Tuesday, September 16, 2014

First Priority...Protect the Gravy Train

Now that congress is back in session they find themselves facing the rather unpleasant task of actually having to govern.

There are two weighty issues on the agenda that require action before congress adjourns once more for the mid-terms: passing a continuing resolution to fund the government and passing a measure to fund the president’s plan to take the fight to ISIS. Both issues could impact the results of the upcoming mid-terms. If there is one thing this congress shuns more than “governing” it is the prospect of taking a war vote on the eve of an election.

The government will run out of money on September 30. A vote to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government running use to be a non-event. But last year House Republicans refused to support the funding measure unless a series of spending reductions were incorporated in the resolution. The ploy backfired. Blame for the resulting 16 day government shutdown landed squarely on the backs of the Republicans. The party’s poll numbers plunged and they have yet to fully recover. A government shutdown on the eve of the mid-terms is something nobody in congress wants to see. But a vote to keep the government running will anger the far right factions of the party. Republican lawmakers will face some hostile constituents when they return to their districts. Damned if they do…damned if they don’t.

Then there is the president’s plan to defeat ISIS. The White House has finally given up on the charade of calling the president’s plan a “counterterrorism strategy” and is now calling it what it is…a WAR against ISIS. The president’s plan calls in part for US air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria and a $500 million dollar appropriation to fund the arming and training of rebel groups in Syria that are fighting ISIS and the Assad regime.

The president’s strategy has received mixed reviews from both congress and the public. 62% of Americans support the president’s plan to take the fight to ISIS while 68% of Americans don’t think it will work. Neo-cons on the Hill don’t believe the president is doing enough while others fear that the weapons will end up in the hands of al Qaeda or other terrorist factions that threaten American interests. Most members would like to see the president find a way to act on his own and avoid going on the record altogether. An up or down “war vote” on the eve of an election could have serious consequences on one's long term employment prospects.

While our elected officials may be cowards they are not stupid. It appears that congress will put off until after the election a vote authorizing direct US military action in Syria. Whew!

That leaves that pesky vote on the $500 million to fund the Syrian rebels. Apparently House and Senate leadership intends to tie a measure to fund the Syrian rebels to the continuing resolution to fund the entire government. They believe that will give their members cover when they return home to their districts. The vote is no longer an up or down vote on going to war…it is a vote to keep the government running and government services flowing without interruption. See…easy!

The House is expected to take up the measure on Wednesday with the Senate to follow shortly thereafter.

Congress can be very creative when it comes to protecting their gravy train.

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