In addition to what we have been dealing with for the last four blogs there are other serious problems that the Republican led Congress, particularly the House of Representatives, have ignored. The first of these is guns, both pistols and assault weapons. Another, which can seriously hurt Republicans in the 2016 Presidential Election, deals with immigration policies. Still another immediate problem, which will be coming up at the latest in early December, is funding the Federal Government for the oncoming fiscal year. And still another is a Declaration of War against ISIS and possibly a debate about what to do about Syria. We’ve mentioned their compensation packages and days of work over the year but it might be worthwhile to reconsider these. Also there is the fact that Congress has passed a law automatically giving themselves raises unless they pass another law stopping that particular raise from happening.
President Obama and others have stated that gun violence is much worse in the U.S. than in other advanced countries. Italy comes next with less than 20% of what occurs in the U.S. Below that comes Canada, then Sweden, then Germany. By the time we reach Germany the level is well under than 10% of the U.S. level. The other industrial nations are far below that.
The problem with gun violence seems to be that Americans are much more likely to own guns than their peers around the world. It seems that the more guns there are in the society then also the more homicides that occur in the society. According to President Obama Americans kill each other with guns at a rate 297 times more than Japan, 49 times more than France, and 33 times more than Israel.
Following is a gun violence estimate for 2015 based upon actual shootings and prior years.
Total shootings 47,071
Children to age 11 632
Teens 12-17 injured and killed 2,354
Mass shootings 303
Officer involved shootings 3,923
Home invasions 2,029
Defensive shootings 1,088
Accidental shootings 1,694
The problem is an extensive one that Congress has totally ignored. If nothing else it should be debated in Congress. Presently it is largely invisible to the general public because the media tends to ignore the general information. While the information is available one has to dig to find it out. What is shocking about this is that these facts seem to make the terrorist threats minor in terms of the pointless loss of life that continually goes on.
Another major problem that Congress should be dealing with is Immigration. This is far more complex than just having foreigners illegally living and presumably working in the United States. On and off Congress has ineptly been dealing with this problem for the last fifteen years. Currently they are ignoring it and suing the administration for President Barak Obama’s executive order dealing with “dreamers,” children who were brought to the United States by their parent(s) and raised in this country
The reason this issue is complicated is that we are not just dealing with aliens, foreigners who are illegally is this country, but also with their families, some of whom may be citizens. Sending their parents or one of the adults back to their country of origin breaks up the family. Among others, there is one adult Hispanic legislator whose father disappeared when he was a small child and he never saw him again. There has to be something wrong with this.
First there are alien couples whose children were born in the United States and are therefore citizens of the U.S. Do we ship the parents back to their country of origin but leave the children here? There are children who were brought to this country and may have none or very little memory of their country of origin. They have been educated in the U.S. and think of themselves as Americans. Some have served in the military. Do we send them to a country of which they have no knowledge? There are also the Dreamers, (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors,) who were 16 or younger when they were brought into the U.S. The estimate is that there are about 1.8 million of these, many are college graduates. There are married couples of which one is a citizen and the other an alien. Do we separate these couples by sending one of them back to their country or origin? There should, at least, be a debate about this in both Houses of Congress but the subject has not been brought up..
An important point, which the Republican candidates in the 2016 Presidential Election seem to be ignoring is that according to the 2010 Census there were 50.5 million Hispanic or Latinos counted. That is 16% of the overall population. They had increased 13% since the 2000 Census. For the 2016 Election the number will have increased at least another 7%, that’s about another 4 million potential voters. In 2012 President Obama got the majority of those voters. What will happen in 2016?
Starting in the Twentieth Century a quota system was devised that set the quota or number allowed in the U/S. from each country. Interestingly both my parents came to this country indirectly from the Russian Ukraine in the early 1920s shortly after World War I. My father and his younger brother crossed Europe and emigrated from England. My mother signed a one year contract to work as a maid in Canada. This paid for her passage across the Atlantic Ocean. At the end of the year she came to the United States as an immigrant from Canada. There were very high quotas for Northern Europe and Canada. For Eastern Europe one had to sign up and wait for their turn. A college friend of mine’s parents came from Greece. The wait there had been seven years. Someone had signed up and then when their turn finally came they changed their minds. A neighbor and his wife took their name and their place. My friend had been their child.
Quotas had never been fair. They were set based up attitudes or prejudices toward the countries involved. Low, in so called undesirable countries and high in desirable ones. These same principles have essentially carried over to today. Mexico, Central and South America have low quotas. Asian countries would also have fairly low quotas. Northern European quotas are never reached.
And then there is the concept of refugees, people who are fleeing disastrous conditions at their original homes. In Asia a number of these people became refugees because they sided with the United States, like in Viet Nam after the U.S. left there in 1975. Others left intolerant or dangerous conditions behind to find safe conditions for themselves and their children. One of the places to which they fled was the United States. Were they all upright, honest citizens? Mostly; but they also included a criminal element. That’s how, for example, the mafia got a foothold within the U.S. Does that mean that we stopped letting in people from Sicily and Italy? No. Does it mean that we should not allow people from Syria to immigrate to the United States because some terrorists might sneak in that way? That’s an interesting question. It should be honestly debated in Congress and not just have Congress pass a bill practically excluding all Syrians. After all, these people are the victims of civil war and terror.
An immediate problem that Congress has to immediately resolve prior to December 11th is funding the Federal Government for at least the oncoming year. If a bill is not passed prior to that day the Treasury will run out of money with which to pay the government’s bills and interest rates will go berserk and the Federal Government will again shut down.
The issue prior to the former Speaker, John Boehner’s retirement, was the House of Representatives refusing to pass a funding bill unless funding for Planned Parenthood was removed from the bill. If this were done the President said he would veto the bill. While the Republicans currently have a majority in both Houses of Congress they do not have enough of a majority in either House to override a veto. By resigning Boehner got the bill kicked up from the end of October to December 11th. President Obama stated that he wanted a clean bill that would fund the government for the next two years or he would veto any future bill. This time the Republicans in the House want to keep Syrian refugees from entering the United States because a few terrorists might also sneak in and they still want to defund Planned Parenthood. The reality of keeping out Syrians is questionable because it currently takes Syrians from 18 months to two years of screening before they are legally admitted into the country. The House would add a further step and have each Syrian also individually approved by the head of the FBI.
What will happen is any bodies guess. Will the Federal Government be functioning after December 11th? A government shutdown would probably hurt Republicans in the 2016 Election and cost the government additional millions if not billions of dollars. Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House of Representatives seems poised for a dramatic showdown on December 12.
There is still the question of a new war powers authorization which President Obama has requested for the fight against the Islamic State terror organization, ISIS, which was made last February. Congress has not bothered using its War Powers given to it by the Constitution. As far as they seem to be concerned his executive actions in immigration for the Dreamers are unconstitutional but his actions in going after ISIS are currently legal. They, Congress, don’t need to act. Is this attitude valid or does Congress need to act?
We also have the question of Syria. What should our actions there be? Congress and the country need a debate to clarify that issue if it can be clarified. Should we continue with just air force action against ISIS? Should there be American troops on the ground as some of the Republican candidates have stated? There are innumerable forces involved in the revolution there. Are there any group or groups we can support? Russia is now also involved with support for Syria, supporting President Assad, while supposedly bombing ISIS, but according to the U.S. actually bombing Assad’s enemies. Is it a war we can win or will we be stuck there for decades if not longer? Congress is ignoring this problem completely.
With the upcoming election next year, plus the fact that the Republicans have a Democratic president who they don’t like and with whom they have problems cooperating, both Republican Houses of Congress have given themselves a light schedule for 2016. In fact the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, has called the President “Untrustworthy.” After the Thanksgiving Recess the House of Representatives plans on twelve more days of business this year. In that time they will have to pass a bill funding the government. Next year looks to be a very light legislating time. The Senate plans to spend 143 days in session and the House of Representatives is planning only 111 days in Washington, D.C.
I would assume that there are numerous other problems that have not been mentioned that Congress will and/or should probably be dealing with. Fiscal policy laws are still needed both to enhance employment within the country and modernize the infrastructure. Emergencies may well come up in terms of the security and safety within the United States. Sequestration, in those many areas that have not so far been removed from the sequester in 2015, will automatically come up in early 2016. They will present additional hardships as funds in entitlement and other programs diminish. Will Congress ignore these problems or make adjustments in some of them?
The country needs a Criminal Justice Reform Bill to lighten the load on the over-filled prisons in the United States. Presumably both parties agree on this. Will any action be taken? Will there be time to take any action? A Mental Health Bill is needed to deal with, at least, a part of the current surge in violence in the nation.
The Republicans will have to give the impression that they have a positive program if they are to maintain their majority in both houses of Congress. They also have to support the policies of whoever is their final choice of a Presidential Candidate. It could take some tricky maneuvering to achieve all this.
To also be fair, all the members of the House of Representatives and 1/3d of the Senate will be running for reelection next year. Presumably they will need more time in order to campaign even though in the prior year the 114th Congress had shortened its term in Washington, D.C.
In the oncoming election year early national party conventions will mean that the Congressmen will be taking the second half of July off without giving up their traditional August recess. October through mid-November will be cleared for campaigning for the November 8th general election. Will they have time to deal with any of these problems?
The Congressional behavior also reflects the tensions between President Obama and the GOP Congressional leaders. There are, of course some necessary bills that will have to be passed like funding the government so it can pay its bills for the oncoming year; but outside of that Congress may plan to do almost nothing, strongly hoping for a continued majority in both Houses of Congress in 2017 plus a Republican president.
For close to seven years President Obama has bent backwards trying to get some cooperation from the Republicans in Congress. In this he has largely failed. Under Paul Ryan’s inspiration they have attempted to force him to support their agenda by tying bills necessary for the functioning of the nation with causes they wished to become part of the laws. This has resulted in a government shutdown and a number of bills going to the brink, generally being passed on the last possible day. This has lowered the credit rating of the United States and cost additional billions of dollars.
At this point, with a little over one year left to serve as President, I would imagine Barak Obama has had it. He will play no more games with Congressional shenanigans. The government has to be funded for the oncoming year well before December 11, 2015 or the dollar may again be downgraded and interest rates for loans may unnecessarily jump. This bill was pushed up to December in October and the President said he will veto any more short term passages. He wants a clean two year bill. What will happen?
The Republicans, who prior to October wanted to defund Planned Parenthood in order to fund the government now have threatened to add a section to the bill requiring that every Middle East refugee be personally approved by a high official in the U.S. government before they can be accepted into the country. President Obama has stated that the current screening system is adequate for all immigrants from the Middle East. Currently it takes 18 months to two years for a Syrian to be allowed to settle in the U.S. While he has not specifically stated it the probability is that he will veto the spending bill if it contains that measure. And there is also the probability that he will veto this specific bill, which recently was passed by the House of Representatives that requires a guarantee from a high government official for each Syrian emigrating to the U.S., if it is passed by the Senate and comes up before him. It seems that the President is no longer open to attempted blackmail in order to get necessary legislation passed. The person who came up with this tactic is now Speaker of the House of Representatives. It should be an interesting 13 months!
As a footnote: In just about every occupation the employee is continually evaluated as to how well he or she performs on their job. If they are continually below a certain level then they are terminated. This seems to be true for all occupations except for those Republicans elected to Congress, particularly for those elected to the House of Representatives which has been essentially nonfunctional since 2011 when they achieved a majority in the House of Representatives. This is the period during which we’ve had gridlock in Washington, D.C. Here inefficiency or inability to function seems to be the quality needed to function and keep your job.