[Mb-civic] Congress Slouches Towards Home

Michael Butler michael at michaelbutler.com
Sat Sep 25 12:17:56 PDT 2004

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  Congress Slouches Toward Home
  The New York Times | Editorial

  Friday 24 September 2004

  The Republican-controlled Congress is shambling to the end of one of the
lightest workloads in decades without a hint of embarrassment, concentrating
on the defense of the flag, tax cuts and marriage while failing at the most
demanding obligations of government.

  When the lawmakers get back home, voters should ask them how they could
quit their posts while leaving a dozen basic spending bills in next year's
budget unfinished - hung up once more in back-room feuds about pork and
logrolling. The assault weapons ban was allowed to lapse to appease the gun
lobby. A simple $5 billion corporate-tax plan to satisfy a violation of
tariff laws remains mired in a $150 billion pork fest, while American
products suffer retaliatory sanctions in the billions. As for fully
financing and enforcing the No Child Left Behind Act, voters have to settle
for lawmakers' posing tenderly with schoolchildren.

  Equally disturbing is how our elected representatives have been spending
their time.

  Eager to help the middle class, a goal no one can argue with, they threw
moderation to the winds this week on a $145 billion extension of existing
tax cuts benefiting families. They hoped voters would not notice that they
had not bothered to find budget savings to offset the costs of this program,
and that these tax cuts will spawn a borrowing binge by the government from
banks around the world. The loans will come due for America's children and
grandchildren, whose earnings may just as well be stamped "Payable to the
Bank of China." Republican leaders did find the fiscal constraint to brush
aside proposals to extend minimal credits for millions of children in
working-poor families, only to add a $13 billion dollop of tax boons to

  The House began its work on the decades-delayed reform of the American
intelligence agencies by announcing that its kudzu patch of competing
committees, one of the central points of criticism by the 9/11 commission,
was too sacred to touch. Beyond that, House Republican leaders' most
enthusiastic response to the call for reform seemed to be in trying to tack
on a Patriot Act postscript that would grant law enforcement even more
powers that could curtail civil liberties.

  Republican leaders have also been chipping away at the Constitution by
proposing to deny judges jurisdiction to review selected acts of Congress.
The House passed a measure yesterday retaining the Pledge of Allegiance's
"under God" phrase and prohibiting any federal court - including,
outrageously, the Supreme Court - from judging the law's constitutionality.

  In essence, the House proposed to protect a patriotic ritual by trashing
the constitutional system it celebrates. This measure was spurred by
discontent over a 2002 federal appeals court ruling that invalidated the
recitation at public schools of the pledge with the "under God" phrase in
it, and the Supreme Court's recent choice to dismiss the case on technical
grounds rather than addressing the merits. It echoed the mean-spirited and
unconstitutional Marriage Protection Act, which the House approved in July
to bar federal courts from reviewing the legal definition of marriage.

  The other day, Congressional Republicans celebrated the 10th anniversary
of their ascendancy to power with the Contract With America, somehow failing
to mention that their fervid conversion to unchecked deficits was not
exactly part of that contract. Once upon a time, gridlock was considered the
ultimate problem with Congress. That looks better than what we're getting
right now.



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