, you have had people trying to burn the House down,’ he said.”

New York Times, 9/27/2015

*****

“I mean, this whole idea that we were going to shut down the government to get rid of Obamacare in 2013, this plan never had chance,” he said. “But over the course of the August recess in 2013, and the course of September, lot of my Republican colleagues who knew it was a fool’s errand really they were getting all this pressure from home to do this. And so we have got groups here in town, members of the House and Senate here in town who whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they know, they know are never going to happen.” House Speaker John Boehner.

*****

Likening his own term as speaker to Boehner’s and the internal tug and pull by various Republican sects, Gingrich said he and Boehner both faced “a hardcore group, a minority in the party, that were prepared to create total chaos.”

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/john-boehner-resignation-reaction

“The Bible says beware of false prophets. And there are people out there, you know, spreading noise about how much can get done. I mean this whole notion that we’re going to shut down the government to get rid of Obamacare in 2013 – this plan never had a chance,” Boehner said on CBS’ “Face The Nation.”

 *****

Congressman Peter King, a New York Republican, said the resignation signals a concerning shift in the party.

“I think it signals the crazies have taken over the party, taken over to the party that you can remove a speaker of the House who’s second in line to be president, a constitutional officer in the middle of his term with no allegations of impropriety, a person who’s honest and doing his job,” King said in an interview with CNN on Friday.

*****

Magic Mondays with Rep. Marc Pocan (R-WI)

How a Bill ‘Magically’ Becomes Law

Hamilton on Congress

Politicians Are Failing Us on the Economy

By Lee H. Hamilton

“Our presidential candidates can talk all they want about American prosperity and world leadership, but without a firm fiscal base it’s just hot air.”

Hamilton

Hamilton

A couple of months ago, the Congressional Budget Office issued a sobering report on the U.S. economy’s long-term prospects. Not to put too fine a point on it, we’re headed for the fiscal rocks.

Federal spending accounts for about 20 percent of the nation’s GDP, the budget analysts note; if current trends continue, that will rise to fully 25 percent by 2040. Revenues will not keep up – they’ll amount to only 19 percent of GDP.

Here’s what the non-partisan CBO has to say: “Mainly because of the aging of the population and rising health care costs, the extended baseline projections show revenues that fall well short of spending over the long term, producing a substantial imbalance in the federal budget. As a result, budget deficits are projected to rise steadily and, by 2040, to raise federal debt held by the public to a percentage of GDP seen at only one previous time in U.S. history – the final year of World War II and the following year.” We face a fiscal crisis of historic proportions.

Our presidential candidates can talk all they want about American prosperity and world leadership, but without a firm fiscal base it’s just hot air. Unless we can stabilize the debt and put the country on a path of sustainable economic growth with prosperity evenly shared, we’ll have no firm economic base for all those lofty goals to rest upon.

This means tackling a host of complex problems. We have to get long-term debt under control. We have to preserve Social Security yet find a solution to rising entitlement spending, which will be a key driver of federal spending for decades to come. We have to deal with health-care costs, which pose the same challenge. We have to invest in skills, education, and infrastructure without breaking the bank. We have to craft a simpler, fairer, less intrusive tax policy that promotes economic efficiency and is conducive to long-term growth.

The people who have to do all these things are politicians who, thus far, have been unwilling and unable to take these obvious challenges head on. The problem is not with the system itself. Similar barriers have been overcome repeatedly in the past, with reforms in Social Security in 1983, taxes in 1986, and repeatedly in budget agreements.

Rather, the problem is that our leaders are divided between those who want to cut spending and those who want to boost taxes in order to expand government’s role. Yet it’s impossible to solve our problems by finding new revenues or cutting spending alone. Without doing both, we face a weakened future. It is unreasonable and unacceptable to try to continue our present course of trying to muddle through.

There’s a reason that you don’t hear much talk about this in Washington. Americans themselves want it all – lower taxes without significant cuts in federal spending. But here’s the problem: Almost 60 percent of federal spending is accounted for by Social Security, Medicare and defense and national security. Add the 7 percent of the budget that goes to interest on the national debt, and there’s little room for significant progress without painful and difficult legislative action.

Political leaders should grasp these realities and act now. But they have not, so it’s up to Americans to pressure them to do so. True, nothing will happen without presidential leadership. All issues will have to be on the table, because the pain needs to be shared broadly. And progress will require the adroit bipartisan participation of congressional leaders.

Instead, those who believe in a single path assure us that we need only wait until the next election and they’ll get the forces they need. This is a pipedream. The electorate is too evenly divided and too volatile to sustain complete control by one side over several elections.

So really, it’s up to the American people to demand action. We have to create the political will that drives our leaders to deal with these difficult economic problems – that leads them to tackle entitlements, health costs, investing in the future, and tax reform. The question is whether our political leaders are up to the task before our economy runs out of time.

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University; Distinguished Scholar, IU School of Global and International Studies; and Professor of Practice, IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.