Editorial September 30, 2016

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

It appears as though we will move into the next fiscal year financed to run the government, at least until December 9th. As one wouldn’t expect the continuing resolution that provides the funding seems to be largely without serious points of contention. It appears that the Senate Leadership has been bending over backwards to meet the CR needs of Senate Democrats and with little scapegoating. Yikes! Are we in another country? Maybe. Call it the United States of Presidential Campaign. A different world than business as usual.

Due to the CR the Senate couldn’t break to adjourn last week as threatened but will be headed for the airports Friday night to begin six weeks of campaigning. Apparently getting the work done and out to the campaign trail softened the partisan battles turned political accusations. Plenty of that ahead on the campaign trail.

What happens next on Capitol Hill will be decided on November 8th.  It appears the Republicans will hold the House Majority and the Senate situation is still fluid. With a Republican president and sufficient majorities in Congress we will be headed for a plethora of conservative bills certain to be passed. Despite the House Republican plans for next year legislation, what legislation will prevail in 2017 has already been shown in House-passed legislation; continued or lowered taxes on the wealthy, reduced corporate taxes, Sequester-level cuts to entitlement programs to help individuals get along, rejection, repeal or revision of regulations, particularly from the EPA, the SEC, and the Consumer Financial Protection Board (if not a complete repeal of that Board), tightening the opportunity to benefit from our refugee program, some kind of plan to bring illegals into the tax-paying fold, repeal of the Affordable Care Act and a replacement that will cost less but offer less to policy holders, a conservative appointee to the Supreme Court, and increases in law and order spending specific to immigration. While we might anticipate a reduction in the budget deficit it is not likely to happen since Republican control over the Nation’s fiscal matters has resulted in growing deficits going back to President Reagan. We remember the ‘horrifying’ $300 billion deficit from Reagan that was reversed to a surplus under Clinton with the help of a Republican Congress. W. Bush took over and left a $1 trillion deficit 8 years later.

Should a Democrat win the White House with gains, but not a majority, in the Senate and a continuing Minority status in the House we are likely to see a continuation of the partisan gridlock we have endured for the past 6 years.

Under those circumstances it may appear to be Conservatives vs Liberals or Republicans vs Democrats but it will be Republicans against the Republican Freedom Caucus, those responsible for the government shutdown four years ago and provisions put into bills that guarantee they will not pass. That would be the partisan divide Democrats would face even if they gained the White House and held the Senate.

With a pretentious Republican candidate for the presidency and a Democrat candidate that many can’t seem to completely trust, added to the machinations of some House Members, we are looking at two years of ideological nonsense akin to the last 6 years.

Here’s the rub; while the presidential race has become more of a reality show than a demonstration of the election process the Congress, those who write the checks, have managed to escape the blame of the allegations made about the President’s impact on the economy and other areas of the democracy.

If we are $20 trillion in debt to US security holders, if we saw the budget deficit drop to $450 billion and then bounce back up to $600 billion, if there is not enough money in the pipeline to feed hungry children, and if our main source of revenue, personal income taxes, are regularly reduced it would be Congress who should be held responsible not a President who only manages the money Congress doles.

We can blame that $300 billion on Reagan due to his tax cuts, and the trillion on W. Bush because he financed the Iraq war off budget for three years before even the Republican Congress got uncomfortable. We can’t really attribute the deficit reductions to President Obama although he has been making the government run okay with what money was sent to him. It is the Republican Congress that has reduced the deficit even if the technique was akin to opening an oyster with a hammer.

Beyond credit for reducing the deficit, Republicans in Congress have been living in a bubble they created for themselves and should be held accountable for the fiscal and social problems their legislation or lack thereof created. And is is on the next Congress to right the fiscal wrongs of the current one.

 

 

Hamilton on Congress

Why This Democrat Wants a Strong Republican Party

By Lee H. Hamilton

Hamilton

Hamilton

I’ve been a Democrat all my life. I believe in the party’s values, I’m pleased when its candidates win elections, and I’m persuaded the country is better off when Democratic ideas get a fair shake in the public arena. But none of this means that I favor a weak Republican Party. Indeed, just the opposite.

Before my Democratic friends drum me out of the party’s ranks, let me explain why.

The short answer is, our nation is stronger and our representative democracy healthier when we have two strong parties. A single political party that’s able to dominate public policy-making undermines the give-and-take that’s crucial to effective policy and leaves us weaker as a country.

Why is this? Let’s start with the big picture. If you think about the issues we confront – from the impact of climate change to the fight against terrorism to rebuilding an economy that serves poor and working families as well as it does the wealthy – it’s hard to argue that a single perspective or ideology really has all the answers. None of us, and neither political party, has a monopoly on wisdom.

Moreover, this country is huge and varied, and the legitimacy of the political system rests on its ability to give voice to the multitude of concerns and attitudes held by the American people. Some prefer the GOP’s approach, others the Democrats’, but it’s important they all have a political party to turn to. The more people feel that no one represents them or their views, the more alienated they become from the democratic process.

So the country benefits when two robust parties face off – in elections, in Congress, and in the 50 legislatures. When they can present their views, defend them, adjust them, and negotiate, compromise, and move forward, we’re being well served.

Which brings me to the Republican Party of today. I don’t want to get into the split between backers of Donald Trump and the traditional Republican leadership – that’s for the GOP to sort out, and they certainly don’t want the advice of an old Democrat. But there’s no doubt that the Republican Party has reached a crossroads.

If Trump wins the presidency, he’ll be the chief actor in determining the future of his party and what it stands for. If he loses, the GOP will more than likely move back toward its more traditional views as a party that embraces the free market, advocates for a muscular approach to national security, believes in American exceptionalism and our role in leading the world away from chaos, is filled with fiscal hawks who think that we have to curb entitlement programs, and pays attention to a business community that believes trade wars – especially with Mexico or China – would be catastrophic.

I suppose I’m showing my biases here, but I believe that a robust Republican Party will strengthen its willingness to improve and broaden the policy debate and move it away from steps to impede it. This would be a GOP that advocates for limited government, wants to reform our unwieldy tax code, and is determined to remain fiscally responsible so that deficits don’t explode. I want to see Republicans tackle our healthcare system by reforming it using market mechanisms. I want Republicans to confront regulations that hamper the formation and growth of businesses, especially small businesses. And I want them to remain inclined toward devolving power away from Washington, giving states more control over such basic responsibilities as highways, welfare, and education.

Each of these issues has been at the center of the national agenda for many years, suggesting their difficulty. We need proposals from both sides that are realistic, coherent, and based on numbers that add up. We need parties that are at the top of their game, generating solutions to the issues we confront that can get vetted in Congress, and be amended and reshaped to reflect the realities of a divided country. And we need parties that are prepared to negotiate to move us beyond our current gridlock.

This can best happen when a healthy Republican Party is competing with a healthy Democratic Party. And at the moment, that’s not what we’re seeing.

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


Quotes on the Issues

“Ever since the FBI Director made his announcement, Republicans have been unloading everything in their arsenal against Secretary Clinton, launching a desperate onslaught of frivolous attacks and trying to do everything in their power to bring down her poll numbers. Based on their own record, House Republicans have focused more on their obsession with bringing down Secretary Clinton than on any other issue facing Congress.  This is an outrageous abuse of taxpayer dollars for partisan political purposes, particularly when Republicans are ignoring so many pressing issues facing the American people.”” Rep Elijah Cummings (D-MD-7)


Foreign Affairs

Syria

“There’s a lot riding on Aleppo. The battle for the Syrian city of enormous strategic and geographic importance will determine who holds political leverage in negotiations for the country’s future. Meanwhile, another battle is taking place that could significantly affect the fight for Aleppo.” Al Monitor

ISIS

“A U.S.-led coalition has killed 18 ISIS leaders in the last 30 days, 13 of them in Mosul, Iraq, according to a U.S. military spokesman on Thursday.  That includes military commanders, propagandists and those facilitating the recruitment of foreign fighters into the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.” The Hill

Russia in Aleppo

“The initial success of President Bashar al-Assad’s siege, which clearly emboldened him, could have led to the fall of the second-largest city in Syria and has become a significant victory for the pro-Damascus forces.” Al Monitor


Magic Mondays with Rep Marc Pocan

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