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Weekly Summary – Due to July 4th, the House and Senate will be in recess this week. After the amount of last minute wrangling and finagling the House engaged in last week, they deserve a break! Congressman Bill Thomas, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee pulled off two ‘squeaker’ votes last week, passing two different pieces of legislation with only one vote margins. The first was a bill to strengthen the House’s negotiating position as they begin to conference the trade bill with the Senate. Earlier this year, the House passed a clean Trade Promotion Authority Act to provide President Bush with the ability to negotiate trade deals.
Unwilling to allow President Bush this victory, Majority Leader Daschle decided to bog the measure down on the Senate side with tons of ancillary legislation. They added a Trade Adjustment Act, which in addition to spending billions and billions more, would for the first time, provide health benefits to displaced workers.
Additionally, the Senate included a few amendments that would essentially gut the entire purpose of the Trade Promotion Authority. In an attempt to remedy some of these wrongs in conference, Chairman Thomas wanted to pass a perfecting resolution. Considering that the original TPA legislation only passed with one vote itself, this was no walk in the park. After much wrangling and hand wringing, Thomas emerged successful, even if, again, by a single vote.
The second tight vote was on a bill to provide seniors with a prescription drug benefit. See below for more information. While it was impressive as a legislative accomplishment, the substance on the bill leaves much to be desired.
Issue In Depth – Knowing When to Say NO
"Largest Federal Funding Increase in History for K-12 Education Takes Effect” – While this would appear to be the title of some anti-government article in a conservative magazine, this is in fact the bold, proud pronouncement that headlined a recent press release from the Republican House Education and Workforce Committee.
The government envisioned by our forefathers was to be one representative of the people. House Representatives in particular were thought to come from the common man with common sense values and beliefs. I am not sure when this started to change but a government by, of, and for the people has in essence become a government by, of, and for more government!
The prescription drug debate that has recently engulfed Capitol Hill provides an excellent example as to how things have very quickly gotten out of hand in Washington, D.C. For years now the politicos in Washington have been talking about the rising problem of prescription drugs and the best way to deal with the dilemma. Despite all the good intentions and positive rhetoric, it appears that the policymakers have done the exact opposite of what they really need to do to get affordable prescription drugs to seniors. They waited until the middle of an election year, when deficits have returned and increased spending is needed to fight a war on terrorism. I can not imagine a worse scenario for spending billions -- if not trillions -- of taxpayer dollars while at the same time depriving our nation's seniors that may be truly in need.
The one bright spot in the debate was that many fiscal conservatives saw prescriptions drugs as a unique opportunity to finally reform the aging, antiquated, dying Medicare system. Currently scheduled to begin running out of money in 2015, many are concerned that throwing an additional entitlement to the tune of hundreds of billions without reform would only further this dinosaur into the graveyard. However, the bill that recently passed the House contained only minimal amounts of reform. And while some may consider the competitive bidding on bedpans provision a sign of government renewal, it was mostly just window dressing to disguise the continuing abuse of the American taxpayer.
In response to the Republican plan, the Democrats put forth their own proposal, which represents politics at its worst. First of all, it more than doubles the Republican proposal, coming in at a whopping $800 billion. It would further exacerbate the current furor over deficit spending and the inter-generational tension over healthcare spending. Furthermore, the Democrat proposal does not even kick in until 2006 – it is obviously a partisan measure designed more to send their constituencies to the ballot box rather than to provide any real relief to our nation’s seniors.
For years now, average Americans across the country have felt increasingly left out of the political process. They are gradually coming to the realization that politicians today just don’t ‘get it.’ Elections surmount common sense and party politics supercede good judgment. Did you send your elected representative to Washington to engage in political gamesmanship and partisan politicking? I don’t remember asking my representative to spend money like water; showering it on every imaginable constituency so he can stay in office for decades at a time.
The American people are generally kind, giving people. They do want to help those truly in need and have given to charities in the trillions to prove it. But what they don’t want is federal politicians deciding who is worthy and not worthy according to their election prospects. It is about time that our policy makers in Washington learn when to say no!