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SPOTLIGHT
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Do-nothing Congress

Published on -8/3/2014, 12:02 PM

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It is difficult to grasp the level of disdain certain members of Congress hold for the American public. Even with an election just days away, sheer arrogance allows them to walk away from pressing issues and crises -- and start their scheduled five-week summer break.

They know the 90-percent-plus re-election figure matters more than the single-digit approval rating they've earned. Why? Because U.S. voters refuse to hold them accountable. Senators and representatives alike know a town hall meeting in their home district is more important for political futures than making tough decisions in the nation's capital. So as your mailbox overflows with last-minute mailers urging your vote either for or against members of the Kansas delegation, give serious thought to the individual's ability to do the job for which we pay them handsomely. That job, just so you don't forget even if some elected leaders have, is to do the nation's business.

To help gauge the current group's effectiveness, we need only look at the past week.

You recall the 57,000-plus children who have crossed our southern border looking for safety? The same Central American children that prompted Texas Gov. Rick Perry to activate 1,000 National Guard troops to assist the Border Patrol, that resulted in the Texas Department of Public Safety beefing up its own force at the boundary, and that brought armed and masked private militia groups to the area planning to turn away any would-be crossers.

The same refugee crisis that President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion for, and the Senate approved $2.7 billion for, has resulted in the House offering $669 million. Of course, a split between the majority Republicans and tea party obstructionists didn't allow a vote prior to senators leaving town. So unless members of Congress decide to end their vacation early, nothing can happen for at least five weeks.

"It's beyond belief that Congress is abandoning its post while our border crisis continues to create humanitarian suffering, and criminal aliens still represent a clear threat to our citizens and our nation," Perry said.

We would have to agree with the Texas governor on this issue. Particularly when considering what House Republicans are arguing about. Besides the dollar amount, representatives want to change the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 signed into law by President George W. Bush. The law was designed to protect young illegal immigrants from Central America from sex traffickers.

Despite who signed the law, blame is being assigned to the current president because it fits the tea party narrative better.

In order to provide some cover just days before an election, House Speaker John Boehner offered this: "There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries."

Sounds reasonable, until you consider another bill the House passed just two days earlier. That bill authorizes Boehner to sue President Obama over claims he abused his powers at the expense of Congress and the Constitution. Ironically, it uses the Affordable Care Act as the basis. That means the House wants the president to implement Obamacare as written -- the very law most tea partiers keep campaigning against. The same Obamacare plan that sent $1 million to Kansas last week to help create or expand mental health services for low-income residents. The same ACA that has allowed Kansas Medicare recipients to save more than $10 million on prescription drug costs already this year by closing the so-called coverage donut hole.

The House was able to pass a temporary highway bill mere hours before the Highway Trust Fund reached a zero balance. The Senate agreed to the plan, which will replenish funds until May.

Kansas Transportation Secretary Mike King said the bill gives temporary reassurance that Kansas projects will continue as planned, "but Kansas and the nation still need a multi-year transportation bill from Washington that provides sustainable funding and certainty for departments of transportation as they address important infrastructure needs. ... The economic success of our state depends in large part on maintaining and improving our transportation system."

Unfortunately we need a Congress that can do more than posture and pass bare-minimum, last-minute legislation that does nothing to address problems.

The House and Senate were able to move forward a $16.3 billion compromise bill to help resolve the crisis military veterans are facing as they attempt to access health care. Almost as unbelievable as merely reaching consensus was the $10 billion increase that will be tossed atop our national debt. That alone is enough to stop most anything in its tracks in Washington.

You would be tempted to believe the compassion extended to veterans might be shown to children. No such luck. Those 57,000 can remain in detention camps or scattered throughout the nation until the congressional vacation is over. We'd wish the congressmen and women a relaxing time, but most will be too busy congratulating themselves for winning their primary Tuesday.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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