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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

IS THERE LIFE AFTER NOVEMBER?

The question of an after-life has puzzled philosophers for millennia. Those supporting the concept inevitably conjure up some sort of out of body entity which like a popular wrist watch “keeps on ticking after taking a licking”. One can only wonder if, “after” the November, 2010 congressional elections, the Congress, especilly the Democrats, will actually have a “life“, based on the usual indicators, like completing tasks, indulging in meaningful communication and accomplishing things. It may take a “Beer Summit” séance in January to determine if intelligent “after (Nov.) life” is actually lurking somewhere in the halls of Congress. Of course, it could be said that the Democrat majorities currently in Congress have already “sold their souls” to unions, environmental activists and whatever immigrant group feels the most victimized. That doesn’t help with an argument that there will indeed be “life after November”. And then there are liberals that argue that the Republican Party in Congress doesn’t have a soul, so if true, things aren’t looking too good for an other worldly spate of accomplishments.

Currently, polls are indicating that the Republicans will dramatically increase their membership in both the House and the Senate. Some are predicting actual majorities in one or both houses. While this is unlikely, significant gains in the House will make the passage of any legislation with even a slight aroma of liberal ideology more difficult. The Republicans need to increase their membership in the Senate by ten to gain a majority. Again, this is theoretically possible but Christmas doesn’t come in November and the current forecast is a gain of seven. This would however, relegate Maine’s two quasi- Republican Senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe back to their previous status of relative insignificance. The Democrats, one short of a filibuster proof 60 votes since the Kennedy dynasty in the Senate ended and Scott Brown sent Teddy’s lackluster, would be Democrat replacement into liberal rehab, has had the habit of courting these two for votes on contentious legislation like the recently passed Financial Reform bill. Those days will be over and these ladies will have to go back to concentrating on Maine’s important issues like lobster research and federal aid for snow removal.

So what signs of legislative life, if any, will be seen in the new Congress starting in January? Probably not much. The unfinished 2010 Democrat agenda included the climate bill also known as the “cap and trade bill”. This bill, a version of which has already been passed by the House, would limit the production of by-product gases, mostly carbon dioxide, and force emitters to buy permission slips to exhaust them into the atmosphere. A “market” would be created to “trade” these allowances. Who knows, clever Wall Street market gurus might even create a “futures market”. Of course that might sound a lot like those “evil” derivatives the Financial Reform Bill seeks to regulate. In any case, this bill has little chance of passing in the “lame duck” session of the current Congress and in the new one in January, has less chance than John Edwards being the guest speaker at a Planned Parenthood convention.

Another bit of unfinished business was an immigration reform bill. No such bill exists but if one did the Republicans would want border enforcement first. The Democrats want “comprehensive” reform. That’s code for amnesty and a path to citizenship for the twelve to fourteen million illegal Democrats currently residing inside the borders. If a bill is actually introduced it will be a “Mexican stand-off” of major proportions and in terms of actually passing something useful, probably do nothing to bring an otherwise comatose Congress back to life.

All this will occur in a political environment in which twenty percent of Americans believe the President is a Muslim. That’s ridiculous but twenty percent is a big number; Nancy Pelosi would love to have an approval rating that high. But it’s a distraction that saps the President’s credibility and puts him on the defensive, making it more difficult for him to do CPR on a dead Congress. Faced with a public relations problem of this magnitude he may want to give up Ramadan dinners, have a bipartisan panel examine his knees for rug burns, then fly to Texas and be seen in public eating pork ribs, knocking back tequila shots and petting large “unclean” dogs.

Then there’s the economy, the number one election issue for November. The problem has two major components: unemployment and deficits. Nobody in Congress has a real clue what to do. The choices are: additional stimulus (the Democrats), but that’s a deficit killer; tax cuts (the Republicans), but that works against the deficit also. Tax increases (the Democrats), especially on the “rich” who according to Obama means anyone with the temerity to make $250,000 or more a year, but that takes money out of the economy, a sort of negative stimulus. Voters are demanding deficit reduction but the only choice left is significant government spending cuts and even the most dedicated deficit hawks only want to cut someone else’s spending.

So the next two years of the Obama Administration aren’t looking too good for life in the Congress. An increased Republican presence in either house will make Democrat sponsored legislation difficult. A Republican majority in the House would run up against Democrat opposition in the Senate. A Republican majority in the Senate would face Democrat filibusters and Obama vetoes. Life in the Congress after November? More likely a lot of moaning and chain rattling producing nothing but legislative gridlock

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