Congress comes back into town this week. Over the past five weeks, House and Senate members alike have probably spent some time with their families and a lot of time in their district offices hoping they would not be ambushed at town hall meetings by angry members of the opposite party. It must be fun to be a member of Congress, except when you are faced with angry constituents. Then you wonder why you ever ran for office. It is a job that comes with great responsibility. It means passing laws and putting forth legislation that advances America and moves it further down the road.
Given this responsibility, I think Congress should not go home in late October/early November unless they pass some major legislation in several areas. This may require that the leadership keep Congress in session no matter how much campaigning needs to be done or how much lawmakers are itching to get home to raise money for the mid-term elections. I propose the following agenda for the remainder of this year:
Of the 12 appropriations bills, none have been passed and five have been passed by the Senate with no conference reports completed. (Conference reports are what comes from meetings between the House and Senate). Congress often runs out of time to submit these reports and, therefore, the two chambers combine many of their bills into a huge omnibus appropriations bill. So much pork and projects are stuck into that kind of bill that it becomes too heavy to carry and too long for anyone to read. We elect Congress to spend money carefully, but this is no way to do so. I say, stay in and get the individual bills passed without having to revert to an omnibus bill.
Pass health care
There will be meetings taking place on both sides of the aisle about what citizens want for health care when Congress returns this week. All of the advertisements, tea parties and union outreach don’t change the fact that people want to afford health insurance. Our small company, the Talk Radio News Service, has been trying to obtain insurance for two years. Finally, we found a company that said it would insure us, only to then double the rates shortly thereafter. Public option or not, people want to be able to purchase health care at a reasonable rate.
It is interesting to note that former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, a physician and former governor, said that the Democrats are unwilling to take on the trial lawyers right now in the health-care debate. That is too bad because everyone in the health-care industry, Democrat or Republican, agrees that there has to be some limits on lawsuits. Doctors can’t afford the malpractice insurance in certain specialties, and some of the awards are off the charts. Congress should not go home without addressing tort reform as part of health-care legislation.
With the possibility that the national unemployment rate will rise to 10 percent or higher in the near future, there needs to be a real program to get people back to work. Shovel-ready projects are well and good, but they do not grow our economy. There are many ways to make sure we get jobs for people: One way is to make money available for training in high-tech jobs. Another is to stop bending to the will of the large broadband companies and to begin to encourage local communities to develop their own broadband accessibility. Broadband means jobs and the ability to compete worldwide. Congress needs to pave and pay for the road to the information highway. There are other ways Congress can help create jobs aside from infrastructure projects and government employment, but it is going to take creativity and both parties working together to do it.
Get serious about going green
There is too much back and forth about cap and trade. It might be way too political to pass this year. However, some of the oil-rich countries are realizing that oil can’t go on forever, and they are buying up our brain resources, in the process taking ownership of patents for technology developed by American citizens. This will make us beholden to those same oil-rich countries for green technology. Congress needs to start finding and funding those promising technologies so they are owned by Americans.
Spending, health care, jobs and green energy are just four areas that need congressional attention. Let’s hope our representatives stop carping and impeding legislation in the name of scoring points at the polls and start working on getting it all done this week when they arrive back in town.