In addition to the election of a new President of the United States, 1/3d of the Senate is up for election in November of 2016, plus the entire House of Representatives will also be running for reelection. The Republicans tend to do better in non-presidential years since at that time lots of Democrats, especially Hispanics, do not bother to vote. Consequently a light vote tends to benefit the Republicans. In 2014, for example, the Republicans were able to gain control of the Senate by a very slight majority. In 2016 they will probably lose that majority and control of the Senate will return to the Democrats.
2010 was a non-presidential year and the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives and a number of state governments. 2010 was also a census year, when the population of the United States was counted, and the House Voter Districts were reset by the State Legislatures, presumably based upon population changes. Those states under Republican control gerrymandered their Districts to give themselves ultimate control in the House of Representatives by setting up new districts that were light in Democratic votes and heavy in Republican voters. In 2012, a presidential year, a million and a quarter more votes were cast by Democrats for their candidates running for the House of Representatives but the Republicans still maintained their majority in the House of Representatives. They still today maintain control of that House of Congress. It will probably take an additional two to three million more votes by Democrats for control of the House of Representatives to be returned to them. The probability of that happening, I suspect, is very low unless the Republicans do something extremely stupid like shutting down the Federal Government by not funding it.
What will probably happen in 2017 is that Hillary Clinton will be elected President of the United States. The United States Senate will have a Democratic majority, and the House of Representatives will remain in Republican Control, where it has been since 2011. If that is what happens then essentially gridlock can probably continue with the Congress. President Hillary Clinton will be able to make some deals with the Republicans in the Federal Legislature, but it will be tit-for-tat, something will have to be traded every time. The Republicans will be more interested, as they have for the last six and ½ years, in blaming the Democrats for legislative failures than in passing necessary laws.
An example of this is the Zika crisis, which the World Health Organization has called “an extraordinary event” and “a global emergency.” Before the July 4, 2016 Congressional recess, President Obama requested a 1.9 billion Dollar Bill to be used to fight the Zika outbreak. The amount was put together by experts in the field as to what it will take to remove the danger of Zika virus attacks.
The House of Representatives passed, before they left on vacation, a 1.1 billion dollar bill and then left Washington for their 4th of July hiatus which did not end until after Labor Day. They were attending the National Presidential Conventions in late July and then spent the rest of their time in their home states presumably campaigning.
Their version of the Zika Abatement Bill contained spending cuts in other health programs such as cutting funds for Planned Parenthood, and was 800 million dollars smaller than the amount asked for. President Obama remarked that the Bill contains too little money and has too many partisan provisions.
In the Senate the Bill was filibustered by Democrats who wanted to spend the full 1.9 billion dollars without cutting funds from other programs. The White House spokesman, Eric Schultz, stated that if the measure does pass the Senate it will be vetoed by the President.
The basic Republican position is: Take what we give you or there will be no bill and it will be your fault. This process had been done with other bills earlier. After the bill had died because there was no Conference Committee functioning, the House was on vacation; they, the Republicans, will blame the failure on the President and Democrats for what they themselves have not done. Whether the public will believe them is another question.
The Democrats and Republicans have been unable, still by the middle of September, to come up with a compromise bill. This crisis is now four months old since it first came to the Congress. The House is still offering its 1.1 billion dollar bill. The disease which has become more major in terms of becoming an epidemic seems to gradually be growing in the United States in such states as Florida and other Southern states. One or more cases have come up also in California.
The House, as early as the end of May 2016 seemed to be in no hurry to solve the Zika crisis. Democrats said it was wrong to require spending cuts for a public health crisis while not requiring them for past emergencies such as wildfires and floods. Republicans said the cuts are innocuous. More than 2,200 cases had been reported in the U.S. and its territories. The number is even greater today; and as I understand the problem, Congress still has not passed a compromise bill which both political parties could agree upon. This problem is currently being left to the states to handle individually. They do not have the resources to deal with a national, if not international, problem.
Congress returned from its July 4th break or vacation on Tuesday, September 6th, the day after Labor Day. The House of Representatives will have to deal with the Zika crisis, which has increased over the last two months, and also deal with the budget, funding for the Federal Government ends at the end of September. The House also failed to pass the 12 annual funding bills needed to run the government. The issue now seems to be passing a partial funding bill and letting the new Congress in January of next year fund the government for the full year.
The government will run out of money by the end of September. To date no additional spending bills have been passed. If such a bill is not passed the Republican dominated House will again shut down the government; but this time it will be on an election year.
There is an election coming up on November 8th. Every single member of the House of Representatives will be standing for election or reelection. The current situation is totally absurd. It would seem that the Republicans care more for making political points than for legislating for the good of the country.
During the remaining short period of time the House Republicans are planning votes on several “message bills,” some of which will not even be picked up by the Senate. They will vote to impeach IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, over allegations that he obstructed a Congressional Investigation about whether the IRS improperly scrutinized Tea Party groups looking for tax-exempt status.
Speaker Paul Ryan wants a vote on some kind of legislation to register GOP opposition to a 400 million dollar payment to Iran. This is money and interest on funds belonging to Iran that the U.S. Government has held since the late 1980s.
What strikes me as fascinating are the conditions under which the Senate and the House of Representatives function. The length of a year is 365 days. After being elected to Congress the average salary is $174,000 per year. The Speaker of the House of Representatives gets $223,000 a year; the majority and minority leaders of both parties get $193,000 per year. The House has averaged since 2001 139 legislative days a year; that is less than 3 days a week. In 2013 the New York Times found that the House was in session 942 hours that year, about 18 hours a week. The House of Representatives calendar for 2016 is 110 legislating days. Their average time spent in session in 2016 has been three days a week plus lengthy holidays. They work, generally, from Monday through Wednesday and take a four day weekend plus all holiday breaks.
The average salary in the United States is less than half that amount and it includes at least a 40 hour work week. There is also a very generous retirement plan for Congress that kicks-in after serving one two year term in the House of Representatives.
The Founding Fathers did not originally envision political parties. They expected an educated constituency to elect the smartest people available. We are far from that point now. The taxpayers are spending a lot of money for very little. For the last 5 ½ years it’s been for gridlock in Congress.
As of Friday, August 26, 2016, 42 new non-travel cases of Zika infections have been discovered. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants the entire blood supply within the United States, every single blood donation screened for Zika. It is currently estimated that one out of every ten blood donations in Puerto Rico contains the Zika virus. The number would also be high in Florida. But the problem could also exist in any of the other states. The country could be moving toward a massive epidemic. It would seem that the House of Representatives is looking to get its way no matter what the cost to the general public.
The Zika virus disease is a mosquito borne illness. It is beginning to reach epidemic proportions in some of the states and territories. The symptoms of Zika are a mild fever, skin rashes, muscle and joint pain, and pink eye or conjunctivitis. The symptoms normally last from 2 to 7 days and then go away. The virus remains in the blood stream after the 7 day period. Zika can produce sever birth defects in pregnant women’s fetuses, such as a small head size, and presumably limited learning ability as well as other physical problems. This infection can cause microcephaly.
While the disease was first discovered in 1947 little is still known about it. What we do know is that it is transmitted by a specific mosquito and also by sexual intercourse. Lots of people in the country require occasional blood transfusions which is another way it can be freely transmitted.
On Friday, August 26, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has recommended that the entire U.S. blood supply be screened for the Zika virus. One out of every ten people tested in Puerto Rico has come up positive. A massive epidemic of this disease can effect an entire generation of births and, if nothing else, cost the country trillions in medical care for the infected infants as they mature.
These new recommendations apply across the board. The Red Cross said it will phase in universal testing. It is currently conducting Zika testing in 5 Southeastern states. It will now require it throughout the entire United States.
Because an infection can be transmitted during sexual intercourse someone who does not have symptoms might spread the virus unknowingly to his or her partner. Then either of the two might donate blood, further spreading the infection.
In February of 2016 the FDA issued its first Zika virus blood screening recommendation in areas with active transmission. Then, the agency advised screening blood and blood components for the virus or stopping blood collection completely in areas of active transmission.
The nation’s first local, non-travel related infection of Zika virus occurred in Puerto Rico in December of 2016. Shortly after, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands reported locally transmitted infections. In July, Florida’s Miami-Dade County reported its own first case of a local mosquito transmitted Zika infection.
With all this occurring and Zika spreading the House of Representatives is in no hurry to solve the problem of nationally fighting the spread of this disease. Their reaction to what can be a major health issue is pathetic. It would seem to the Republicans getting their way and making political points is more important than the health and welfare of their constituents.
This is a potential international problem that the United Nation’s World Health Organization takes very seriously. Women of child-bearing age throughout the world are affected. This can result in one or more generations of children growing up abnormally with no real futures, having to be taken care of by their healthier peers throughout the world; and the House of Representatives plays its political games essentially ignoring the issue. They are basically leaving an international problem to the states and territories within the U.S. to handle by themselves without adequate resources or responsibility. It would seem that a vote for a Republican legislator is a vote for political gridlock.
President Barack Obama, on Saturday, August 27, issued a call to make the Zika crisis the first item of business that the House of Representatives deals with. He stated that the various federal agencies dealing with this problem are running out of money. He stated that, “a fraction of the funding won’t get the job done. You can’t solve a fraction of a disease. Our experts know what they’re doing. They need the resources to do it.” He further said about the current House bill, “But that’s not a sustainable solution. And Congress has been on a seven-week recess without doing anything to protect Americans from the Zika virus.”
“Every day the Republican leaders in Congress wait to do their job, every day our experts have to wait to get the resources they need,” the President said. “That has real-life consequences: Weaker mosquito- control efforts. Longer wait times to get accurate diagnostic results. Delayed vaccines. It puts more Americans at risk.”
“We need more Republicans to act … because this is more important than politics. Republicans in Congress should treat Zika like the threat that it is and make this their first order of business when they come back to Washington after Labor Day. That means working in a bipartisan way to fully fund our Zika response.” So far none of this has happened.
In addition, as of the present, no action has been taken on the hourly wage which remains at $7.25 an hour. And even the Republican National Candidate, Donald Trump, has mentioned raising it from $7.25 an hour to $10.00 an hour. Also in the Republican Congress there has been no mention of requiring background checks on the purchase of firearms or limiting the size of weapon magazines. Congress is currently in gridlock. Will this change after the November Election if the Republicans remain in charge of the House of Representatives? I suspect not.
On Saturday, August 27, 2016, President Barack Obama has stepped up the pressure on Congress for Zika
funding. He has urged legislators “to make this their first order of business” when they return from a seven-week recess after Labor Day.
Their second order of business will be to fund the government past the September deadline.
Congress will meet for the balance of September and then adjourn for November and then probably meet for another few weeks in December. What will probably happen is a short term funding bill which will hand the problem over to the new Congress next year. If the Tea Party Freedom Caucus refuses to go along with the rest of the Republicans in the House of Representatives then the Speaker, Paul Ryan, would be forced to work directly with the Democrats. This, incidentally, was probably the main reason John Boehner, the former Speaker, was forced to resign.
And, of course, the Zika epidemic grows worse daily.
What will happen should be interesting, if not tragic.