August 16, 2022

COLUMN: Easy to just say no

Frustrated by the constant gridlock in Congress, President Biden is taking action on his own. Since Republicans won’t cooperate with Democrats in Congress, the president is using his executive powers to get something done.

Biden has signed orders relating to abortion rights, gun safety, climate change and a “Safer America” crime plan.

Responding to America’s mayors pleading for help with rising crime, the president is authorizing $37 billion for police departments through his crime intervention plan. It will allow cities to train officers, hire more police and provide more funding to fight the crisis in fentanyl deaths.

The challenge is to address rising crime, absent any legislation from Congress.

President Biden and most Democrats never called for defunding the police. Only a few on the far left chanted “defund the police” out of anger over George Floyd’s murder, but the right-wing media and Biden’s opponents have unfairly accused him of it ever since - knowing full well it wasn’t true.

In regard to abortion rights, the president has intervened where he can to help women access reproductive health care. He’s also taken actions related to gun safety, and he’s declared a national climate emergency with more funding to combat global warming. Additionally, Biden is strongly encouraging Congress to lower prescription drug prices.

All are major national problems needing presidential attention because Congress won’t act.

Democrats in the House have been busy passing legislation to codify same-sex marriage and interracial marriage, and to make birth control freely available. These actions are in response to Justice Clarence Thomas’ suggestion that the reversal of constitutional privacy rights to abortion in Dobbs (Roe v. Wade) might apply to other Supreme Court decisions, as well.

There is apparently a glimmer of hope that at least 10 Senate Republicans might join Democrats in overcoming the filibuster to achieve the 60 votes needed for these pieces of legislation.

For the first time since Biden was elected and Democrats gained majorities in the House and Senate, Republicans seem more willing to deal with major problems confronting the American people. Except for the bi-partisan infrastructure bill, Republicans have shown little interest in cooperating until now.

It’s been too easy to just say no to everything.

Democrats keep trudging along, trying to pass bills, beating their heads against a wall of partisan resistance. Meanwhile, Republicans appear to have no agenda, and no plans or solutions to address the nation’s problems. When asked several months ago about their agenda should Republicans regain the majority in Congress, Leader Mitch McConnell replied, “Well, put us in power first; then we’ll tell you what we’ll do.”

Last week, however, eight House Republicans voted with Democrats on a bill to protect from another Supreme Court reversal the right to contraception access. It’s crazy this private and personal medical decision is being discussed by politicians, but even crazier is the fact that 194 House Republicans voted against defending access to birth control.

Unbelievable, actually.

In the Senate, where they need at least 10 Republicans to vote with the 50 Democrats to codify same-sex marriage nation-wide, four are a definite yes so far; eight are a definite no; and 16 are thinking about it (Including Sen. Joni Ernst). Twenty-two haven’t yet said anything about it (including Sen. Chuck Grassley).

Another significant activity in the Senate is a bipartisan effort to shore up the rules governing the Electoral College. Following the attempt by Trump and his cronies in Congress to have Joe Biden’s electoral votes decertified, a bipartisan group wants to make sure it won’t ever be attempted again.

Specifically, the bill would make clear that each state can send only one slate of electors to Congress to certify. It will also clarify who can officially document the states’ electors.

The bill also lays out a quick pathway to the Supreme Court to contest disputes over electors, and if there are members of Congress who choose to object to a state’s electors, it will now take one fifth of the members to object – 20 Senators and 87 Representatives, instead of one Senator and one Representative, as it was on Jan. 6.

Even more bipartisanship is essential to get things done right away. If the House flips parties at mid-term, history shows the number of laws passed will be cut in half.