Thursday, January 03, 2013

Up Next, Number 113

(Editorial cartoon by Glenn McCoy / Belleville News-Democrat (January 2, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

No, I've not posted a Glenn McCoy cartoon to make fun of it.  He may be a conservative, but I think his cartoon captures the essence of the last few days nicely.  Neither side should be pleased by the lazy, shoddy legislating going on in Washington.  The best they could manage was to repair a u-joint fixture leak with plumber's putty and a shrug.  It also helped that his rendering of what I'm sure he intended as a "pink Cadillac" looks more like a "pink Mercedes," but that's an aesthetic opinion.

The 112th Congress finally is over, but not until it kicked the can on all sorts of issues to the next Congress.  The deal made might have made Wall Street happy (and judging from yesterday's numbers, it made Wall Street very happy), but the rest of us are pretty much disgusted.  I don't imagine that bad taste will improve over the next two years, but I would love to be wrong.  Just the first six months of the new Congress are going to be daunting.  Here's what it looks like the 113th Congress will be facing the first several months of its session.

First 60-90 Days:

Thanks to the fiscal cliff deal, the "deficit" cuts are front and center.  The Republicans want cuts, deep cuts, because ... well, because deficits.  Deficits don't matter when the GOP runs the government, but you can bet they do when the Democrats have the White House and one chamber of Congress.  The GOP wants cuts, deep cuts, to government spending, but only that spending which benefits the 99% of us.  That means Social Security (chained CPI) and Medicare/Medicaid (raising age for eligibility, lowering funds for the destitute seeking medical treatment) are on the line.  So is funding for education, the EPA, Department of Transportation, and (of course) PBS.  The Defense Department budget can't be touched because, well, defense.  And certain parts of the Department of Homeland Security can't be touched because, well, terror.

What our president and our Democrats will do is hard to tell, but so far, the "conceder-in-chief" and the DLC Dems seem willing to sell us out on all sorts of issues.

Of course, there's also the issue of the debt ceiling, about which I spoke yesterday.  The Republicans have already indicated that will be their point of attack, their wedge.  It didn't work out so well the last time they used it, but that won't stop them from trying it again.  And again.

Hurricane Sandy relief also will be a major issue early in the session, primarily because House Speaker Boehner refused to put it up for a vote before the 112th Congress left town.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and NY Congressman Peter King (both Republicans) raised enough holy hell over this that Boehner has promised to bring the bill up for a vote immediately.  Of course, come this afternoon, Boehner may no longer be the House Speaker, so it's hard to tell whether that $60 billion request will be considered.

Next 60-90 Days:

The next set of issues will have to be heard, although not necessarily disposed of in deference to the above.  As I noted earlier in the week, our congress critters are not long on multitasking skills.  Still, the Democrats do have a couple of pressing issues which they need to at least introduce. 

The whole "fiscal cliff" meme has clogged the national discourse, pushing a couple of issues out of sight of the voters.  One important issue which has disappeared from view is that of gun control.  Sen. Dianne Feinstein has promised to submit a bill which at least reinstates the prior assault weapons ban in mid-January.  Some of my liberal friends worry that the issue has faded from the national consciousness because of all the hot coverage of economic issues.  My gut feeling is that by mid-March we will have had at least one more mass shooting incident to rev up national consciousness.  That would fit with our recent history.  And isn't that a shame.

The other issue which the White House will hopefully do some serious leaning on is that of immigration reform.  Various immigration groups have begun to lean on the White House, especially since those groups turned out their people (now a serious demographic in this country) in 2012.  The White House has responded by easing up on some of its enforcement policies, and, most recently, has tried to find a way to return deported family members to the US so that their presence is legal.  That's a start, but it still leaves the future of ten million undocumented people in the country in limbo.  This needs to be addressed.

That's only the first six months of what the 113th Congress faces, but, assuming it can be more productive than the 112th Congress (which wouldn't be all that difficult if our congress critters were held to the same productivity rules as the rest of us), that's the bare minimum of what we should expect over the next two years.

I have to admit that while all of this plays out, I am going to spend at least part of my time reveling in the fact that pitchers and catchers will report for Spring Training in less than two months.  I have my limits.

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