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This Week- The major action for this week in both the House and Senate will be the joint resolution as requested by President Bush to allow the use of force on Iraq. The House expects the resolution to take up to 20 hours of debate.
In addition to this resolution the House will also be considering dozens of suspension bills. They also may consider a bill to help investors by allowing them to write off more of their stock market losses and giving them more flexibility to manage their retirement savings.
It’s Raining Special Interest Politics
For anyone that might have been visiting the planet Mars for the past few months this is an election year. All 435 Members of the House of Representatives and 34 of our nation’s Senators will have to fight to keep their jobs on November 5th. The closer we get the election the higher the rhetoric will reach and the more the pandering will increase. I am sure that you are shocked to hear that your elected politicians might change some of their legislative strategies in an effort to gain the favor of some special interest groups. But, unfortunately, it does happen. Whether it is the trial lawyers, unions, farm conglomerates, business groups, feminists, environmental extremists, etc. the power of the special interest is never higher right before a close election. With control of both the House and Senate hanging in the balance, 2002 may prove to be “the year” of special interest politics.
One clear-cut example may be the current battle brewing over the creation of the Homeland Security Department and efforts by Senate Democrats to kowtow to the federal employee unions. We are past the debate of whether or not the creation of such a Department is a good idea – so with that debate over we should move on to developing this Presidential priority expeditiously and properly. The House passed their bill before the August recess and despite over a month of discussion on the Senate floor they have yet to pass their version. The one issue that appears to be holding up this important legislation is the worker flexibility provision. The President would like to have a workforce that is streamlined and efficient that is not saddled by the reams of federal bureaucratic garbage that currently rules the federal workplace. This idea however threatens the unions, the only growth sector for the union movement is the federal workplace. Therefore, they are fighting these flexibility provisions tooth and nail – using the Senate Democrats as their foil. If Congress is going to go through all the trouble of creating a whole new Department that encompasses the important job of protecting the safety of all Americans – why would we not try to utilize flexibility and 20th century job ideas? Our federal workforce is a national embarrassment. It can take up to years to fire incompetent or even fraudulent workers, there is no incentive for workers to perform and the mediation remedies are a joke. I honestly agree with President Bush when he says that he would rather not have any Department at all than have one that without the worker flexibility provisions. What is truly sad is that the Daschle Democrats care more about coddling the unions and getting their support (i.e. cash) for the election rather than the safety of their own constituents.
Another legislative example of the increasing power of special interest is the lack of a terrorism insurance bill due to opposition by the trial lawyers. Admittedly this bill should not become law. It would put the federal government as the insurer of last resort in the event of a terrorist event thereby expanding the federal government into an all-new realm. However, this bill is not held up in conference between the House and Senate because of its propensity to expand government. Instead the trial lawyers, a VERY powerful special interest group in Washington, DC, are opposed due to the inclusion of some reasonable language in the House passed bill. At issue is whether and to what degree businesses will be shielded from liability following a terrorist attack. Once again Senate Democrats, led by trial lawyer extraordinaire John Edwards, (D-NC) realize that imposing liability restrictions will lose them vital campaign donations.
There are many other examples of this dynamic during this election cycle. Some of these include the energy bill’s stalemate over the ANWR provision and the Bankruptcy reform deadlock over an abortion issue.
The good news is that the politicians need to pander to their special interest constituencies is holding up what could be some bad legislation. The bad news is that the politicians’ interest in pandering to their special interest constituencies is holding up legislation. It is definitely a two-edged sword - but as is always the case with special interest politics it is the taxpayers who lose out.