Tag Archives: Congress

When Will Republicans Start Acting Like Grownups?

Somebody ought to tell the Republicans in Congress they no longer are in the majority.

It’s as if everything they do (or don’t do) should capture the rapt attention of the American people. John Boehner, the House minority leader, says his GOP colleagues will come up with a healthcare reform proposal soon.

How soon? Soon.

What’ll be in it? Don’t ask.

One thing’s for sure. Boehner says the 46 million people who don’t currently have health insurance shouldn’t hold their breath waiting to be covered under this new GOP plan.

And then, the Party of No goes even further. While the country’s focus has been on healthcare, the GOP has been trying to undermine any climate change legislation that might turn up in the House or Senate. Some of them think the whole concept of global warming is a hoax. So they do what comes naturally. They threaten. Ranking Republicans on six Senate committees crafting a climate change bill want additional studies done before they vote on any bill.

If they don’t get their way, according to Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, they’ll boycott any proceedings. Inhofe is one of those who doesn’t believe in global warming. That should tell you in a nutshell what Senate Republicans’ real agenda is. They want to study climate change to death.

Never mind the Environmental Protection Agency did an exhaustive study of the problem. That isn’t good enough for the Party of No. I guess President Obama must have gotten rid of some of those EPA folks from the Bush years. You know, the ones who allegedly altered reports that called global warming an important issue. To her credit, the chair of the environment committee, Sen. Barbara Boxer, vows to press on with or without her infantile colleagues from across the aisle.

Barbara Boxer
Barbara Boxer

This should be an abject lesson to those Democrats in Congress who find common cause so often with the GOP. These people aren’t interested in any form of bipartisanship. They’ve shown it time and time again. Those who step out of line are branded traitors, or worse. If only the party in power could see its way clear to vote as a disciplined block, we might start to see the change we’ve been looking for.

Until then, do we really have to put up with Republican Senators like Pat Roberts, who asked for a 72 hour delay in considering the healthcare reform bill so lobbyists could have their say? Or James Inhofe, who hides behind the mask of wanting to study climate change when all he wants to do is kill any effort to cut greenhouse gases?

What in the world did we do to deserve this?

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Will Congress Act on Bloomberg Gun Sting?

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will stand for re-election early next month. No matter what you think of him, or whether he should serve another four years as mayor, he provided a public service to the nation with his four month probe showing how easy it is to buy guns in this country.

Guns

If you want to know why so many people die by the gun in America, consider the results of his investigation. In nearly three our of four cases, undercover investigators were able to purchase guns illegally.

This is interesting on several levels. First, Bloomberg didn’t just talk about the probe. He showed video after video of gun sellers more than willing in many cases to skirt the law. In one, a man tells a dealer at an Ohio gun show that he couldn’t pass the required background check. The dealer smiles, and tells him it doesn’t matter “Because I wouldn’t pass either, bud.”

In another video, at a gun show in Nashville, a man asks a female friend to buy a Glock for him. That would seem to be a violation of federal law. The seller, who apparently knows what’s going on, asks the woman for identification, then sells her the gun. It seems the explosion of gun and ammunition purchases since the election of President Barack Obama has led more than a few folks to ignore even the lax restrictions now in place.

The purpose of the sting, according to Mayor Bloomberg, is to get Congress to act on a bill sponsored by New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg. That bill would require background checks for all sales by private sellers at gun shows. Maybe that would change the city’s tabulation that out of 47 purchases at seven gun shows in three states, 35 were illegal.

It would seem as though Congress has little wiggle room here. After all, they moved with extraordinary speed to defund ACORN after a video sting operation. In that instance, no actual illegality has been alleged. Can our lawmakers be so hypocritical (or frightened by the NRA) that they’d reject video footage of actual criminality while calling for the heads of every present and former ACORN employee?

I hate to say it, but they probably can. When it came to ACORN, the acted as judge, jury, and executioner based on videos provided by a pair of conservative hustlers. That may have been in violation of the Constitution, but what the heck! In this case, Mayor Bloomberg was making a point about illegals guns that are purchased elsewhere and end up taking lives here in New York. The fact that his police commissioner joined him in exposing the results of this sting also points out the fact that some of the lives lost to illegal gun sales are those of police officers. Despite this, it’s likely no one will be prosecuted for those illegal gun sales captured on video. Wanna bet?

But you tell me. Will Congress finally act to curb the kind of illegal gun sales captured in Mike Bloomberg’s sting?

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Is Time Running Out in Afghanistan?

President Barack Obama met with about 30 members of Congress Tuesday. The subject was what to do in Afghanistan, something we’ve written about more than once.

In recent weeks, those fighting US troops in remote regions of the country have become more emboldened, and that means more US troops are dying. That in turn ratchets up pressure on the President to do something to turn the tide of this unpopular war. Ironically, Afghanistan was at first the war we were “supposed to fight”. That’s where Osama bin Laden was finding safe haven, and the public found that chase worth pursuing even as support for the war in Iraq waned.

Now, President Obama must decide whether to anger lawmakers in his own party, many of whom don’t want to see an increase in troop deployment, as top NATO and US troop commander Stanley McChrystal favors. For some, there are the twin issues of money and time. Consider this from Sen. John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who attended Tuesday’s meeting. “I think a lot of senators and congressmen need to ask themselves how much money they are willing to put on the table for how long and for what strategy”.

Long story short, that means if President Obama follows Gen. McChrystal’s strategy, he will have the backing of Republicans, not a critical mass of Democrats. He’s taken off the table, for now, the idea of reducing troop strength. The question is whether he wants to commit to the kind of mini nation building necessary to stabilize Afghanistan’s government. That component turned out to be a disaster in Iraq, and there are no guarantees it will work any better in Afghanistan.

Make no mistake. This is the most important foreign policy decision President Obama will make during this, the early part of his tenure. Get it wrong, and he’ll be hammered not only by Republicans, but by his base as well. Americans seem to be getting tired of war, in particular wars that seem to be going on forever with little chance of clear cut victory. Without public support, the Congress won’t back an expansion of the war on the ground. If President Obama chooses to follow the recommendations of the military, he’s risking a serious political setback, as serious as not getting healthcare reform done.

I wish there was a way for the US to declare victory and simply leave Afghanistan to its people. American lives are being lost, and that ought to be our primary concern. Sadly, he political will likely trump the moral, and the US will be in Afghanistan for a long time to come.

What do you think? Should President Obama increase troop strength in Afghanistan, keep it at current levels, or start a staged withdrawal?

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