Going Nuclear in the Senate

Nearly everyone in America believes in majority rule, but that comes in different forms. Majority rule doesn’t always mean a simple majority—anything above 50%—but can also be set up as a type of super-majority. That’s why the Founders said that amendments to the Constitution would require 3/4 of the states voting in favor, not just one more than half. They also said that presidential vetoes could be overridden by a 2/3 vote in each chamber of Congress. Similarly, no president can be removed from office by a slight majority of senators; that action also calls for a 2/3 vote in favor of removal. Can you imagine how many presidents might have been impeached and removed if it took only 1/2 plus one to achieve the objective?

Some decisions should take longer to debate, immune from any one party that has only a simple majority running roughshod over the minority. Last week this came to a head in the Senate, and Majority Leader Harry Reid chose to push Senate rules off the cliff [pardon any mixed metaphors]. For the entire history of the Senate, debate has been protected, and minority views have always had a full hearing before a vote. With 100 senators present, it takes 60 of them to vote to close off debate and/or end a filibuster. Well, at least that was the rule until Reid’s ploy. Now, all executive and judicial appointments can be affirmed with only 51 votes. Who needs the old rule?

Reid, however, in former years when he was in the minority, complained loudly when Republicans, stymied by Democrats’ resistance to President Bush’s nominees, talked about changing the rules themselves. At the time, Reid was adamantly opposed to any change and referred to it as the “nuclear option.” At the time, he was Mr. Filibuster, championing the rights of the minority:

Like Your Filibuster

Just as telling, then-Senator Obama also spoke up on the floor of that body, arguing against any change because it would hamper democratic debate and just cause more division. Well, that was then. Now he applauds Reid’s action and all those Democrats who went along with it. Neither of them refer to it as the nuclear option anymore, but that doesn’t change its nature:

Reid's Gone Nuclear

Don’t be so upset, we’re told. This rule change only applies to those executive and judicial nominations [Supreme Court excluded]. But anyone even half alive and paying any attention at all to how this White House and its allies in Congress operate have legitimate reasons for deep concern:

Majority Rule

Today, executive and judicial nominations; tomorrow, all legislation. It doesn’t take a special prophetic gift to see this coming.

Obamacare: A Call for Action

Obamacare LogoIt’s time to take stock of where we stand with Obamacare. It’s also time for both Democrats and Republicans to consider the steps they need to take in this present crisis. And crisis is not too strong a term to use for this disaster. Millions are losing their healthcare plans and have nowhere good to go to replace them. That’s just the individual plans. Next year, this law will begin to affect employer plans, which will multiply the anguish nearly twentyfold.

What do we know for sure right now? First, as almost everyone on any place on the political spectrum admits, the promise that we could keep our healthcare plans if we liked them was either a gross misunderstanding of what was going to transpire or an outright lie. I opt for the latter. When we have President Obama in a video telling congressional leaders three years ago that 8 or 9 million individual plans will probably have to be scrapped, what else can the promise be but a blatant lie?

Second, Democrats are in panic mode. It’s as if they once were blind but now they see. But if they were blind, it was a willful blindness. Remember the classic statement from Nancy Pelosi—Speaker of the House at the time—informing us that we have to pass this law in order to find out what’s in it? In what universe does a congressman vote for a law first, then figure out what’s in it? Only in Nancy Pelosi’s alternate universe. And all those promises were no more than fantasy.

DC World

Democrats, my first admonition is to you: you put yourselves in this fix by your willingness to line up unquestioningly behind your leader, giving him your trust without taking responsibility for your own vote. You are fully to blame for what you are now experiencing. The only reason, it seems, that you now are frantically running here and there to find a fix is your fear of losing your seat of power. Well, frankly, you deserve to lose. No one who has done what you did should ever be entrusted again with the authority to pass laws for the rest of us.

What should you now do? Come to the realization that this entire thing called Obamacare needs to be scrapped. Your fearless leader came out yesterday and made a pronouncement from on high that he would deign to allow people to keep their plans for one more year. If you go along with this, you are making it pretty clear that your only priority is to put this off long enough to win reelection. If that’s all that matters to you, I pray you will lose, and lose big time.

Your obligation now is to make this right. Sign on to Republican efforts to overturn this destructive law. Laws, by the way, can be overturned, in case you didn’t know it. Don’t listen to Pelosi and Harry Reid say “settled” law is sacred. Slavery was once settled law. It’s time for you to set the captives free again.

Now, for you Republicans. First, congratulations that you have a solid record in opposition to Obamacare. Not one of you voted for it to become law when it sneaked through three years ago. But here is your real test. Will you now avoid the temptation to “fix” something that cannot be fixed? Will you put an ineffective bandaid on this cancer or will you root it out completely? Only the second option will work.

Another important point you Republicans need to make is that no president, regardless of political party, has the authority to simply declare a change in a law. Only totalitarian dictators can do that. We live in a constitutional republic where the rule of law must prevail. Make a strong case before the public that Obama has stepped so far out of bounds with his latest pronouncement that he has taken on the air of a dictator. Convince the citizens that this must be stopped at all costs. The very future of our form of government is at stake.

Prayer for NationFinally, for those of you who claim the name of Christ, now is the time to pray. That’s not just some pious platitude. I’m beginning to hope that the reason we are seeing this Obamacare monster blow up/disintegrate before our eyes may be the result of the fervent prayers of many. Those pleas to the God of heaven must continue, coupled with humility and a sense of our own culpability for ever permitting this nation to fall to this low ebb spiritually and morally. For some, the following Scripture may have become a cliché, but it’s worth repeating:

If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Lord, as a people, we lack humility. Wicked ways permeate our society. Yet Your promises of forgiveness and healing remain. Please forgive us and start the healing we so urgently need.

Making Life Difficult: It’s Disgusting

“It’s disgusting.” Who said that? A National Parks ranger when asked to comment on the directives the National Park Service has received from the Obama administration with respect to shutting down national monuments and parks and closing off access to the public. Here’s his full quote:

It’s a cheap way to deal with the situation. We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.

I commented last week on the shutdown of the WWII Memorial, a move so blatantly political that it astounds even the most cynical amongst us. That memorial is an open-air monument to those who served in WWII. There’s really nothing to “close.” People walk through it if they are on the National Mall. The only explanation is the one provided by that Park Ranger, who, I hope, has not lost his job for speaking the truth.

Mt. RushmoreBut the outrage at the WWII Memorial was only just the beginning. Mt. Rushmore is the chief tourist attraction in South Dakota. Not only are the trails closed, but cones were placed along the highway viewing areas, keeping tourists from pulling over and taking pictures of the mountain.  The Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism stated, “They won’t even let you pull off on the side of the road. I just don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish.”

I can tell you, Mr. Secretary. They want the annoyance to be so great that the public will blame those the Obama administration wants them to blame—Republicans in Congress. Of course, those are the same Republicans who have passed out of the House seven separate bills funding key agencies; those bills, however, are not even being allowed a vote in the Senate, and President Obama has vowed to veto them even if they should pass through Congress.

So who’s to blame?

Let’s don’t stop itemizing those “disgusting” actions. I have a few more.

Mt. VernonMt. Vernon, George Washington’s home, is a privately owned and operated historic site. The only connection to the federal government are some jointly owned parking lots. That, apparently, was enough to order rangers to close off those parking lots, keeping visitors from going to Mt. Vernon. Meanwhile, a lesser-known historic site, the Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McClean, Virginia, was closed, even though it receives no federal funding at all. To our federal government, there seems to be no distinction between public and private.

In my state of Florida, charter guides received a message from the National Park Service that they can’t take clients fishing in Florida Bay, which is more than 1,100 square miles from the tip of the Florida mainland to the Florida Keys. So that means even the ocean is off limits? Can anything be more absurd?

Well, they’re making an attempt at greater absurdity. In Nevada, people who have lived in their privately owned homes for nearly forty years have been turned out and not allowed access to them because they sit on federal land by Lake Mead. One couple, aged 80 and 77, have had to live in a family-owned ice cream parlor for days now, and won’t be allowed to return until the shutdown is over. I’m glad they had an ice cream parlor to go to, but that’s hardly a home, certainly not the one they’ve lived in since the 1970s. Funny how no other government shutdown—and there have been about 17 of those over the years—ever required that citizens lose access to their homes. This has happened only under the Obama administration.

REIDMaybe one of the senators from Nevada could help this couple. Let’s see, who represents that state in the Senate? Oh, yes, that would be Harry Reid, erstwhile Majority Leader. You know, the one who won’t allow a vote on funding. This is strange. We all know it’s Republicans who hate children and old people, always starving them and throwing them out on the streets. At least that’s the rhetoric we always hear.

I’m also a little tired of the moral equivalence game being played, where both sides are held equally to blame for this situation. It’s the president who says he won’t negotiate, not the Republicans. It’s the Democrat Senate that won’t fund separate bills, not the Republican House. This is the height of political manipulation aided amply by the Obama media.

The mainstream media will do all in its power to promote the Obama propaganda. Alternative voices must be raised to counter the propaganda. I will do my part, however small my audience. If we all do our part, perhaps enough people will hear the truth and confront the real culprits. I will do what I can; I will not remain silent in the face of such massive manipulation and dishonesty.

The Obama minions are doing all they can to make life difficult for Americans. I agree with the aforementioned park ranger: “It’s disgusting.”

Ted Cruz & His Detractors

Ted CruzThe lines are drawn, and they aren’t strictly Republican vs. Democrat, at least not when it comes to tactics. While most Republicans want to get rid of Obamacare, they disagree on how to do so. Texas Senator Ted Cruz has become the leader of the “defund Obamacare now” approach. He has been criticized for this because Republicans control only the House, and that this tactic will not succeed. Further, all it can do, the critics say, is lead to a government shutdown for which Republicans will be blamed.

I have been one of those critics, not because I disapprove of measures to get rid of Obamacare—it has to go—but because I want to be sure such measures don’t make things worse politically for Republicans. The problem is the uninformed, ignorant public that will follow the lead of the media and unscrupulous Democrats in casting aspersions on those seek to overturn this disastrous law.

House Republicans took the step of passing a continuing resolution to fund all government operations except Obamacare. That’s hardly a shutdown of the government. But will the public understand that? If the Senate refuses to go along with that bill—and it most assuredly will not due to Democrat control of that chamber—how can the Republicans be blamed for any so-called shutdown? Wouldn’t this simply be an impasse with both sides having a different idea on just exactly what should be funded?

By the way, it’s misleading to even use the term “shutdown.” The government will go on operating. All essential services will be offered, despite the dire threats emanating from the Capitol and the White House. The scenario being painted is somewhat phony.

I wish the general public would pay more attention to the tone of the two parties. Republicans are focusing on the real issues, whereby individuals and families are being removed from their current healthcare insurance or are being informed that premiums are rising astronomically due to the Obamacare requirements. One family’s story, told on Fox last evening, showed a spike in monthly premiums from about $330 to nearly $1000. Companies are either dropping coverage or reducing the hours of their employees to part-time. Forcing people into the ephemeral exchanges will also force them into higher healthcare costs than they have currently.

REIDYet what do we hear from Democrats like Harry Reid, Majority Leader in the Senate? He accuses Ted Cruz and others of being “anarchists.” Let’s define that term. An anarchist is someone who wants to throw off all government. Anarchists seek to get rid of all restraint on personal actions so they can do whatever they wish, even if to the detriment of all others. Is that really what Cruz and his allies are bent on doing? Or are they merely trying to reverse a devastating law that will help sink the entire economy?

As Obamacare goes, so goes the American economy, since it affects directly about 1/6 of that economy. But that’s only the direct effect. The indirect damage is incalculable.

Treading Water

Yet President Obama acts like this is some kind of civil war brought on by Republicans:

Civil War

He’s always ready to negotiate with foreign leaders over anything, but when it comes to working with Republicans, his attitude is rather different:

No Negotiating

While I haven’t been won over to the defund tactic, my heart certainly is sympathetic to the aims of that tactic. And I’m more disturbed by the potshots being taken at Cruz and others by erstwhile Republicans. When Cruz appeared on Fox News Sunday this past week, the host, Chris Wallace, let it be known that he received damaging background info on Cruz, not from Democrats, but from fellow Republicans. That’s outrageous. Even if you disagree with a tactic, you don’t try to destroy someone who is working to achieve the same goal you say you are also seeking.

Listening to Cruz, I don’t see a fanatical firebrand who doesn’t understand consequences. What I see is a leader who is hoping to ignite the troops in the general populace. He wants to alert them to the dangers and get them to inundate their representatives with their concerns, thereby forestalling the unfortunate future that awaits us under Obamacare. He’s principled. Unlike the supposed leaders of his party, he’s actually demonstrating leadership. While I’m still unsure as to whether this was the best tactic to achieve the overall goal, I do admire him for putting himself on the line on an issue that others are apparently too timid to tackle.

Immigration & Honest Deliberation

I’ve held back on writing about the immigration debate going on right now in Congress. There are a number of reasons why I’ve been reluctant to engage the topic until now, but it really comes down to the desire to hear as much as possible from both sides before saying anything publicly. Once a comment is made, it’s hard to pull it back; I strive to never have to regret what I write in these blogs.

The need for some kind of immigration reform is pretty much acknowledged on both ends of this polarizing debate. The fact that we have more than 11 million illegals living in the country has to be dealt with somehow. I understand the desire of so many to escape their situations where they came from, and that the US seems to be a beacon to them, holding the promise of something better. That’s why America has been an immigrant magnet throughout much of its history.

I kept hoping this debate would be illuminating; it’s turned out to be anything but that. Frankly, I’m distressed by the rhetoric on both sides. Those in favor of the current comprehensive bill before the Senate have accused those who oppose it of being anti-immigrant or even racist. That last charge is always the last resort of the demagogue. Well, for some, it’s the first resort; they wrongly presume it never gets old.

Those who line up against the proposed bill say it simply repeats the mistake of the 1986 act that promised real border security but never delivered. They then accuse the proponents on the Republican side of kowtowing to the Hispanic vote. Senators like Lindsey Graham have provided fodder for that accusation with his comments on how Republicans will become a permanent minority if they don’t support this bill. Political pandering is as old as politics itself, but statements such as those make this appear to be wholly political rather than for the good of the nation. Opponents also warn that there are other voters out there as well:

Voter Never Forgets

What I desire is a solution that ensures the border is not a sieve while simultaneously treating immigrants with compassion. Does compassion, though, mean those who crossed over illegally should have a promise of citizenship? Why do those who favor the bill hold out citizenship as the endgame? Why are illegal immigrants, in effect, being rewarded for breaking the law in the first place? I’m not saying we should deport them; what I’m saying is there should not be what has been termed “a path to citizenship” for those who showed no respect for the law. No one is owed citizenship. It’s not a natural right.

Let’s go back to what the Founders had to say about immigration. What we find is actually rather surprising. They said little about it, comparatively. For most of the first century of American government under the Constitution, there were no immigration laws. Why not? Because all the emphasis was on citizenship, which is where the Founders put their emphasis. Immigrants were welcome, but the road to becoming a citizen had rules. One had to follow those rules and show respect for the laws to be part of this society. And the nature of those immigrants was such that they sought to fit into the already-existing culture. Oh, and they didn’t get any government benefits: no free healthcare; no free education; no welfare of any kind. They were on their own to fail or succeed based on their personal character.

We have since introduced monetary incentives to cross the border illegally. A veritable treasure house awaits. We also now have the threat of international/Muslim terrorism, which can take advantage of a leaky border:

 One Reason

We’re told by those in favor of the current bill that it effectively secures the border. Opponents disagree; they say it is amnesty first, with a promise of border security eventually—that the bill is all rhetoric and no action—that we’ve been down this road before. From what I’ve been reading, I would have to say their point is well taken.

What’s wrong with securing our borders first? Why not have a “results-oriented” bill that documents a 90% effectiveness in sealing that border before dealing with the rest of the problem? Without a secure border, the problem continues and grows larger. Why try to do everything in one monstrous bill? Why not break this into stages?

What we are witnessing this week is Obamacare revisited. Remember when Nancy Pelosi said we had to pass Obamacare to find out what’s in it? This huge immigration reform bill, along with a supposed border security amendment, is almost the same size as Obamacare. Harry Reid is attempting to rush it through the Senate this week, not allowing senators to fully digest it first. Real debate over the particulars—which includes a lot of pork, apparently—is not allowed. Vote first, find out what you voted for afterwards.

Even if I could support this current bill, I could never support the way in which it is being rammed through. It’s unconscionable.

No bill becomes a law without the consent of both houses of Congress. Once the Senate circus is over, the House will have its chance to show the country that honest deliberation is not dead.

Political Disillusionment & the Christian Calling

I understand why people are turned off by politics. It seems to attract more than its fair share of charlatans and those who are in it primarily for their own personal gain. Anywhere power and authority exist, there will be those who take advantage of it. Sometimes, the allure manifests itself in grandiose misstatements of facts for purely political purposes. We had a rather obvious example last week on the Democrat side when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, commenting on the loss of seven Marines in an accident in his home state of Nevada, sought to somehow connect the tragedy to the now-infamous sequester. The implication was clear: Republicans were to blame. While he was careful not to phrase it too blatantly, everyone knew what he was doing:

It was a disgusting display, which, again, speaks to the disdain many feel toward politics. For some politicians, there are no boundaries:

No wonder there’s the perception that basic morality doesn’t apply in the political realm:

Then there are the problems on the other side of the aisle. Right now, they’re of a different stripe as Republicans try to find their way in a wilderness of their own making. I commented last week on the RNC report that tossed aside steadfastness in principle for a path of expediency, pandering to society’s cultural trends. The siren song of “change” has an allure of its own, particularly after a stunning loss:

What the party should be doing instead is reevaluating the prevailing wisdom of its mainstream consultant class. The counsel the party has been receiving may be its undoing:

Somehow, these wizards of political genius have never figured out that the media is the enemy, and a clear strategy for dealing with the media arm of the Democrat party [which consists of most of the media] is nonexistent. They try to play nice with the media, believing they will receive fair treatment—but they are always disappointed.

So on the one side we have dishonesty and political gain without any principle; on the other, foolishness and wavering principles. Yes, I understand why there is widespread disillusionment with politics, but Christians have to remain steadfast in their commitment to bringing Biblical principles into all areas of society, politics included. We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of standing aside; we are called to the fray, no matter how difficult.

We are reminded in the book of Galatians, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” We must be obedient to the call.

An Exercise in Bracketing

It’s the time of year for everyone to fill out their brackets for the NCAA basketball tournament. I used to follow this closely; now, hardly at all. I freely admit I don’t even know which are the best teams anymore. I even more freely admit that I don’t really care all that much. Now, I know in some circles that may sound heretical—I mean, I’m even from Indiana, the basketball center of gravity.

But I don’t begrudge people wasting devoting time to it, if they really think it has some eternal value, although for the life of me I’m not sure what that might be. Goodness, I’m beginning to sound like a crotchety old man. Let me redeem myself. In the spirit of the bracket frenzy, I offer some possibilities from the political arena. How about if we begin with the Reid Budget brackets?

Well, now, that was exciting. He seems to draw a blank every year. What next? Something in the international realm?

Surely there’s a lot of truth in that bracket. Very useful. Let’s come back to presidential politics. The primary season is “only” three years away; it’s never too early to consider the options.

Are we really so certain of the right side of this bracket? Chills running down the spine. Not the happy kind.

What about the overall picture for the nation?

Looks a little overwhelming, doesn’t it? Yet it does bring clarity to the current situation.

I hope this little exercise in bracketing has mollified anyone offended by my earlier comments. I trust I’ve redeemed myself.