By Laurent F. Gilbert Sr.
mayor of lewiston
The period between the November Elections and the new Congress being sworn in is commonly known as the “Lame Duck Session.” My assessment of it thus far causes me to refer to it as the “Dead Duck Session:” the Republicans are saying no to everything, and the Democrats had put off everything until after the November elections.
Is this the service we expect from our Congress? I would think not! We elect our representatives to Congress to work for us and to not just sit back and say no to everything and to not fight for our benefit. It is supposed to be representative government. That means they have to do something.
We expect our Congressmen and women to work for us from the first day of taking office to the last day they are in office. That means working through the “Lame Duck Session.” If the members of Congress were to do that and vote up or down on issues based on their merits, rather than labeling such a session the Lame Duck Session, it could well be called the “Mighty Duck Session.” Isn’t that the least we should expect from our representatives? I firmly believe so!
Let me address the issues that should be dealt with during this period. All of these issues have had hearing after hearing and are ready to be voted up or down. Of course, to do this requires political will and intestinal fortitude, rather than asking “how will this affect me politically,” which is not for the common good of Americans.
There is an old saying that I have heard many times: “The first rule of government is to get re-elected.” Too often we see politicians do complete about-faces from what they stand for in order to be re-elected. We have seen that recently in our national elections. I see it happening now with some who will be running for re-election in a couple of years. They run out of fear. How unfortunate for us, the American people.
Since my first day in office, I have been vocal with regard to where I stand on issues. I have stood on those principles, and the electorate could have chosen to replace me. Yet they chose otherwise three times. They knew where I stood and that I didn’t flinch from those positions simply to be re-elected.
I address the issues here, not necessarily in the order of priority.
Extension of Unemployment Benefits: They should be extended—most especially during this holiday period. Just imagine being the father of a family and out of work for over a year with no immediate hope of a job and looking into the future.
If I were in that position, I would hope that my government would continue to extend its helping hand, especially knowing that I had paid into that system for years. By the way, those dollars have a significant multiplier effect on the economy.
The DREAM Act: (For details, see my column of last week.) Why are the Republicans holding this up? I could see their opposition to it when it was attached to a defense appropriation bill. Now it stands on its own merits.
When the DREAM Act last came up for a vote, in 2007, it won at least 10 GOP votes: Bob Bennett (R-Utah), Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Norm Coleman (R-Minn), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Larry Craig (R-Idaho), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). Five of them—Bennett, Brownback, Collins, Hatch and Snowe—are still serving in the Senate.
The bill has 40 cosponsors and the backing of labor unions and major corporations and universities. What has changed from the vote taken in 2007 when the above 10 republicans voted for it?
Immigration Reform: With at least 12 million undocumented aliens in this country, how long will it take congress to reform our immigration laws in order to give these aliens a path to citizenship? To believe that fences will keep them out and to believe that sending back some 12 million people is unrealistic.
It is a problem that must be addressed, yet congress keeps pushing it back. In my opinion, they don’t deal with it because of political self-survival. Facetiously, that must be why we elected them!
START Treaty: Both Presidents of Russia and the United States have signed this treaty and are awaiting ratification. Former Secretaries of State, both Democrat and Republican, are advocating its ratification. It is ready for an up or down vote.
In the interim, we do not have the opportunity to verify what Russia’s nuclear arsenal consists of during the past year since START 1 expired. We need to end this nuclear madness; the best way is to reduce our arsenals, especially so rogue nations cannot get their hands on them. Why is this being held up? What will it do to our credibility throughout the world? All Congress needs to do is act.
Eliminate Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: Come on, this is ridiculous! Gays have been serving in the military since time immemorial. They have been on the front lines and slept in racks on a ship stacked four or five high. Simply because of the disclosure of the sexual orientation, they are expelled from serving in the military.
Even the military personnel believe gay men and women should be allowed to serve as they have without fear of expulsion. I know of one individual who was destined to serve a full 20-year career in the Air Force, then left the military after seven years of outstanding service because he “was tired of living a lie.” How many good soldiers have we lost for the very same reason? It is high time to end it!
Extension of the Bush Tax Cut: I hear politicians say they can’t pass a bill that would preserve, reinstate or create jobs because of it would cost a billion dollars, even though the multiplier effect would improve our economy. These same politicians are holding out on extending the Bush Tax Cut for the middle class in order to extend the tax cut for the top two percent of earners in our country.
The top one percent of earners in this country now earns 23.5 percent of all income in this country and more than the bottom 50 percent. There are those who would perpetuate the growing divide between rich and poor in this country. They are eliminating the middle-class in order to provide for the wealthiest in this country.
In the interim, the middle-class is becoming the “working poor.” No, we can’t expend a billion dollars to preserve, reinstate or create jobs “because it isn’t paid for,” because we say we want to eliminate the deficit. But it’s perfectly okay to add to the deficit some $700 billion over a 10-year period to extend the tax cut for the top millionaires and billionaires, even though it isn’t paid for. After all, they’re the ones who fund campaigns for re-election.
I could go on and on here, but instead, I will refer you to a web address on YouTube where you can see and hear United States Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) who lays out the entire picture here in very plain and factual English. Here is the link and I would encourage its viewing:
It truly is a must-see, as Senator Sanders hits the nail right square on the head!
In closing, I would urge our members of congress to become Mighty Ducks, not Lame or Dead Ducks, even if it requires working until Christmas Eve and returning the day after Christmas to deal with these issues!
True, these are national issues. However, they effect all of us here in Lewiston; thus my reason to address them in my “Mayor’s Corner” column.
See Mayor Gilbert’s personal blog at www.MayorLarryGilbert.com.