Editorial November 18, 2016

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

The House agreed to HR 5982 prohibiting any current government agencies from producing new rules until the Trump Administration takes the helm. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA-49).

You could argue that the effort is the Republican Congress ignoring that the current President represents the voters and should be able to meet the constituent’s expectations up to the last day in office without the opposing party taking away the mandate given by those who put him in office. And you would be right, at least as far as part of the intent of the bill is concerned but not necessarily so.

Yes, the anti-rule Republican House Leadership does not want any more rules from the Obama Administration with the expectation that the Trump Administration will join them in the opposition to rules they deem job and economy killers. And Democrats took the same opportunity to impose such restrictions when the outgoing Bush Administration was to be replaced by Obama. Then, Rep Gerald Nadler (D-NY) introduced a similar bill in 2007 in advance of President Obama’s win but the bill never made it to the House floor. Oddly, Nadler reintroduced the bill again in 2009 when Democrats held the House but that bill, too, never got floor time.

After 8 years of political messaging bills from the Republican House it would seem that Republicans, who will control the House, Senate, and White House in about two months, would better spend the precious little time before adjournment to produce a functioning budget.

There seems to be no other explanation for HR 5982 as anything more or less than a messaging bill since passage in the Senate is possible, if it even gets there, and is certain to face a veto from the President. Maybe Rep Issa doesn’t know the elections are over. Such bills have a way of returning in the next Congress but it would have no need with Republicans controlling the Hill and the White House.

So what’s the purpose? Congressional Quarterly reported that the bill may be attached to whatever budget deal Congress passes next month. With the prospect of time running out with adjournment scheduled for December 15th perhaps the gambit is making President Obama agree to the budget mechanism with HR 5982 attached whether he likes the bill or not.

If that is the case we could only see this bill as inciting or not but most certainly it is a waste of time and taxpayer money as was the case of the 60 or so anti-Obamacare votes and other non-productive messaging bills over the past 8 years. Note to Issa; you won your seat, now get back to business.

*****

‘A Better way’, Eventually

Prior to the election House Leadership proposed its Better Way agenda, the plan to provide healthcare, tax reform, entitlement spending and other key areas of the budget it thinks are necessary. The plan was brought out during the campaign with the caveat that they would not actually debate and vote on the legislation until 2017 believing that the President would veto them and, as we have learned, there are not enough votes to override such vetoes.

It is likely that the 114th Congress will pass a continuing resolution to continue spending for government at current levels so to build a budget next year that accommodates the Better Way’s. It is a practical strategy if not a bit close to the chest on real details at this time.

On the other hand they seem to be willing to help the next president make good on his campaign promises if any of them as stated are still on Trump’s mind.

Trump seems to have modified his repeal and replace Obamacare promise by keeping the prohibitions against losing coverage for preexisting conditions but that is nothing new and far from a compromise; Republicans who railed against the healthcare law since its 2010 enactment also would keep that provision and allow young people to stay on their parent’s policy until age 26. They also indicated that prohibiting insurers from life-time caps is agreeable but something Trump has not spoken on. Both have the idea to allowing insurers to give up their ‘turfs’ and sell across state lines, the idea being that competition would lower premium prices. Obamacare offered that option through the exchanges but several states opposing just about anything Obama, did not allow those exchanges and so faced premium increases. Presumably the idea will be more palatable to those states if it comes from their own party.

So it won’t be a Trump idea for healthcare reform but the current Congress’.

Deporting criminal aliens is likely to happen out of the gate but the extent to which Congress wants to fund such a program remains uncertain. Trump has campaigned on removing 13 million undocumented aliens and now talks about only the 2 million or so alien bad actors. There is hope that that will succeed because the US at least has possible addresses with which to find them but they cannot under US law be removed if they did their time; only because they are not documented. Look for that 2 million or so to shrink as the cost of the task is considered.

But there is one good idea that will very likely be taken up early in the Trump presidency; rebuilding the infrastructure. Spending for transportation and other infrastructure improvements is a known winner because it is estimated to return $1.50 for every $1.00 invested. The idea is past its prime since the infrastructure is decaying and solving the problem would increase revenues and create jobs but the bill never surfaced with any seriousness. Easier perhaps to let the roads, bridges and dams crumble than do anything that might make President Obama look good. Under Trump and the Better Way the idea of private investments is on the table but not really necessary since such efforts do pay for themselves. The downside of private investments can be that those companies must turn a profit and continue to do so. Not a far reach of the imagination what that will look like when the initial investment must turn enough profit to maintain the infrastructure and still turn a profit.

Hamilton on Congress

The Media’s Responsibility to Our Democracy

By Lee H. Hamilton

Hamilton

Hamilton

Politicians spend a good bit of their time complaining about the media. But why should they have all the fun?

I’m going to join in, though I tend to get upset about different things than most sitting politicians do. You see, I don’t actually mind when journalists – whether in print, on television or online – treat what politicians say with skepticism. That means they’re doing their jobs.

But this doesn’t happen nearly as much these days as it should. The media today is less objective, more ideological, and much showier than it once was. What you see can be eye-catching – both the graphics and the personalities – but it is also brash and relentlessly self-promoting. A lot of journalists don’t just want to report the news, they want to be players and affect policy. They see politics as a blood sport, often exaggerating the differences among players.

As one observer said, the media is drawn to “superficiality, sensationalism, scandal, and sleaze.” They’re all too happy to seize on small points of contention and fan them into major points of discord. They make building a consensus – the key task of the democratic process – much harder.

The field has been moving in this direction over decades, and there’s a reason for it: all these changes have been well received by the public. They draw viewers, readers and clicks. And they’ve encouraged consumers to pay attention only to the sources that reflect and broadcast their own viewpoint.

I don’t want to be a fogey here. Yes, I grew up in the days of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, and I still think they were solid journalists, but what I miss is not the voice-of-authority-from-on-high that’s so often associated with them. Instead, what I too often find lacking now is the spirit that drove the profession in those days. I think the news media had a sense of responsibility to make representative democracy function. Journalists imbued their work with a palpable sense that they were involved in a public service.

There are still really excellent journalists out there who are doing their best to serve both their profession and the country. Every day they struggle to make sense of enormously complex events. What they understand – and what I wish more of their colleagues believed – is that democracy demands journalism that improves its workings. Properly done, journalism can bridge differences, help consensus emerge, improve the knowledge and judgment of voters, and sharpen the performance of public officials and government as a whole.

In the end, the democratic process is about overcoming disagreement. This is virtually impossible without a solid base of information and analysis.

Governing well is immensely difficult, and good journalism can keep government open and honest – which serves not just the voters, but politicians who are trying to resolve the problems facing the country. Journalists can and should be watchdogs, keeping a watchful eye on politicians – what they do, what they say…and what they don’t do or say. They should serve not just the elites, but the underdogs and have-nots in society.

The independence of our press was hard to win, and it’s vital that we sustain it. People must have sources they can rely on in order to make our system work. Our democracy needs well-informed citizens making decisions based on facts about both policies and politicians.

This means that the model of the journalist that seems to be going out of fashion – reporters who were reasonably objective, independent of outside groups, and even independent of their company’s owners – is actually crucial to representative government. Curious, skeptical journalists who point out inconsistencies, draw attention to mistakes, call out misleading statements, and identify outright lies serve a larger purpose: they provide citizens what they need to know in order to be a good citizen, and public officials what they need in order to do their work well.

This is quite an ideal, especially in this age of economic turmoil within the media universe. But I don’t think it’s too much to hope that as the profession sorts out its future, it takes seriously its leadership role in advancing the public good, and doesn’t sacrifice its part in making representative democracy work properly.

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

Blocking Agency Rules

HR 5982 “would amend the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to allow the 115th Congress to disapprove en-mass every rule and regulation submitted under the CRA during the final sixty legislative days of the 114th Congress, or the end of President Obama’s Administration.  Under current law, Congress has to disapprove of one regulation at a time. ” House Minority WHip.

Planes to Iran

HR 5711 “…is being brought to the Floor in response to Boeing’s September announcement stating they had received a license from the Treasury Department to sell commercial aircraft to Iran.  Enactment of this legislation would be inconsistent with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed in Vienna, Austria in 2015. “

Working With the White House

“Congressional Democrats, divided and struggling for a path from the electoral wilderness, are constructing an agenda to align with many proposals of President-elect Donald J. Trump that put him at odds with his own party.” New York Times


Foreign Affairs

ISIS and Trump

“President-elect Donald Trump’s talk of direct U.S.-Russian military coordination in the war against the Islamic State in Syria is already drawing criticism on Capitol Hill and has Pentagon and State Department officials scrambling over how to implement the sharp shift in policy in the months ahead.” Washington Times.

Weakening ISIS…but

“The glory days of the so-called caliphate are over. For the past two years, the Islamic State (IS) has suffered severe losses on the battlefield, and it seems only a matter of time before its largest stronghold, Mosul, will also fall.Will the traditional roles of female jihadis change? “ Al Monitor

Iran and Trump

“TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s two top leaders — its president and the country’s supreme leader — both sought Wednesday to calm concerns in Iran over the future of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in the wake of Donald Trump’s election for U.S. president” . …country will remain committed and loyal to the deal Washington Post


Magic Mondays with Rep Marc Pocan

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