Friday, June 28, 2013

What Should Be At The Top Of The Legislative Agenda

     It's no secret congress is deadlocked.  It seems as though simple legislation is met with an iron fist of scrutiny and partisanship.  There is also legislation being proposed that has no business being on the front burner right now.  There are many topics congress should be taking up but of course, partisanship rears its ugly head and extreme agendas are pushed.
     The first thing congress should be focusing on is jobs and the economy.  The economy was the single biggest issue in the 2012 Presidential campaign and for some voters, was the only issue they considered.  Speaker John Boehner has said time and again that jobs are the priority.  He is also very quick to jump on policies the President has set fourth stating they are #bad4jobs (a hash tag he frequently uses on Twitter when referring to the President's policies).  However, of 183 votes, only one has been on jobs.  Instead, lawmakers such as Trent Franks (R-AZ) feel it is more important to put forth a bill on banning abortion after 20 weeks.  Many Americans are still unemployed and the sequester is not assisting that grave situation.  While the jobless numbers were gradually declining, they seem to be plateauing after the sequester.  Congress has done some work to remedy the situation such as ending the FAA furlough responsible for thousands of delayed flights (ironically right before a major congressional recess when legislators would be returning to their districts) but additional action is still needed.
     There needs to be some type of jobs bill or economic stimulus to build the economy from the ground up.  Republicans in congress have criticized the Fed and the President for the stimulus package and for pumping money into the stock market and buying up bonds.  They need to put jobs at the top of their list and try to come up with a better solution.
     After the Supreme Court ruling in Shelby v. Holder found Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to be unconstitutional and outdated, the Court sent the law back to congress.  With the volatile state congress is in currently, it seems this type of legislation is unlikely to hit the floor anytime soon.  Many Americans' fundamental Constitutional democratic rights are going to be disenfranchised.  With disenfranchisement on such a monumental scale, congress should take immediate action.  Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which mandates certain states defined in Section 4 must gain approval from either the Attorney General or a three judge panel in Washington D.C. before they can change election laws, is basically null and void until congress can come up with a more modern criteria for "preclearence."  Partisanship is too entrenched in our political system today for this issue to even be considered.
     The Senate did their part yesterday in passing a bill aimed at reforming our immigration system.  The bill has garnered criticism from those who oppose amnesty and want stricter boarder control.  Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard calls for Speaker Boehner to kill the bill in the House in order to gain the support of conservatives in the hopes of winning back congressional seats in the upcoming mid-term elections.  Florida Senator Marco Rubio has also been in the forefront of criticism as a member of the "Gang of 8," one of its sponsors.  The bill may not be perfect but it is a start in addressing a major problem in this country.  The bill survived the amendment to strengthen boarder security which was thought to be a major hurdle in its quest to becoming law.  Now the House must do its part to ensure that comprehensive and responsible immigration reform is achieved.
     It has been years since congress approved a budget.  House budget wiz Paul Ryan has authored his own budget proposal titled, "The Path to Prosperity" which is riddled with tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest Americans while leaving behind seniors and the indigent.  He also set out to balance the national budget in ten years, something economists say is unnecessary and unrealistic.  Senate Democrats are no exception to this trend.  Until this year, they had not even proposed a budget in some time.  Senator Patty Murray's budget was also a sub-par attempt to gain support across the aisle for a new FY2013 budget.  The President has himself issued a budget but again it has been met with disdain.  Our country needs a budget that will address fair tax reform and allow for the middle class to thrive which will get our economy back on track.
     Raising the debt ceiling should be a rudimentary, routine function of government.  Yet it seems to always turn into a political battle.  Congressional Republicans accuse the President of leading from behind when discussing foreign policy and note we need to be a global leader.  Defaulting on our debt and not paying our bills falls drastically short of leading a global example.  Many Republicans during the last debt crisis and in a prelude to this one have already stated they are willing to default if they do not get what they want.  Nothing is more irresponsible than holding the country hostage and affecting global economics for partisanship.
     Congress must also create an energy policy for the future.  They must work with the President to conform to the modern era of renewable energy and end our dependence of foreign oil.  The Middle East is becoming more unstable by the day and the United States has an abundant amount of natural gas which could bring down harmful emissions immensely.  Renewable energy is also a rapidly growing market and the United States needs to develop a method to reduce carbon emissions and create revenue and jobs through an entirely new energy sector.   
     With all the deadlock and partisanship in congress, one can beg the question is our government  still suitable for modern times?   Bill Frenzel from Forbes asks if Madison's Constitutional model of checks and balances works anymore because nothing seems to be getting done today.  He writes how compromise was necessary to carve the Constitution from the ashes of the Articles of Confederation.  Our checks and balances work so well, no legislation seems to be passing.    
     Of the issues currently being taken up by congress, few of them are what is actually needed to help get our country back on track.  Voting to repeal Obamacare for the zillionth time is not only asinine but also a grave waste of taxpayer money. Congress should be using its time to better serve their constituents by working on meaningful legislation.   

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