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Category Archives: Politics

Keep Calm, but Stay Alert!

This week, we saw our first real glimpse into the Trump Administration’s budgetary priorities and I think it’s critical to know and understand that this is the very first, preliminary step in what will undoubtedly be a very long process.

Depending on your personal priorities, it’s easy to understand how someone could be alarmed or elated by the news of this release; however, it’s important to monitor this process, understand it, and know where, when and how to insert yourself into the conversation.  And even though it might feel like there is no way to do that, there is – just keep calm, and stay alert!

The Trump Administration’s release of the blueprint was simply an overview – without much detail – on his “America First” budget.  The blueprint does suggest an intent to reduce the size of government by implementing major cuts, but more importantly, because it was simply a blueprint, the plan released this week is devoid of detail.  The plan only addresses discretionary spending (about 1/3 of the budget).  It did not address any mandatory or entitlement spending – a category that contains major programs like Medicare, Medicaid, student loans, and farm price supports. Nor did the proposal include anything on the revenue side of the books.

The budget blueprint proposed very significant cuts to numerous non-defense discretionary programs, with the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department and related international programs, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Labor facing the largest proposed reductions.

It is important to know that legislative branch of government is the only branch that can spend money – no matter what the president suggests in his budget submission.  As such – getting to know your congressional representatives and obtaining the facts on the budget as it makes its way through Congress will be critical.

Your elected officials need to hear from you, because the release of the president’s budget proposal is not the end, it’s only the beginning of this process.

Frankly, it is hard to believe that any staunch conservative is happy with this proposal.  Sure, they might be happy with an increase in defense and security spending, but it is derelict not to address the deficit, entitlement reform, or mandatory spending.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, cutting major resources from health and human services programs, foreign assistance, and health initiatives while only re-directing those resources to defense spending cannot possibly sit well with liberals in Congress.

For any of these initiatives to be implemented, a budget must be passed, and members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, the committee of jurisdiction over drafting the legislation that allocates specific sums for discretionary programs each year, must make their initial moves.  Please note that although Congress has this authority, and is unlikely to accept the president’s suggestions as submitted, historically, the president’s budget proposal can influence the spending levels Congress ultimately adopts.

But safeguards do exist –

  • First, do not underestimate your voice – know the part(s) of the budget you are interested in, develop clear talking points and start calling your representatives;
  • Democrats retain the ability to filibuster appropriations bills in the Senate, and in 2015, they were very successful at maintaining a unified position that they would not consider any appropriations measures on the floor of the Senate until there was an agreement to treat defense and non-defense discretionary spending similarly;
  • Caps on discretionary spending put in place by the Budget Control Act in 2011 would prevent the kind of increases to defense spending proposed by Trump unless the caps are relaxed or the funding is channeled through the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, which does not count against the BCA limits; and
  • Finally, Republicans in the House and Senate, especially members of the Appropriations Committees, are hardly united behind the President’s proposed budget plan and have already raised concerns about the plan.

 

 

 

 

America Deserves Better

I recently facilitated a Sunday School class at my church on the faith and politics.  During our two weeks together, the class wrestled with the question “How does our faith call us to engage in politics?”  Preparing for the class was very difficult for me as I struggled to balance my life and career on Capitol Hill with the core principles I have embraced along my faith journey.  At the end of the day, I concluded that it was not so much how our faith calls us to engage in politics, but rather how we engage one another at the place where our faith and politics intersect.

With that as a point of reference, I am terribly saddened that American politics may have hit an all-time low.  Yet, I remain ever hopeful that together, we can shift the dialogue during the final five weeks of the 2016 Election cycle.

In many respects, the tone of the election is an reflection of the electorate.  I am not trying to minimize the nature of concern of the American people, but we are so far off track and it seems as if no one cares. We can and must change the course of the conversation.

I want a Presidential candidate who is humble, visionary, empathetic, possesses leadership characteristics, and has a moral compass.  I want a natiounknownnal dialogue on gun violence, job creation, reducing the national debt, entitlement reform, international conflicts (and how they impact American national security), and racial tensions in America – among many other important topics.  We deserve nothing less.

I reject the argument that Americans are satisfied selecting a Presidential candidate without knowing where he completely stands on important issues of the day.  I refuse to believe that we – the American people – are satisfied with “non-answer” answers to critical issues. And I categorically reject the notion that we are satisfied with candidates who continually re-write history, lie about their answers, make up facts, refuse to be transparent, and inject flippant, erratic, and hateful speech in public presentations to win over the electorate.

Why is this acceptable?  I cannot answer that question, but I can try in my little part of the world to demand more.  I am owed that from those seeking elected office, and frankly, the stakes are too high. The next president of the United States will inherit a plethora of problems that must be addressed with a steady, educated, well versed, tempered and visionary voice.

Instead of talking about these issues, today’s morning news reported on the early morning twitter rant of a man who hopes to occupy the White House. Obviously Mrs. Clinton hit a nerve at the debate with her apparent trap of bringing up the Alicia Machado matter.  If Hillary Clinton is able to set and execute such an obvious distraction, what will happen on the world stage during a Trump presidency?  What will happen when Congress rejects a Trump proposal?  What will happen when we try to have a real debate on serious issues and something gets under Trump’s skin?

A three o’clock tirade about Alicia M three days after the debate is just the latest example of how the American people have allowed the most important election in our country to be degraded into a junk-yard dog, Jerry Springer type of reality television fight.  And I for one am tired of it.  It must stop.  No matter who you support, plan to support, or are thinking of supporting, I think we can all agree that this is not the type of political engagement that we should settle for.  It is too important.

If we do not change course quickly and demand more from these candidates, when the final episode of this series airs, the American people will be left with the reality they complacently sat by and allowed to unfold.

 

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2016 in Life, Politics

 

My Time on Capitol Hill

The dome of the US Capitol building. Français ...

The dome of the US Capitol building. Français : Image panoramique du dôme du Capitole des États-Unis d’Amérique| (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Ander Crenshaw, official portrait, 2009

English: Ander Crenshaw, official portrait, 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today a journey ends. Frankly a journey I never intended to take, but one that has filled my life with joy, my career with fulfillment, and my person with accomplishment. I have learned more than I ever thought possible. This journey has been one of the greatest loves of my life.

There have highs and lows. Legislative victories and defeats. Political battles fought and won, sometimes lost. Government shutdowns, landmark legislative initiatives, Supreme Court decisions – like President Bush’s victory and Gay Marriage. Inaugurations, State of the Unions, Visiting Heads of States, and the Presidential funerals of Presidents Reagan and Ford. The final fly-over of the Space Shuttle.

It has been an amazing ride indeed. I have seen the world – without enlisting in the Navy – met heads of state and helped direct public policy. I believe that the work we engaged in on the Hill touched the lives of people we do not know – hopefully always in a positive way. I have worked on the Hill during the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama Administrations.

When I started this career, the street in front of the Capitol was an open roadway – right in front of the steps leading into the building!  I will never forget the sights and tragic sounds of a terrorist attack on our country.

I witnessed the challenges to a Member and his staff of working in the minority and the heavy burden of governing while in the majority. And through it all, I have followed a dream – from my first day on the Hill as an Intern for then Congressman Bill McCollum in 1983 to the Chief of Staff for Congressman Ander Crenshaw today.

I have been blessed to work for two of the finest men who have ever walked the halls of the nation’s Capitol. I have made more friends than I can count. And most importantly, I am honored to say that I served alongside the most amazing and talented staff in Congress.

I recently parked on the Capitol Plaza and waited for the Congressman to exit the building after votes and looked up at the Capitol Dome against a clear blue early evening sky. It was a majestic site. From the very first time I walked in front of the Capitol and its impressive Dome, it has always represented the strength, diversity and resolve of a free people. While Congress has taken hits over the years, and more specifically over the last few weeks, that Dome remains a testament to our national motto, “E pluribus unum,” out of many, one.

Grasping that concept is hard for many who have lost the ability to engage in the art of dialogue, the discipline of discernment, and the statesmanship of compromise.  Watching this concept in action is even harder. It’s not always pretty, but when you think about all the peoples, races, religions, view points and ancestries that exist in the United States today, it’s hard to imagine that anything gets done.

Yet, at the end of the day, the system works – generally – as envisioned. Being a part of that process – even with its warts – has been remarkable and gratifying.

It is a bittersweet time for me as this fascinating, fast paced, challenging, and incredible journey comes to an end. I am excited for the next chapter of my life, but today, I am fondly reflecting on my life as a Congressional Staffer.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Life, Politics

 

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Visiting Kuala Lumpur

Visiting the City…

Or how to kill yourself your first day in KL after a twenty hour flight! I think our group should receive an award for making the most out of 7 hours of free time in Kuala Lumpur. After a fast turn around this morning, we set out on our adventure through the city, hitting all of the city’s key attractions, all while facing what felt like 100 degrees and higher humidity than I’ve ever felt before.

Any perceived notions I may have had about Kuala Lumpur were shattered today. This is a vibrant, modern city with a vast infrastructure and bustling neighborhoods. Kuala Lumpur has an estimated population of 1.6 million. The population’s diversity is amazing. Which is the key reasoning for the incredibly mix of ethnic and cultural influences you find here.

From the “just because I thought you might like to know” files, Malaysia’s constitution declares Islam the state religion while protecting freedom of religion. The government system is closely modeled on the Westminster parliamentary system and the legal system is based on English Common Law. The head of state is the King, but he is known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. He is an elected monarch chosen from the hereditary rulers of the nine Malay states every five years. The head of government is the Prime Minister. In 1957, the Federation of Malaya gained its independence from British rule. Kuala Lumpur remained the capital through the formation of Malaysia on September 16, 1963.

The geography of Kuala Lumpur is characterized by a huge valley known as Klang Valley. The valley is bordered by the Titiwangsa Mountains in the east, several minor ranges in the north and the south and the Strait of Malacca in the west. Kuala Lumpur has a tropical rainforest climate, which is warm and sunny and complete with regular rainfall. Temperatures tend to remain constant with maximums between 88 and 91 °F and minimums ranging between 72 and 74 °F. Apparently, the temperatures have never gotten higher than 103 degrees and have never fallen below and have never fallen below 58 degrees. My kind of weather!!

Since the 1990s, Kuala Lumpur has played host to many international sporting, political and cultural events including the 1998 Commonwealth Games and the Formula One Grand Prix. And this week they are hosting the third international “Women Deliver” conference with 5,000 delegates from all over the world, including me and my colleagues from the Congress. Kuala Lumpur is also home to one of the tallest twin buildings in the world, the Petronas Twin Towers, which have become an iconic symbol of Malaysia’s futuristic development.

Malaysia is a relatively open state-oriented and newly industrialized market economy. Since independence, Malaysia has had one of the best economic records in Asia, with GDP growing an average 6.5% for almost 50 years. The economy has traditionally been fueled by its natural resources, but is expanding in the sectors of science, tourism, commerce and medical tourism. In 2011 the GDP (PPP) was about $450 billion, the 3rd largest economy in ASEAN and 29th largest in the world. In 1991, former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir bin Mohamad outlined his ideal, called Vision 2020, in which Malaysia would become a self-sufficient industrialized nation by 2020. And several independent sources confirm that Malaysia not only has all of the right ingredients to become a developed nation, but they are also well on their way to meeting the Vision 2020 goals outlined by the government. After touring around yesterday, I cannot believe that they will not do so!

Exploring the city was wonderful, and we decided to do so using the Hop Off Hop On bus, which costs RYM 38 or about $13.00, for a two and a half hour drive around the city with 28 different stops. We decided as a group to hit some of the highlights and began our journey around 10:45 with our first stop in Kuala Lumpur (KL as the locals call it) at Petaling Street, KL’s very own Chinatown! As you might imagine, Petaling Street was a hive of sound and activities. The street seemed to be a bargain hunter’s paradise, with stall after stall of what started to seem like the same stuff….but you know what I mean! I did see Chinese herbs, food specialities, and tons of imitation goods. I understand that at night, Petaling Street transforms into a lively and vibrant night market.

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We decided to walk to two other sites, the Sri Mahamariaman Temple and Central Market. The Sri Mahamariamman Temple is the oldest and richest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur. Founded in 1873, it is located at edge of Chinatown. In 1968, a new structure was built, featuring the ornate ‘Raja Gopuram’ tower. From the temple’s inception, it provided an important place of worship for early Indian immigrants and is now an important cultural and national heritage. The temple catches your eye on an otherwise crowded and busy street. It is the most elaborate Hindu temple in the country and its gate tower is adorned with ornate sculptures of Hindu deities. The floors and walls inside are marbled with Italian and Spanish tiles. Outside and all around the temple, we found multiple street stalls with hand crafted flower tributes for believers to purchase and place in the temple.

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After the temple, we continued our journey and found our next destination – The Central Market. Its an old building – built in 1928 – but it had air-conditioning, a by pleasant surprise on this warm and muggy day!

The building has won awards for its architectural design and was founded in 1888 and originally used as a wet market. It has since been classified as a Heritage Site by the Malaysian Heritage Society and it is now a landmark for Malaysian culture and heritage. Today, Central Market is arranged in a stall concept, representing the traditional market that has existed in Kuala Lumpur since the 1800s.

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After Central Market, it was back on the bus! Our next stop, Little India! Ok, this was just a drive by, but this block was a huge project unveiled by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Malaysia’s PM. Little India is an area that caters to KL’s Indian community and includes shops and stores that carry Indian specialities and goods. There’s a 35-foot fountain at the center of this part of town, an information kiosk at Jalan Thamby Abdullah and a three-story Indian bazaar at the end of Jalan Tun Sambanthan. The brick-paved Jalan Tun Sambanthan is lined with white street lamps and creamy-yellow arches with purple embellishments to match the newly painted purple buildings along the street.

Our next stop was also a drive-by…we saw the Istana Negara or National Palace. This was the official residence of His Majesty, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) of Malaysia. It stands on a 28 acre site, located on the slope of a hill of Bukit Bintang overlooking the Klang River, along Jalan Syed Putra. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the head of state of Malaysia. The office was established in 1957 when the Federation of Malaya gained independence. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is one of the few elected monarchs in the world.

The 14th and current Yang di-Pertuan Agong is Sultan Abdul Halim of Kedah. His reign began on December 13, 2011 after his election by the Conference of Rulers. He previously served as the fifth Yang di-Pertuan Agong from 1970 to 1975. He is the first ruler to hold the position twice, as well as the oldest elected to the office at 83 years old. The installation of the new Yang di-Pertuan Agong was held on 11 April 2012, at the new Istana Negara at Jalan Duta. This building is now used a museum.

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We also visited the National Museum. It is a palatial structure built in the style of Minangkabau architecture. Located atop a hill on Jalan Travers, it provides an introduction to the history and culture of Malaysia.

Our next stop, Lake Gardens, is Kuala Lumpur’s first large-scale recreational park. It is located in the heart of the city and established in 1888. Lake Gardens served as place of refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city during colonial times. It contains large sculpted and manicured gardens and a host of attractions. Among the tourist attractions located here are the National Monument, deer park, Hibiscus garden, Orchid Garden, Kuala Lumpur Bird Park and Kuala Lumpur Butterfly Park. Lake Gardens, we learned, is also the where the Malaysian House of Parliament is located. So, hopping off at this location was a must! The Malaysian Parliament is divided into three components: Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, Senate and House of Representatives.

We spent some time visiting the Orchid Garden, which has over 800 species of exotic Malaysian orchids. The orchid is truly exotic and special flower and i have never seen so many of them in one place at one time. Despite how beautiful this park was, everyone told us a must see was the bird park and we needed to visit that before our at ran out! Across the street from the Orchid Garden is the KL Bird Park, a fascinating and slightly uncomfortable park that puts people inside a giant aviary.

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I must admit, I felt like I was entering that scene in Jurassic Park! The KL Bird Park is a 20.9-acre public aviary in the city. It is a popular tourist attraction in the country, receiving an annual average of 200,000 visitors. The Bird Park houses more than 3000 birds representing more than 200 species in an enclosed aviary. 90% are local birds and 10% were imported from overseas. Feeding time at the Eagle enclosure was frightening when the other birds got all excited about the eagles getting lunch.

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One the way back to our hotel, we passed the Masjid Negara, the national mosque of Malaysia. It has a capacity of 15,000 people. Originally built in 1965, it is a bold and modern approach in reinforced concrete, symbolic of the aspirations of the newly-independent Malaysia.

Our last stop for the day was the Petronas Twin Towers, the world’s tallest twin buildings. A mix of offices and commercial, the towers are huge and a part of the KL skyline. As we cut through the building to get to our hotel, we saw the famous mall inside the towers.

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After a quick shower, we all ran to our dinner and briefing to discuss the week’s goals. At 9:00 pm, an extremely long, exhausting, but productive day finally came to an end!

 
 

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They deserve a vote, and we deserve leadership

President Obama’s State of the Union address will undoubtedly go down in history as the “they deserve a vote” speech.  And the president was on point when it came to the issue of gun violence and used his very best campaign-mode style to rile up those in the audience.  No matter where you may stand in the issue, I thought the president was, well, “presidential” when it came to this issue.

He had a teacher who survived three gunshot wounds and protected her students, a congresswoman who lived through an assassination attempt, and the grieving parents of slain teenagers, including one who only three weeks earlier performed in the Presidential Inaugural Parade.  He laid out his vision and then simply asked Congress to hold the vote.  I think that is exactly what Congress must do on this issue and allow Republicans and Democrats to discuss this issue in the open and vote up or down on each issue.  That is the way the system should work.

While I give the president high marks on the way he orchestrated and took control of the gun violence debate, I was equally disappointed by his lack of suggestions, ideas, proposals or leadership on the economic crisis currently facing the nation.

Unfortunately, Democrats and Republicans are nowhere near a plan to avert $1.2 trillion in spending cuts about two weeks before they are set to begin.  Instead of taking the opportunity to lead (like on the gun issue or the immigration issue), the president’s speech had no connection to the real economic problems we face.  He seemed to brush aside the growing national and international concerns over the United States’ growing and crippling debt. During his remarks, the president stated that “most Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share. And that’s the approach I offer tonight.” 

Yet, despite these comments, he failed to offer any “balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue…”  Over the last two years, Congress has cut spending and on January 1, 2013, Congress voted to tax the wealthy.  The president only called for increased taxation and increased federal spending.  

Yes, we need a balanced approach to our current deficit issues.  But that means we need to get serious about spending reductions. The president noted that “we can’t just cut our way to prosperity;” and I would add nor should we expect to tax our way to prosperity.

With a potential government shut down and sequestration looming, the president proposed initiatives that appear to be new expansions of government and new spending, including 1) a climate change initiative, something which a Democratic House and Democratic Senate refused to pass in the first term; 2) a new energy fund; 3) universal pre-school; 4) more college loans; 5) redesigned high schools; and 6) manufacturing hubs. So how does one pay for these initiatives, especially when the president stated they would not add a penny to the deficit?  Devoid of spending reductions, the only rational conclusion one could draw is that the president needs more revenues to pay for the programs he would like to implement. 

The president stated that the defining duty of the new Congress and new administration is to “reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.” He continued “that must be the North Star that guides our efforts.”  Job creation is critical and all policy makers should have their sites set on such a vision. 

I submit that United States of America cannot follow a North Star or have a rising or thriving middle class when the economic foundation of our country remains in shambles.  How can small businesses plan or grow when there is uncertainty in the tax code?  How can Americans feel economic security when the government is facing sequestrations, furloughs, potential shut downs, mountains of debt, additional tax increases and a demoralized working class?

The president’s answer was a proposal to raise the minimum wage – an idea his onetime economic adviser Larry Summers rightly labeled as a job killer.  I missed any tangible suggestions on how to create jobs in the US.  So I’d like to offer just one for consideration – why not increase energy exploration and production in the US?

An abundance of untapped energy lies beneath America’s ground and off our coasts. Studies have indicated that allowing access to domestic resources and imports of Canadian oil would generate more than 1 million jobs by 2018 and more than 1.4 million jobs by 2030.  So instead of focusing on climate change initiatives, why not push Congress to require the government to provide a timely permitting process, as well as environmental and judicial review?  Why not stop the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory over reaching by placing a freeze on new environmental regulations?  Why not talk about an energy-related project that will actually create jobs – the approval of the Keystone pipeline?

Finally, the president stated that “every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?” 

These are the right questions to ask, but I see them as sequential and before we can properly equip our people or make sure that hard work leads to a decent living, we need to pass a balanced budget, provide certainty in our tax code through real tax reform, develop and implement a real debt reduction plan, and create an environment in America that offers small businesses, investors and the private sector a reason to bring more jobs to our shores.

 

 

 
 
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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Politics

 

How can this continue to happen in America?

My heart is broken today. Just last Thanksgiving, my family visited Newtown for their annual Thanksgiving Day Run/Walk. The town was quaint and peaceful, and the people I encountered seemed close knit. Today, I was shocked to learn that twenty innocent, beautiful little children were brutally and savagely executed in that very same place. I am truly overwhelmed with grief and sadness.

In recent years, we have unfortunately heard this story far too often. Today, twenty young children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown. Earlier this week, a gunman open fire in a shopping mall in Oregon. Before that, tragedy struck a temple in Wisconsin and a movie theater in Aurora. The Virginia Tech shootings brought to light the vulnerability of our college students. And every day, we hear of violence in the streets of our big cities and feel isolated from these tragedies, but today, it became clear that this can happen in any town, mall, or theatre in any city in the country.

I know I am left asking myself how this can continue to happen in America?

A couple of years ago, Jared Loughner walked into the Sportsman’s Warehouse in Tucson, Arizona, to purchase a Glock 19. When he purchased that gun, he had every right to walk out the legal owner of the semi-automatic handgun. But then he used that weapon to kill six innocent people and wound more than a dozen during an attempted assassination of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. That’s when we all questioned that sale.

Current U.S. gun laws provided no reason to prohibit the transaction. But it seems clear to me that its time to step up and do something to prevent these senseless tragedies in the future. There must be a way to find some answer to the problem without violating the Constitution’s Second Amendment.  Twenty seven words in the Constitution, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed,” have been debated since those words were put down as the Second Amendment to the Constitution. While I agree that these words mean Americans have the right to bear arms, I think Congress had it right in 1994 when they enacted a temporary ban on the sale of certain assault weapons.

That ban, among other things, prohibited the sale of high capacity ammunition clips that carried more than 10 rounds. When the ban came up for expiration in 2004, Congress did not renew it. As a result, Loughner was able to purchase magazines that carried over 30 bullets per clip, allowing him to empty a full clip into a crowd in approximately 15 seconds.

Does the Second Amendment really mean that all Americans have the right to own assault weapons or semi-automatic handguns?

Perhaps we need to seek another ban on certain weapons, a ban on high capacity clips, or background checks that identify and prohibit convicted felons and anyone adjudicated as mentally defective, or anyone who has ever been committed to any mental institution, from purchasing guns.

Either way, it’s important to remember that the right to own a weapon in America is not absolute and today, the only absolute is that this debate needs to re-opened.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Life, Politics

 

Hang on! Here we go again!

I’m sitting at my desk watching the floor and was surprised to see a stopgap spending bill (our first Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2012) go down in flames.

The bill would have funded the US government for a few weeks until a larger bill could be drafted. This bill would have funded the government only until November 18, 2011 at an annualized rate of $1.043 trillion, consistent with the level set in the Budget Control Act (which just passed a few months ago and was signed into law by President Obama). This level represents a $1.5% across-the-board cut from FY11 funding.
Personally, this vote should have been one of the easiest votes to take this budget cycle. It is temporary, it funds disaster relief, and it is a reduction in funding from the previous year. However, the legislation failed when Democrats pulled back their support in protest of cuts made to offset disaster aid in the package, and when Tea Party members complained about the overall level of funding in the bill.

The bill included $3.7 billion for disaster relief as part of the overall funding bill. Because Republicans and Democrats have publicly vowed to not add more deficit spending to these bills, House Republicans included $1.5 billion in cuts to a government loan program to help car companies build fuel-efficient vehicles to help pay for the relief funding.

Last week, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Norman Dicks, had backed the same bill but today, he reversed himself under pressure from his caucus, creating a more partisan battleground.

Another sacred cow (see my last post)! The measure failed by a vote of 195-230 and this is just to fund the government until November 18!

I know they will eventually pass something, but I have to believe that pushing the envelope to the last minute – particularly on bills that should pass – is the type of action that helps Congress maintain their 12% approval rating.  

At this rate, the ride to passing a full funding bill, and the implementation of the Super Committee’s recommendations on debt reduction, should be a rather bumpy and bruising one!  Hang on – its bound to get worse before it gets better.  

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Politics