As Congress comes back to Washington, D.C., this week, there is much to be done. First, is the job they have that's not completed – the budget.
Our fiscal year ends Sept. 30, and there is no budget in place. Most likely, they will do a continuing resolution that will either extend the deadline until the new Congress in January or will be pushed off to a "lame-duck" Congress when the elections are over in the first week in November. There will be more of a spirit of cooperation as retiring and defeated members have little to lose in the final weeks of their congressional service.
Within days of Congress returning is the anniversary of Sept. 11, with dire warnings about ISIS and its goals of causing mayhem in the societies of the Western world and scaring just about all of us. As Congress ramps up for the 2014 midterm elections, the problems of governing America in an increasingly scary world will not go away. ISIS is more troubling because it has lots of money, recruiting tactics that work with disgruntled radicalized Westerners and a ruthlessness toward fellow humans that seems impossible for most of us to comprehend.
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What Congress needs to do with ISIS is to hold closed-door hearings and find out why our intelligence has been so poor in finding out where, how ISIS operates and who is behind its decision making. Yes, we were able to find Osama bin Laden. But while we were busy finishing off the perpetrator of Sept. 11, ISIS was growing.
As frightening as ISIS is, there is another crises also brewing: Ebola. It's not terrorism, but a biological tsunami that must be attended to. There are ethical issues that will face Congress, such as who will get treatment, who pays the costs and the connection between instability in parts of Africa and the inability of health-care workers to get into some areas to do testing as well as basic health-care work that could help prevent the spread of the virus.
Like Syria and Iraq and Isis, Africa is an entire continent of challenges. There is terrorism in Nigeria and the kidnapped school girls that have never been found. There is terrorism in Kenya, which has brought a sharp decline in tourism and extremely high unemployment rates and complete instability in the world's newest country, and South Sudan, which has the possibility of a huge famine due to civil war. There are reports that there has been a combined purchase of a billion dollars of weapons from both sides and a renewal of conflict after the rainy season. The United Nations is discussing the need for peace and the possible famine but people are quiet about the civil conflict, the role of oil and who is selling the weapons. What is China's role? Is China a peacemaker, or does China sell weapons or both?
President Obama has been clear that the United States is not about to directly enter our military into the conflict in Ukraine. He has negotiated with the European Union for sanctions against Russia. Mr. Putin is very popular in Russia and does not seem bothered by the sanctions or threats from Europe or the United States. This has the potential of an escalation that no one wants to discuss. Congress and the president would like to forget this is going on, but it needs diplomacy and an honest discussion about what is taking place in that part of the world. Some people want to paint Russia with the aggressor brush, while some believe that Russia, led by Mr. Vladimir Putin, has tried to bring an end to the conflict. Show hearings are not the answer, so perhaps Congress should do real fact finding as well as send a high-level delegation to Russia to help tamp down the conflict.
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Congress has much to do this fall. There is not time for partisan bickering. They can do that when they take a recess to campaign for the November elections. This is the time to finish the budget and attend to the huge problems we are seeing in the world. All of our lives depend on it.
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