Stop Whining. Do Your Job. Pass A Bill.
Last week, when President Obama announced executive action on immigration policy, many Congressional Republicans were up in arms, saying he was acting like a monarch or dictator and poisoning the well by acting unilaterally without Congressional approval. He fired back that all they have to do to negate his action was to pass a bill for his signature that dealt with the issue. The US Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill over a year and a half ago. John Boehner and the House GOP caucus sat on their hands, refusing to either vote on the Senate bill or produce one of their own.
Other than passing over 50 bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act (which everyone knew would go nowhere in the Senate), the House has done little more of significance since it was taken over by a Republican majority following the disastrous 2010 midterm elections. That’s if you leave out the two week shutdown in October of 2013 precipitated by Tea Party representatives in the House listening to Senator Ted Cruz and refusing to allow passage of legislation to prevent the shutdown. Immigration reform was one area where the Senate was permitted to actually accomplish something in a bipartisan fashion and avoid the fate of myriad other potential bills and presidential nominations which became mired in the muck of seemingly endless filibusters and other procedural obstructions initiated by GOP senators designed to bring productive work in that body to a virtual standstill.
Had Speaker Boehner permitted the Senate immigration bill to be voted on in its entirety on the House floor at that time, it very well might have passed. Enough Republicans may have chosen to side with the Democratic minority to allow passage. Despite the fact that the bill was imperfect, the President would have signed it and made executive action on the matter unnecessary. Thus, a recalcitrance on the part of the House GOP (as well as the Senate GOP) to pass anything on the Administration’s stated agenda continues to this day.
Many items brought up by the President in his State of the Union speeches, as well as other policy speeches throughout his tenure in office, have met with approval by a vast majority of the American public, as has proven true in various opinion polls right up to the present. Failure by Congress to act on proposed jobs legislation the Administration put forth has resulted in an extremely slow recovery with mixed results in terms of who has benefitted most during the recovery. Those at the top of the economic pyramid have gained almost all of the fruits of the recovery, with tremendous increases in income, record stock prices and corporate profits. At the same time, middle class and poor people have seen wage stagnation and a lowered standard of living. Even attempts to increase the minimum wage to make it closer to a living wage have been denied by Congressional GOP members intent on representing the 1% rather than the bulk of the people living in their districts.
The immigration issue is an important one from many respects. Millions of people daily face the threat of deportation. Families with some members who are citizens by birth and others who are not face the constant threat of being broken up by these deportations (which, contrary to Republican talking points, have reached record levels under the Obama Administration). People who have lived, worked and paid taxes in this country for years face this insecurity on a daily basis. Minors have been brought to the border seeking refuge from homelands which have levels of domestic violence which threaten their very lives. Congress chooses to go on recess rather than deal with these difficult issues.
Years of obstruction by the GOP in Congress have left many policy issues that affect millions of Americans unaddressed for far too long. They have benefitted at the polls, despite having record low approval ratings – ratings significantly lower than the President’s own. They will have a majority in both the House and the Senate come January. The time for them to stop their foot-dragging and start acting in a manner that shows they can govern so as to improve the lives of us all. They need to deal with budget issues, war and peace, and every other responsibility as is laid out for them in the Constitution which they claim to hold so dear.
The President should not NEED to take executive actions to deal with issues like immigration reform, raising the minimum wage, improving working conditions for federal workers which also need to be improved for all workers, repairing a tax code that contributes to ever increasing economic inequality, or providing health care to all. Poverty programs need to be fixed and strengthened, not dismantled. Education needs to be improved, not privatized for corporate profit. There is only so much that the President can do on his own to remedy these and other problems that face us.
Congress needs to stop whining about the fact that the President is Constitutionally allowed to take action when action is needed and they refuse to act. Now that they have a majority in the Senate as well as the House, they should be able to pass legislation that we need to not just keep government running, as they have done exceedingly imperfectly so far, but to actually bring the country forward. Help us reach our potential as a nation and as individuals, rather than continuing to hold us back with policies designed to benefit only the privileged few who continue to enable them to stay in office.
We need to solve the problems of inequality, poverty, racism, sexism and every other ill known to our society. The answer is not to pretend all is well and that suffering people are to blame for any misfortune or injustice they may face. We must remove barriers that prevent many of us from achieving our full potential, while enabling others to reach heights of wealth and power over others which they have neither earned nor deserve. The current system bolsters certain classes, races, genders, and other features among us at the expense of others for no logical reason. It survives by pitting us against each other for irrelevant differences rather than rather than uniting us in our commonalities.
To move forward, we need bold action to change the system that is failing the vast majority of us. We need to be treated as equals as human beings, not just bank balances or test scores. The leadership in Congress that we will face next year has shown no inclination to do anything other than drag our society down in a frenzy of unfettered vulture capitalism that leaves the vast bulk of the American people living in virtual wage slavery unable to rise above the level of mere subsistence and little if any voice in our own governance. We need democracy and much more equality and individual sovereignty in our day-to-day lives than the likes of Boehner, McConnell or the Koch brothers seem willing to allow us. Don’t let them keep denying us our due.