Category Archives: Politics

Boehner’s Pork

If you are arguing with your friends about how John Boehner doesn’t wield much power, here’s some ammunition. When the Republican’s took control of the House of Representatives last year, Speaker Boehner said he would put an end to all earmarks. Well, guess what? Lawmakers found a loophole for their own rule.

Instead of directly asking money from a committee, the committee members have set aside money for lawmakers where they can request money to be allocated for their district. Walter Pincus reported that the House Armed Services Committee reserved one billion dollars (that’s twenty zeros) for what has been dubbed the Mission Force Enhancement Fund (MFEF). In this Fund, members of Congress could request money for projects in their districts through the appropriate federal agency within the Defense Department. Ironically, or maybe not, even before the bill could be passed half of the money within MFEF was already allocated for members who sit on the House Armed Services Committee.

This proves two things. First, Speaker Boehner can’t handle his job. You don’t run on reducing the deficit and the size of government, then allow your members to spite you on those very issues. In the 90’s Tom Delay threatened to remove members of his own caucus of their chairmanship if he didn’t like what they were doing. If Boehner had the same control like The Hammer once did, the Committee chairs would be afraid of applying this run around.

Second, the Tea Party doesn’t have as much influence as they like to believe. If members really cared about reducing the deficit and America’s debt, they wouldn’t take place in this practice. Instead, Freshman members like Congressman Joe Heck walk a tight line between getting the funds their district needs, and making sure they don’t get a primary challenge for doing so. Congressman Heck, who is a member of the Armed Services Committee, realizes if a terrorist attack does occur in the high tourist area of Las Vegas, it could be detrimental to the local economy. As someone who recently went there for the first time (I broke even), and wouldn’t mind going back one day, I would like to know that I’m safe doing so. Also, as a tourist attraction for people and businesses around the world, you could give a good argument for why terrorists would want to attack the city.

If the Tea Party really had a major influence over what the Republicans were doing, these funds never would have been created. They only represent a tiny proportion of conservative Americans, and the GOP knows they can’t retain their majority by exclusively pandering to them. The current speaker hasn’t figured out how to handle either of these issues, and instead has let his caucus take votes that he knew would hurt them at the polls leading to its recent defeat in NY26.

Personally, I don’t mind members of Congress asking for money. It is part of their job, and if they weren’t their constituents would be asking them why they haven’t been doing anything. Which happens to be the case for this Congress anyway.

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Filed under Congress, debt, John Boehner, NY26, Politics, Pork

The Politics Of Being Pro

If I were to ask you whether Albert Pujols was the best player in baseball, yes or no, I would only get a simple answer to what is a complicated question. Pujols was the leader in home runs, not to mention the top of virtually every baseball statistic there is within the last ten years. But he hasn’t hit a home run in over one hundred games and his batting average .269, way below his lifetime average of .329. You also have other players such as Jose Bautista who are now dominating the areas Pujols once did. And yes, this does have something to do with politics.

The same situation above also happens when you ask people if they consider themselves to be pro-life or pro-choice. Gallup recently came out with a poll that read “American’s Still Split Along Pro-Choice, Pro-Life Lines” with 49 percent saying they were pro-choice and 45 percent saying they were pro-life. While the poll asks people whether it is acceptable for a women to have an abortion under certain circumstances, it never asks which circumstances or why. It doesn’t help any policy maker decide how to vote on this issue, how his/her constituency feels about it, and what policies would they accept if enacted.

That is why Third Way, a Washington think tank, asked more questions to figure out what the American people really think about this contentious issue. In 2008 they came out with a study called A Consensus on the Abortion Debate—Reducing the need for abortion while preserving the right to have one. One of the questions they asked people was if they agreed with the statement “I support abortion rights, but I believe we can find common ground to reduce the need for abortions in America while still protecting a woman’s right to have one.” This was supported by 83 percent of Democrats, along with 50 percent of Republicans, including 43 percent of those who considered themselves pro-life.

The point here is that while there are plenty of Americans who feel strongly about this issue, the majority of them believe there is wiggle room. By asking people whether they are pro-choice or pro-life pushes them into a box to define themselves when neither definition fits. Both terms are nicely phrased slogans made up by the two sides to fit on advertisements and enable people to understand and explain where they are coming from. Every election cycle candidates are asked where they stand on abortion, but doing so doesn’t fully define their position as it wouldn’t for anyone else. The debate then lacks the serious conversation that is needed to move forward and only scratches the surface of the policy questions that need to be discussed.

Since it’s always important to start with the points where everyone agrees, the Third Way poll showed 72 percent of American’s favor enacting policies that will reduce “the number of abortions in America by preventing unintended pregnancies and supporting women who wish to carry their pregnancies to term.” That means abstinence only education is not a solution, but safe sex education and funding programs that will help women during and after their pregnancy is.

This particular Gallup poll was so close, if new, randomly chosen people were asked the same question the numbers could easily be flipped around. But even so, both sides tout when they see more American’s state they are on their side.

I remember watching Mike Huckabee do an interview (must have been The Daily Show) and he said something along the lines of “I believe a fetus is a living being, but I also believe we have to take care of it when it is born.” Now that he’s not running for President, I hope he and other major players won’t allow the health care debate to get overwhelmed with hyperbole, so that way the President and members of Congress can really say they represent the American people.

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Filed under abortion, Politics, pro-choice, pro-life, Third Way

Boehner Wields A Little Gavel

Ever since Barack Obama became President the Republican Party’s argument to everything was simply no. No to raising taxes on the wealthy, no to the Affordable Care Act, and now it is no to raising the debt ceiling. While it is important for all politicians to make sure their base is happy, they still need to pass legislation. Of course that is easier said than done with a divided Congress, but what doesn’t help is when their isn’t strong leadership that is capable of herding the cats.

In a recent article from The Hill, it describes how some members of the GOP have missed the old days of Tom Delay where they were able to get things done without much bickering. While at times upset with the leadership style of late 1990’s and early 2000’s, these members are eager to get things done and don’t see Speaker John Boehner being able to. Tom “the hammer” Delay and Dennis Hastert were never shy of wielding their power to get what they wanted. “In 2004, then-Transportation and Treasury Appropriations subcommittee Chairman Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) tried to rescind Amtrak earmarks, sparking a heated fight with then-Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.) and other GOP legislators. Istook’s subcommittee was reorganized in the next Congress, stripping him of his gavel and ‘cardinal’ status.”

Coming back to today, we still don’t have a full budget, not many appropriations have been passed, and can I ask you to name one thing Republicans have done since taking over the House that has helped you? Of course Paul Ryan’s budget was passed, which would have ended Medicare, cut taxes for the wealthy and businesses, plus increase defense spending when all the major players within the Pentagon are calling for cuts. But this isn’t a sign of strength for Boehner.

Ryan’s budget proposal is being used right now by Democrat Kathy Hochul running in a special election in New York’s 26th district, far far away from the liberal city. In fact, no one thought this race would even be close, but since Hochul started running against this budget she has picked up a large amount of momentum. It has gotten so bad for the GOP that Boehner had to head to Buffalo to try and help the Republican candidate Jane Corwin. But the election is Tuesday and recent polls show Hochul with the lead.

Boehner is struggling with members that are afraid they will be facing Tea Party candidates, and they know their “leader” won’t be able to help them. Since coming out in favor of the bailout in 2008, and accomplishing nothing to decrease the debt, he won’t be able to speak for the candidates who came into office saying they will make the government smaller. While many Democrats believe the GOP tends to agree on everything, they clearly haven’t, otherwise more legislation would have passed the House. The major accomplishments of the GOP since Boehner was minority leader had been getting his entire party to vote against the Affordable Care Act and the stimulus when Democrats took over. But most of the credit for was given to GOP Whip Eric Cantor.

When Truman was running for reelection in 1948, he branded the “Do Nothing Congress” as the reason he was not able to enact policies that will help the American people. So far in this first session of Congress, the House has passed twenty-nine pieces of legislation, compared to 2001 under Speaker Hastert, where seventy-five pieces of legislation were passed in its first session. While some of these bills are to change the name of a court room or post office, the majority of them were appropriations for member’s districts. Appropriations, (or pork, whatever you prefer) that could create jobs and stimulate the economy.

Even as the Republicans took over the House, Boehner was pushed to the sidelines by the RNC because he wasn’t good at using the talking points they gave him. Obama needs to do the same as Truman. The election isn’t going to be won over Iraq, Israel, or Osama Bin Laden, it’s going to be about the economy and the state of the nation. The reason why Tom Delay was able to keep his majority was because he got things done. But while the president has tried to get Congress to pass legislation that will help millions of Americans, all John Boehner has said is no, without offering an alternative, and unable to form a consensus for his party.