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J. KARL MILLER: Compromises in lame-duck Congress are hopeful sign

Wednesday, December 29, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 1:30 a.m. CST, Wednesday, December 29, 2010

As one who believes we are more effectively governed when the legislative and the executive branches are not controlled by one party, I am somewhat optimistic for the path to be traveled after Tuesday. And, if the debacle experienced in the past two years of overwhelming one-party rule is any harbinger, wisdom is on my side.

The 111th Congress convened in January 2009 with a Democratic Party majority of 75 seats in the House of Representatives (256 out of 435) and a 59-41 majority in the Senate (57 Democrats and 2 independents in their caucus). For much of the ensuing two years, this majority alternately ignored and disparaged the minority party, relegating Republicans to the "fall guys" for failed and slow legislative processes.

Naming the GOP as the "Party of No," the Democrats had the effrontery to compare the Republicans in the 111th Congress with President Truman's "Do Nothing" 80th Congress, conveniently forgetting that those Republicans held majority status in both houses. That a political party, regardless of affiliation, with a 70-plus majority in the House and a near-filibuster-proof majority in the Senate stoops to cast blame on the junior partner is priceless in its chutzpah.

Employing the blame game in conjunction with exercising political muscle is the essence of politics — what good is power if it cannot be wielded to one's advantage? But for the Democrats, from the president through the leadership of both houses in Congress, to equate bipartisanship with rubber-stamping of their programs without reading or debating the bills is not how the game is played. If that is the procedure envisioned by our founders, why the necessity for the legislature to vote?

In November the electorate responded in a vernacular impossible to misunderstand. Loudly and clearly, it rejected the majority party's ham-handed, big-spending, over-regulating, government-knows-best posture in favor of a Republican-controlled House and a weaker Democratic majority in the Senate. The beginnings of a grudging but active sense of cooperation came into being during the just-ended lame-duck session.

The Republican minority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, forced the administration's hand by threatening to halt all legislation until the funding of the government and the extension of the tax cuts were settled. The failure of the majority party to pass a budget or any of the 12 appropriations bills (by Oct. 1, as required by law) encouraged the majority leader, Sen. Harry Reid, to offer a 2,000-page, $1.2 trillion, pork- and earmark-laden omnibus bill to fund next year's government.

In a stroke of good fortune for those who actually pay taxes, that larded abomination was pronounced dead on arrival by Republicans as well as the Senate Democrats on tap for re-election in 2012. Obviously, some of our elected officials understood the voters' anger over the passage of unpopular legislation and the spending of funds we don't have.

The extension across the board of the Bush tax cuts was the set piece in the battle of economic realities. Despite a huge majority of economists decrying tax increases as an impending disaster during a major recession, the Pelosi Democrats clung to the "punish the rich" strategy, hoping to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires. Now, I have never been a mathematical whiz, but I don't recall $250,000 incomes equating to millions, let alone billions.

The ensuing stalemate forced the first serious bipartisan cooperation between the administration and Republicans as McConnell and President Barack Obama hammered out a compromise. In arriving at agreement, both bargained in good faith, the president accepting a two-year extension of the tax cuts and Republicans supporting a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits.

The rest is history — these two compromises were joined in this lame-duck session by other crossovers to include repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," ratification of the New START nuclear arms treaty and passage of the Food Safety Act. The DREAM Act, a citizenship path for children of illegal immigrants, did not pass Senate muster.

That a hurried and harried compromise between the president and the minority took bipartisanship a baby step forward means there is hope for the 112th Congress. Looking ahead, with a GOP majority in the House and a thin Democratic one in the Senate, the Pelosi-Reid "my way or the highway" attitude hits a roadblock from day one. There is evidence that the president and Congress will resume marching to the people's drum.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.

 


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Comments

Ellis Smith December 29, 2010 | 5:49 a.m.

We will learn the true disposition of the new Congress after the new Congress convenes. Until then, it's probably a more certain situation to bet on the ponies at the race track.

Sounds like something a Democrat might say, but I'm not a Democrat.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance December 29, 2010 | 9:36 a.m.

Nice try Colonel

The party of NO held up DADT and the First Responders bill until they got their tax cuts for the rich. How pathetic that your ilk has the nerve to act magnanimous about the lame duck session while trying to deny 9/11 first responders health care. Conservatives and republicans have been dipping into the 9/11 well to rile their base for years. This year they hold the bill hostage so their wealthy contributors can keep their tax cuts. Shame on you.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush December 29, 2010 | 12:36 p.m.

The irony is so thick! A GOP sympathizer "forgetting" about the health bill for first responders - many of whom lost their jobs and health insurance due to their heroic efforts.
Never fear - three mentions of tax cuts.
True priorities revealed.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire December 29, 2010 | 5:08 p.m.

I firmly believe the era of compromise will end next month. Somebody please prove otherwise.

(Report Comment)
david smith December 29, 2010 | 6:29 p.m.

Hey Tim and Gregg, the Republicans held up the first responders bill because a couple billion dollars of it were going to go straight into trial lawyers' pockets instead of going to the first responders. This was changed in the final bill that passed which saved taxpayers significant money. This is the typical democrat tactic of using taxpayer dollars to payoff their biggest donors as you also see with the several examples of taxpayer dollars going to unions who dole out significant money to the dems. I dont know where you troll to sponge the false information you spew, whether it be the union hall, the SOCO club, the sierra club meetings or in your classroom, but you should try to separate yourself from the typical democrat constiutent and educate yourselves. Merry CHRISTmas!!!!!!!!

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance December 30, 2010 | 8:45 a.m.

Nice try David.

The first responder bill was part of a larger bill, but it was separated from that legislation. Republicans still threatened that bill as a stand alone unless they got their tax cut for the rich. I think it is you that needs to get educated and stop regurgitating Faux News talking points.

(Report Comment)
Jim Clayton December 30, 2010 | 9:07 p.m.

You libs love using the phrase "tax cuts for the rich." As if the rich are like Disney's Uncle Scrooge sitting on a pile of money. Well the rich aren't all like the late Ted Kennedy who just had to grow up and some people said he never did that. The rich are people who own companies and hire people. When you go for a job you don't go to a poor person or a squeegee guy in the street, you go to a rich person. Just google "the rich" and you'll find that the rich are people who work six and seven days a week sometimes 15 hours a day and don't take vacations. Why should someone who works so hard be taxed so much? When Reagan lowered taxes on the rich you had one of the best economies and everyone did better including the poor because you had the greatest number of donations to charities then. When you raise taxes on the rich donations go down and expensive purchases like yachts, cars and houses go down that normally would feed the economy. David Smith has it right about the first responders bill being held up by republicans because of excess monies going to lawyers.

(Report Comment)
Don Milsop December 30, 2010 | 9:48 p.m.

A study released by the RAND Corporation in January, 2005 shows that victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — both individuals killed or seriously injured and individuals and businesses impacted by the strikes — have received at least $38.1 billion in compensation, with insurance companies and the federal government providing more than 90 percent of the payments.

New York businesses have received 62 percent of the total compensation, reflecting the broad-ranging economic impacts of the attack in and near the World Trade Center. Among individuals killed or seriously injured, emergency responders and their families have received more than civilians and their families who suffered similar economic losses. On average, first responders have received about $1.1 million more per person than civilians with similar economic loss.

The 9-11 terrorist attacks resulted in the deaths of 2,551 civilians and serious injury to another 215. The attacks also killed or seriously injured 460 emergency responders.

An additional GAO report from December 2002 shows charities raised 2.7 billion dollars, and average of an additional
$837,000 per person.

The stats speak for themselves. Why was more necessary?

(Report Comment)
John Bliss December 31, 2010 | 11:44 a.m.

Paul Allaire, I do believe that the Colonel has stated before, that if these newly elected members don't do the job
they will find themselves out of job too. Personally, if they keep on doing nothing, I say empty BOTH houses! As a GOP, I'm upset to see either party seating on their hind-quarters, maybe naming a post office! Pelosi is just upset because with a 5% approval rating, and she lost the Speakers position. Why these idiots out here in Ca vote for her, I have no idea. Colonel, and all,have a Happy and Safe New Years!

(Report Comment)
Bill Wolff January 2, 2011 | 10:50 a.m.

Karl,

How can we combat this "tax cuts for the rich" mantra when the bill passed only continued the Bush tax cuts for everyone for only two years, and taxes weren't "cut" for anyone? Furthermore, those crying about the rich not paying their fair share should look at facts. In 2008 the top 5% of earners (over $160,000) paid 60% of the taxes while the bottom 95% of wage earners (less than $160,000) paid 40% of the taxes. How about this: In 2008 the top 0.1% of earners paid 18.5% of the nation's federal individual income taxes. Without the "rich", the producers, the freeloaders (credit to Ayn Rand) could not exist. They should send a prayer every day for the survival and prosperity of the rich. Bill Wolff

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 2, 2011 | 12:48 p.m.

I understand that the federal portion of the taxes that you pay is enormous. But let's consider the social security/medicaid portion, the property tax portion, the excise tax portion, the sales tax portion, the alcohol and tobacco tax portion, the fuel tax portion, the taxes that you pay for your phone service, and so on. If you look at each of these you will find that they tend to be regressive and that many of them are probably paid more by the "freeloaders" than the wealthy by a landslide. Property tax in particular is passed to the person who rents and big businesses tend to get tax breaks, leaving the burden on homeowners, renters, and smaller businesses. I don't know what can be done regarding the amount of federal tax needed at this point because simply paying the interest on the discretionary wars we have been waging is probably half of it by this point. I'm sure, however, that given the state of the recession that sticking it to the poor is not the answer.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 2, 2011 | 12:51 p.m.

Oh, and what portion of the nations income did the top .01 % take in during 2008?

(Report Comment)

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