Congressional leaders lay low

August 31st, 2011 by Ken

By Jan Teague,
President and CEO of the Washington Retail Association

Congress has been in recess most of August and will return to Washington D.C. next week. The idea for this time off is for Congressional elected officials to visit with constituents and to hear their thoughts about recent events and opinions on future Congressional issues. I had hoped to meet with Senator Patty Murray, but no opportunities existed. It would have been nice to meet with any of the Congressional representatives, but most had decided not to hold town hall meetings. Instead, they held small meetings with various groups or companies.

Senator Murray went to Vancouver and met with people about veterans’ issues, her bread and butter voter. Representative Herrera-Beutler held a number of small meetings in coffee shops and on Monday participated in a roundtable discussion with a handful of local health care providers about the rising costs of health care. Senator Cantwell went to the Port of Vancouver to talk about Farwest Steel, which is creating 128 new jobs from $48 million dollars in tax credits received from the Federal government. Senator Cantwell wants to protect the program, New Market Tax Credits, from Congressional cuts this year. FareStart Adult Culinary Academy in Seattle also received money from the program. It provides job training and placement for homeless men and women.

All of these meetings seemed to be about protecting the interests of those who get money from the Federal government. There was little reported on ideas for cutting government. The Columbian reported that town hall meetings are falling out of favor. No one wants to hold one because they have become opportunities for irate citizens to yell. It has become an era of confrontational politics and basically organized groups show up just to get on a political stage to yell out snippets of the group’s position.

Senator Murray released a statement to the media this week that talked about her job as the co-chair of the deficit-cutting “supercommittee.” She talks about the need for a good committee staff and a process where no one draws lines in the sand before they have an opportunity to sit down. The committee will be quickly looking at all of the ideas over the last few years and all of the studies that have been done. I wonder when they will talk to the public about what to do.

There is very little time to meet with the public and she didn’t show an interest in doing that over the August recess. I wonder if Senator Murray will focus on protecting veterans and working with the Washington State Labor Council, which has already asked her for a “listening session” about the importance of Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare.

Everyone wants to protect their pool of money. That is what I see. The reality of the national deficit is that 40 percent of federal spending is from borrowed money. The “supercommittee” needs to propose cuts of $1.2 trillion over 10 years by November 23. Congress has to pass them in a straight up or down vote by December 23. If that doesn’t happen, there will be automatic cuts across the board of $1.2 trillion. The timeline is so tight it seems like an impossible task to include the public.

That may be what happens and what was intended. Congressional elected leaders may want to lay low and blame the process for not working. If they can lay low for another few months, it will be election season again and the harsh party finger pointing can begin. Already the Republican-controlled House has introduced impossible legislation that they can vote yes on with the Democratic-controlled Senate gladly voting no. These are the votes that will become the platform issues for campaign season.

Posted in Business, Government, Informational, The Real News

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