Monday, December 6, 2010

Lame and Lamer

As the Democrats prepare to cave, as expected, and agree to an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the hope that anything positive will be accomplished in this lame duck session is waning.  There is still, however, an opportunity to accomplish something positive while drawing a stark contrast with the Party of No Except for Tax Cuts.

First, Congress has to pass an extension of unemployment benefits which are about to expire by Christmas for an estimated 1.6 million people.  It appears that Republicans are going to go along with the extension, but, remarkably, only after the Democrats "compromise" on extending tax cuts for the wealthy.  Senate Democrats also need to push for ratification of the START treaty, which past and present military and foreign policy advisers contend is critical for national security, but which also has been held hostage by Republicans insisting on first keeping their tax cut.

At minimum, the Democrats have to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and not succumb to the bigoted nonsense of John McCain and his anti-gay allies  As Greg Sargent urges, to do this Senate Democrats must schedule a vote and debate repeal.  Another no-brainer is the DREAM Act, a modest proposal which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented students through higher education or military service.  As a Times editorial put it, the Act is a "desperately needed affirmation that fixing immigration is not all about border fear and lockdowns."

Finally, Republican obstruction and Democratic apathy have resulted in an alarming number of judicial vacancies throughout the federal courts.  The Judiciary Committee has approved 34 nominees, including 26 unanimously, but confirmation has completely stalled in the full Senate  As Alliance For Justice President Nan Aron stated, "the Senate needs to put aside partisan rancor, perform the task the Constitution has assigned to it, and confirm these qualified, diverse judges to the federal bench."

While Republicans try to run out the clock now that they are about to achieve their overarching goal of ensuring a tax cut for the wealthiest 2%, it is hard to keep in mind that Democrats still control both houses of Congress as well as the Presidency.  This Republican obsession with tax cuts over everything else has given the Democrats yet another opportunity to show that they are about something different.  It would be principled and politically advantageous to make a final strong push for important legislative action that will remind people what the Democrats stand for and, at the same time, actually strenghten national security, benefit the justice system, expand civil rights, and undermine discrimination.  It remains to be seen if they will even try.  [Related posts: So Mavericky, What's With Arizona, Vacant and Lame, Let's Make a Deal]


lonbud said...

Dude. Wake up. You're dreaming.

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