Columns » Bob McCord

Wasting time in Congress

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This week the Democrats in Congress will try to do every thing they can to keep Congress from voting for people President Bush wants to appoint as judges for U.S. Courts of Appeal in several states. Most of these people were kept out of office before by the Democrats, and they are saying they will do it again even if they have to stage a filibuster, which is a strictly American word. Back in the 1700s, it was the name pinned on Americans looking for gold and trying to seize land in Latin American countries. But when the Constitution was written in 1788, it said that the Senate and House should make their own rules for blocking a bill or an appointment, and those who did it were called filibusters. Sometimes the filibusters would get senators too drunk to vote, or take them to dinner so they weren’t there when the vote was called. An Illinois senator tried to beat up a colleague from Mississippi who he thought was voting wrong. A more civilized method finally was adopted – the senators simply talk incessantly. On tap this week is the vote on an appointment of a new ambassador to the United Nations. His name is John R. Bolton, a career State Department official. All the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are determined to vote against him because they have been told that Bolton is too skeptical about the United Nations and obnoxious with his employees. Even though I am no fan of the Bush administration, I hate to see time wasted by our government and the Congress in these kinds of arguments. After all, 60.6 million Americans elected Bush for another term, and no matter what happens, he’s going to be president for another three and one-half years. The judges that Bush wants to promote are candidates for a seat to fill eight vacancies among the 179 federal Court of Appeal judges. Any decisions from these courts can be changed by the Supreme Court, so their appointments will hardly put the nation in peril. Now there’s going to be a vacancy in the Supreme Court before long, and, of course, that’s different. If President Bush tries to send up an unqualified or prejudiced person for the Supreme Court, the Democrats should turn into filibusters and do everything they can to keep that candidate from taking a seat for life. But I think the Democrats in Congress are spending much of their time traveling, taking more recesses, getting ready for their next election and criticizing the Bush administration. This is a very critical time in the nation’s history. Yet, while thousands of American soldiers are overseas in a ghastly war that we started, the Democrats in Congress don’t seem to be doing anything about it except complaining and, in one state, buying life insurance for those called to duty. After all, there are 435 members of the House and only 28 more Republicans than Democrats and only five more Republicans than Democrats among the 100 senators. It seems to me that a little partnership rather than criticism could get some good things done. The Bush administration says it needs more soldiers to send to other countries in order to suddenly switch 1,000-year-old governments into democracies just as it thinks it is doing so successfully in Iraq. But to no one’s surprise, young Americans aren’t enlisting. What are the Democrats saying about this? Should we start drafting? Everyone seems to let the Republicans get away with doing nothing to save us from having to pay the $2 -plus gasoline we have to buy because in places like Arkansas there’s little or no public transportation. Even musician Willie Nelson is making better gas out of vegetable oil that he sells for $1.79 a gallon. Both our parties are worrying about driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants when they really should be worried about keeping them out of the country. Why did the Democrats give up and go silent when the Congress voted against an increase in the minimum wage, which hasn’t been raised in eight years? There seems to be a lot of worry in Congress about Social Security going broke in 2040, but very little is being said about the Medicaid Trust Fund exhausting in 2010. What plan does the Democrat Party have to reduce the outrageous cost of prescription drugs? President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind,” while a good idea to educate children, is short of money, but there seems to be no activity from either Republicans or Democrats to do anything about it. Why haven’t the Democrats come up with a plan to prevent another 2 million American jobs leaving and going to India and Pakistan? I guess our senators and congressmen are pleased with the distribution of homeland security money to the states in such a way that Wyoming citizens will get proportionally by population seven times more money than New York citizens. It seems to me that the Democrat Party needs better leadership. Or maybe, as some political scientists say, an energetic third party.

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