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Posts tagged ‘United States Congress’

Another lesson from south of the border

As virtually everyone knows by now, there are significant threats of a government shutdown in the US. The basic guts around it is that the US government will run out of funds for daily operations as no appropriations bill has been passed (as of yet). The reason there is no appropriations bill passed is because the GOP wants to defund the Affordable Care Act, and therefore makes defunding it one of the strings it has attached to get what it wants. And there is also the debt ceiling on the way.

Do I agree that the above is irresponsible, petty, partisan, reckless, and obstructionist? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. But guess what, it is perfectly legal. Article 1, Section 5 of the United States Constitution says (in part) the following:

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.

In other words, filibusters, refusing to fund the government, and so on, are all allowed by the rules the two Houses of the United.

Therefore, this means that another takeaway from the (likely) US Government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis is that the rules of operation should be amended to prevent the above obstructionism and hostage-taking from being allowed to occur.

Shut up because the views must be the same

A guest blogger at the Volokh Conspiracy is doing a series of posts about treaties and the United States’ Congress’ powers and the ability to enforce them.

Rather than offer my own views on that subject (which is way beyond my expertise, in part because IANAL), I’ll instead draw attention to a curious contradiction among many in the religious right wrong. In concerns the United States’ Constitution’s Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Clause 2), which reads as follows:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

The people in the religious right wrong use this section to argue that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, if ratified by the US Senate, will somehow threaten “parental rights” or homeschooling or other such stuff. (As every other country [except Somalia, which hasn’t signed] shows, such claims are nonsense, but showing why is beyond the scope of this post). In other words, they are required to believe that any international treaty overrules whatever laws are in force in the US, even if Congress legislating in that area would be ultra vires (beyond its powers).

The religious right wrong also believe that the US is founded as a Christian nation. This is in spite of the Treaty of Tripoli, which the US Senate unanimously ratified over two centuries ago. The relevant section is Article 12, which reads as follows (spelling and wording in original):

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

In other words, the religious right wrong believes that treaties overrule law when they provide rights to children, but not when they refute the Christian nation myth.

Those two positions are contradictory. One cannot rationally believe both. If they truly believe that the US was founded as a Christian nation and that the Treaty of Tripoli does not apply, then they can forever shut up about the UNCRC overruling any other law and threatening parental rights. If, by contrast, they believe that the UNCRC does overrule other laws, they then can shut the fuck up about the US being founded as a Christian nation.

US Congress arrested

This is really funny:

WASHINGTON—In a stunning development that has left every federal institution reeling, the U.S. government’s legislative branch was arrested this afternoon on 23.3 million separate charges of manslaughter, sources confirmed.

Citing numerous lethal actions over nearly two and a half centuries—including negligent health care policies, failure to fund reconstruction on dangerously dilapidated roads and bridges, and repeatedly putting American soldiers in harm’s way in every armed conflict dating back to the War of 1812—authorities handcuffed all 535 members of Congress today and escorted them from the Capitol building amidst a throng of onlookers.

And yes, it is The Onion.

But as an aside, there is a kernel of truth here. The US has some of the worst statistics (poverty, life–expectancy, quality of infrastructure, health insurance coverage, crime and incarceration, etc) of any developed country. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Fixing America’s broken political system

Former GOP congressman Mickey Edwards has an excellent column at The Atlantic about fixing the broken processes and partisan control of the United States’s political system. I’m finding myself in agreement with him on a number of issues. Eliminating partisan gerrymandering, open primaries, and reduced partisanship in committee assignments are all excellent ideas.

Blog for Choice 2011

Logo: Blog for Choice Day 2011Today is NARAL Pro–Choice America’s Blog for Choice Day. For the third consecutive year, I am participating.

This year’s topic is: “Given the anti–choice gains in the states and Congress, are you concerned about choice in 2011?”

The answer to that question is complex. Abortion, as it gets people riled and worked up,  serves as an excellent motivator for Republican voters, as well as a fundraising tool. Since politicians will eventually learn from losing, it is unlikely that anti–choicers in the US Congress will try to eliminate such an excellent political tool. Indeed, they had complete control of the federal government for six years and only passed the PBABA, which didn’t prevent a single abortion. In addition, any ban would also have to get through the Senate and past Obama’s veto pen. For these reasons, the chance of anti–choicers making a serious attempt to ban abortion is pretty unlikely. It’s far more likely that they’ll just throw table scraps at anti–choicers, try passing an analogue to the PBABA, and make a lot of noise about abortion to keep their supporters worked up. The GOP will gladly have people continue to believe that they intend to ban abortion, however.

On the state level it is different. I agree with Melissa McEwan that the real access issues will be at the state level. There anti–choice activists will try anything to eliminate any pretense of reproductive rights. They will attempt to add arbitrary exclusions that retain a nominal right to abortion, while throwing obstacles that add serious impediments to access. They might even go after contraception as well. And the faux minimalists on SCOTUS will likely uphold most of the restrictions. It would be a kind of incrementalism, slowly eating away at reproductive rights like rust or tin pest go after metal. The end result could well be a regime where abortion rights nominally exist but are completely gutted of meaning and impact.

So in short, there are reasons to be concerned at the state level, and far less so federally.

Teabagger takeover

Moderate Republican Dede Scozzafava has suspended her campaign in the special election to New York’s 23rd Congressional District, (h/t to AmericaBlog). Although I cannot predict who will win the election in this GOP-leaning district and what the winner will act like, rest assured that if some appeals to, and is pandering to, teabaggers, it is pretty likely that they will act like and have the same positions as a teabagger. I think this is bad news because when the teabaggers take over, compromise is crushed.

Extremists on both sides of the political spectrum are bad because it is difficult to get them to compromise. Compromise is good because it prevents the foolish excesses of both the left and right. I know, it’s frustrating to not always get what you want, but while ideologies create the ideas and initiatives, it is moderates who actually put them into practice, regardless of which side they are from. Extremists are unable to do that. Consider the case of California, where due to gerrymandering, incumbents on both sides have a 99% reelection rate. If elections are not competitive, there is no need for candidates to hold moderate positions and attract the votes of centrists, and hence nearly everyone in the California Legislature is an extremist. What does that bring? Budget crises because no one is willing to cooperate instead of compete.

Scozzafava would probably have been a reasonable conservative. She was pro-choice and supported marriage equality. She would have been a necessary “Let’s go slow” counterweight to left-wingers. But her withdrawal, that will not happen. Instead, the wingnuts and teabaggers will likely be energized and will try to take down the remaining GOP moderates.

And that is another step on a dangerous downward spiral.

Update: Look at all the wingnuts who supported Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party’s candidate: Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Concerned Women of America, James Dobson, Michele Bachman, the Eagle Forum; a who’s who of what’s wrong with the Republican Party. Yikes!

Doing this is bad

Cutting funding to family planning will not help the economy, but it will increase the abortion rate, pro-lifers, especially among the poor. (Three quarters of women cite financial factors as part of the reason they had an abortion.) It will just advance sexophobia and the misogynistic agenda hell-bent on punishing women for daring to have sex. Don’t be surprised if there increases in reports of “severe gastric ulcers” and higher sales of pennyroyal among the poor.

Like it or not, people will have sex. Telling people not to have sex will be about as effective at discouraging it as trying to lose weight by repealing the law of gravity.

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