The House of Representatives that opened the 115th session on Tuesday, 03 January 2017, is 88% the same House that we had last year and the year before. Only 52 representatives changed, 25 Democrats and 27 Republicans, for a 12% overall change. Why do I mention this? Well, think about it. This is NOT an all new House of Representatives, but for the most part is the same tired old House from 2016. Congress as a whole last year did almost nothing. They refused to even interview the president’s nominee for Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. They refused to fund efforts to combat the Zika virus, refused to provide resources to help Louisiana after severe flooding, and much more. They sat on the Flint water crisis. Politico dubbed Congress as the “Seinfeld Congress”, all about nothing. They should have been ashamed to accept a paycheck, but obviously it did not occur to them.
So here it is, the fifth day of January, and the 115th Congress convened just two days ago. The essentially same lazy congress of 2016, however, is suddenly energized and ready to get down to business. They are so eager, in fact, that they even started early with the now historic, failed move by Republican representatives on Monday night to dismantle the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) without giving the electorate or the Democratic representatives a chance to weigh in. Aren’t they just the most ambitious little creatures, rather like rats running around the ship’s deck while the captain sleeps at the helm? Such dedicated rats they are.
But they did not stop there. On Tuesday, still patting themselves on the back over what they thought was their success the night before, they effectively changed the way Congress calculates the cost of transferring federal lands to the states and other entities, making it much easier to give away federally-owned lands. Understand that when I say federally-owned lands, I mean lands that you and I own, land belonging to We The People. Under this legislation, public lands including national parks and forests could be turned over to the states, who could then sell them to private companies for activities such as mining, logging, and otherwise destroying not only the natural beauty, but in many cases, water and other resources, as well as wildlife. Unlike most legislation, it is not subject to approval by the Senate or a presidential signature. It is effective immediately. The House rules change was met with sharp criticism from conservation and watchdog groups, as well as hunters and fishermen.
They also found time to put together a four-point plan for dismantling the nation’s Affordable Healthcare Act, though they have not yet come up with the promised “wonderful, great” plan that Trump promised would replace ACA and be so much better, while costing the government less.
And then there is the Midnight Relief Bill that breezed through on Wednesday. This bill will allow Congress to repeal in a single vote any rule finalized in the last 60 legislative days of the Obama administration. President Obama has said he will veto the bill if it makes it to his desk before January 20th. Now seriously, what are the odds??? Are you getting the picture now?
These ambitious rats did more work in one day than the mostly same group of rats did in all of 2016! If only they had done a percentage of this much last year … What amazes me is that so many Republican representatives were re-elected last year after a do-nothing year … nay, two do-nothing years!
The ultimate agenda of this Congress includes a reversal of environmental regulations they feel has limited energy production as well as financial regulations that they say burdened businesses and employers. Planned Parenthood, one of several women’s health organizations Obama took steps to protect with new regulations last month, will find itself once more on the chopping block. Yesterday, The House passed a resolution calling for the repeal of a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements that the United States allowed to pass last month by abstaining from the vote. Several senators want to use the Security Council vote as an excuse to start defunding the United Nations and withholding foreign aid from countries that supported the resolution.
It becomes more clear every day, though there was little doubt to begin with, that the only goal of the 115th Congress is to reverse the gains that have been made over the past eight years by the Obama administration. We may well lose the protection of our national parks, forests, and even some national monuments. Environmental protections are likely to be a mere shell by the time the next Congress takes office in two years. And of course, the great strides we made in equality have already suffered and we will almost certainly see wide-spread, state-sponsored discrimination by the end of 2017.
There are two factors that could block much of the planned legislation of the Republicans in Congress. If enough Republican senators and representatives possess values and the courage to defend those values, they could turn the tide. The news coming from the House so far hasn’t given much hope for that, but that leads to the other thing that could stop this trainwreck … us. Yes, you, me, your friends, your neighbors, your family. We are not powerless, but we are if we sit back and helplessly shrug our shoulders, grumble & complain, and do nothing. Write to the members of Congress representing your state! Tell them that you do not like their agenda and the when they next come up for re-election you will not vote for them unless they do the right thing. These men and women are OUR employees! We put them in office, we pay their salary, and they are supposed to represent US. Currently they are representing themselves, their agenda reflects that which benefits them and the lobbyist organizations such as big business, the NRA and others who compensate them monetarily and in other ways for voting for those things that will add to their bank accounts. Meanwhile, We The People are losing ground every day. I have included links to the government sites where you can find complete contact information for both representatives and senators at the end of this post. Share it with anybody you know who is willing to take a stand, to fight against the injustices that I believe we are about to be subjected to. Our nation is depending on us. The planet is counting on us. And now, I shall step down from my soapbox. Thanks for listening!