A Busy Senate Season
There can be no Holidays for the US Senate until they finish their business. I know that they want to get home for the Holidays, but there is still a lot of key business to get finished!
They made a good start with the extension of the so-called Bush Tax cuts, which brought about much chagrin among many Democrats, who felt with some justification that the extension of these cuts for the wealthy would broaden the deficit without bringing any real value to the economy. But, there were key benefits for middle class and those on the edge that included not only tax benefits, but also the extension of Unemployment Benefits. The economy is expanding and growing and the recession itself has been over for several months, but the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high. The President met with executives from a number of Blue Chip Companies and again encouraged them to start hiring!
With the tax issue out of the way, at least for now, this week should be a busy one. As members of Congress and their staff pine for vacation, the Senate faces several very important pieces of legislation. If Lame Duck sessions are generally pretty uneventful, you can’t say that for this time around. So, here is a lineup and my response:
- START Treaty: Treaties require a 2/3 majority to pass and this one faces opposition from certain Republicans – led by John McCain – though one of the biggest proponents of this treaty which would provide not only limits on the nuclear capabilities of Russia and the United States, but it allows for verification of these nuclear capabilities. Currently, without a treaty, we don’t have any way of verifying what the Russians are doing. Why does it matter? Well beyond matters of security, what matters is our leadership in stopping nuclear proliferation. If we want to have unfettered ability to build nukes, then how can we expect other nations to put a limit on themselves. Having nukes in this day and age is a sign of power, whether one intends to use them or not. My sense is that this will pass – GOP demands for more time to discuss the treaty is just stone-walling as they’ve had more than enough time to examine it. The military Brass think it’s important and if they think it’s okay, then shouldn’t we think so as well?
- DREAM ACT: Although the winds seem to be blowing against passage, this Senate Bill would make it possible for those young people who came to the country illegally (with their parents) to gain a path to citizenship by either serving in the military or completing not only high school, but also college. The military strongly supports this measure, for it gives an incentive to faithful service in the military – helping recruiting. But, it also gives an incentive for those who came to the country with their parents and who know nothing but this country, a reason to work hard toward a goal that would benefit them, but also this nation. We are a nation of immigrants and a college education is the key to success. I can think of no better way of living out our original national motto – e pluribus unum – than this Act. It may not pass, in large part due to a continued anti-immigrant fervor that is present in the country, but this is a just and right act. I call on the Senate to do the right thing!
- REPEAL OF DADT: The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which was implemented in 1993 as an interim measure, in large part because Congress wouldn’t support Bill Clinton’s call for ending this discriminatory policy. Well the interim period needs to end. DADT, which allows Gays and Lesbians to serve in the military as long as they don’t reveal their secret is unjust and really a threat to US security. The majority of American people support its repeal. The vast majority of service personnel see no problems with ending this policy – only John McCain and some of the higher Military Brass (mostly Marines) want to continue the policy. On a military side, as we have seen from a recent detailed Pentagon Study, there is no evidence that there would be much if any adverse affects on military preparedness if DADT was ended. In fact, there is a growing recognition that DADT rewards dishonesty and potentially undermines security, as gay and lesbian members of the military are susceptible to blackmail. What is more, there is much more support today for the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the military, than there was when Harry Truman ordered the desegregation of the military in 1948. Again, this is a matter of justice for all Americans. Equality denied for gays and lesbians is equality denied for all Americans, for it makes of them a separate class who are required to live surreptitiously lest they lose their jobs. And as we’ve seen in the most recent military adventures, some of the most skilled members of the military – especially linguists and translators – have turned out to be gay. Thus, the military has lost important contributors to its efforts. Ending DADT will have an impact not only on the military – and that maybe why there is resistance. Ending DADT in the military puts the lie to other elements of society that have engaged in the same practices. That includes the church. Repeal may open up the conversation in a way will be healthy for all. The good news here is that there appears to be more than enough votes for a stand alone bill for this to pass!
Each Senate Bill is an important piece of legislation. Each will be historic if passed. Each will require at least some degree of bipartisanship. My hope and prayer is that the Senate will act in a way that is just and right. In my mind that involves passage of each piece of legislation. Then, they go home and celebrate the holidays as they see fit, knowing that they have done the right thing!