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SPOTLIGHT
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United stance

Published on -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

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When the U.S. Congress finds it impossible to pass anything of substance on the domestic front, it generally is the lower class that suffers the most. Of course, since lobbyists for the poor are in short supply, gridlock is allowed to continue without much fanfare.

It is indeed sad such a status quo exists, even worse that an indifferent public doesn't appear to care. Certainly not enough to remove from office the obstructionists, those more concerned with extending the rights and privileges of corporations than people who elect them, and those who simply don't recognize the devastating effects of poverty in their own districts or states.

So we shouldn't be surprised when international events occur that demand at least a semblance of a unified U.S. response, Congress prefers to parade its dysfunction to the world. The rapidly changing situation in Ukraine offers a glimpse of the state of the state inside the Capitol.

It's been two weeks since Russian President Vladimir Putin and that nation's military basically took over the Crimean region of Ukraine, although the country has been embroiled in turmoil and violence for months. In November, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had backtracked on negotiated deals with the European Union in favor of closer economic ties with Russia. Protests in the streets and the central square of Kiev eventually led to Yanukovych's outster, and Oleksandr Turchnynov was made acting president. After the overthrow, Putin started sending in the troops. The entire Crimean Peninsula has been annexed back into Russia, raising the question of what Putin will do next.

President Barack Obama has imposed economic sanctions against many top Russian officials and a few banks. Europe has taken similar action.

But the U.S. Congress has yet to unite in an official response. Further proposed sanctions are caught up in the sausage-making process. Democrats are insisting on using the legislation to reform the International Monetary Fund. Republicans want the proposed IRS rules on 501(c)4 groups to be delayed. Neither position should be tied to this critical foreign policy decision.

It is moments such as this that the United States of America should appear, well, united. Congress needs to consider a clean bill, stripped of all non-germane subject matter and free from deal-making on any other topic.

To do otherwise is to denigrate global opinion of America. Never mind we feel free to invade countries of our choosing with little regard for what others think. How we still can have troops stationed in almost every nation we've fought in for the past century and find moral high ground to decry Russia's current occupation is an argument left for another day.

But since there appears to be political will to take a stand, let's at least be clear with our message. To date, there is no such clarity.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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