Saturday, January 05, 2019

The 116th Congress: New Faces and the Same Old BS

The 115th Congress is over and consigned to history. The 115th Congress was unique in that the Republican Party controlled both the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Presidency. When it first convened on January 3, 2017, it enacted the last bill signed into law by then President Barack Obama. In total, it enacted 338 public laws, 1 private law, and ratified five treaties. Some of the more notable public laws that were enacted included 115-6, 115-7, 115-303 which were aimed at encouraging women to become entrepreneurs and entering the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, aerospace, and physics. 115-93 was aimed to providing additional resources for the education, training, and employment of Native Americans, as well as numerous laws pertaining to veteran care and well-being, ending human trafficking (especially involving children), aiding domestic abuse victims, protection of grandparents/grandchildren rights, as well as laws related to the cyber security and the environment.

In its place, we now have the 116th Congress, which was sworn into office on January 3rd. While the Republicans still retain control of the Senate and Executive branches, Democrats have retaken the House of Representatives, with 67 Democrats and 44 Republicans. The 116th has already established several notable firsts such as being the most diverse Congress in history. 22 of the new members are former members of either military or CIA. There will 42 women joining its ranks, plus the first ever Native American women (Deb Haaland D-NM and Sharise Davids D-KS), the first Palestinian-American (Rashida Tlaib D-MI) and the first conservative Muslim woman (Ilhan Omar (D-MN), plus the first Korean-American (Andy Kim D-NJ). As an aside, Ms. Tlaib is also a Muslim, though unlike Omar, does not wear the traditional hijab headdress. Lastly, there is Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist from New York, who was the youngest individual elected to Congress at the age of 28.

Also, 60% of the women who ran, many for the first time, were successful. 24 members of the incoming Congress are racial minorities or of mixed race, including ten who represent mostly white districts (and in some cases, they are also the first minority to ever be elected to Congress by their district) or districts which had been carried by Trump. Politically, 25 of the incoming Democrats are self-described progressives or democratic socialists while nine of the incoming Republicans are considered "hard line" conservatives.

The 116th Congress is also unique in terms of religious diversity. While Congress is still overwhelmingly Christian (88%), there are now three Muslims in office along with three Hindus and two Buddhists. 34 members of Congress are Jewish. Of the Christians, there are 163 Catholics, 72 Baptists, 42 Methodists, 26 each Episcopal, Lutheran, and Presbyterian. The rest is a smattering of other denominations with 80 members listed as "unspecified". As an interesting aside, all of the Republicans self-identify as "Christian" except two members, Rep. Lee Zeldkin (NY) and Rep. David Kustoff (TN), who are Jewish. Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, 62 members of the 282 Congressional Democrats don't identify as Christian. 31 are Jewish, 3 each are Muslim and Hindus, 2 each are Unitarian Universalists and Buddhists and 19 are religiously unaffiliated.

One of the House's first acts was the election of Rep. Nancy Pelosi to a second term as Speaker of the House. Pelosi, a Democrat representing the 12th District of California previously served as Speaker from 2007 to 2011 under the Obama Administration. Pelosi is well known for her confrontational stance against President Trump, especially when it comes to stopping illegal immigration and border security, including building of a border wall (it should be noted that her district includes San Francisco, which is a so-called "sanctuary city" and the site for the infamous murder of 32 year old Kathryn Steinle in 2017 by an illegal immigrant on a pier in the Mission District while her and her father stood talking). Another interesting moment was when new Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, after being sworn in, excitedly said that they would "impeach that motherf*cker", referring to President Trump. Such a classy broad.

Meanwhile, the partial government shutdown continues. The chief stumbling block being Trump's insistence on funding for a wall to secure our southern border with Mexico, which an overwhelming majority of the American Public has been demanding. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) continue to lead the stalemate, along with approximately 25% of Republicans (President Trump has asked for 1.6 billion dollars to begin funding the wall project. The estimate total cost will be around 5 billion dollars). Included in the shutdown are programs which affect low income families.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or "SNAP" which provides food stamps and child nutrition programs at school as well as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) only have funding for approximately a month. In the interim, about 800,000 federal employees in nine agencies have been affected, with 380,000 having been furloughed without pay while the rest continue to work without pay while neither the President, members of Congress or any their staff are affected by the shutdown.

Perhaps the biggest issue is that illegal immigration has long been a serious problem. At present it is estimated to cost taxpayers---you and I---some $4.6 billion dollars annually. We were repeatedly promised that this problem would be address as far back as President Reagan, who granted the first amnesty for those currently living in the US. For those too young to remember, Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 which affecting then current US immigration law and granted amnesty to approximately 100,000 individuals. Since then, the American Public has demanded repeatedly that Washington put a stop to it. However, the Washington elite has increasingly turned a deaf ear to the voter, especially after Citizens United was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Under the Obama Regime, it actually did everything it could to encourage and protect illegal immigrants including suing the State of Arizona for attempting to enforce current immigration laws and even allowing, for the first ever, a foreign government---Mexico---to join in the lawsuit. Obama didn't even have the decency to lie to us! He just simply ignored us as if we didn't matter. Trump made building the wall one of his central campaign planks and, unlike other candidates---Democrat or Republican---seems determined to keep his pledge to the American People.

If this is any indication, 2019 will be a bad year for the American People, but perhaps this is the price we pay for partisan games; the only ones who are actually affected are ordinary people just trying to get on with their lives as best as they can. America can no longer afford to be part of these childish playground antics. Most Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. We don't have the luxury (or money) to wait for someone to blink like Pelosi, Schumer, or even Trump does.

Americans want an end to illegal immigration. We want to stop drug cartels from entering and operating in our country. We want to reduce crime (and that includes employer exploitation on workers), and we want to reduce the tax burden illegal immigration has on us. If that means building a wall, then so be it. We expect Congress as well as the President to represent us, not their special interest corporate masters. We also expect Congress and the President to act in a grownup manner and do the job we sent them there for. Lastly, we demand---not ask--- that they adhere to the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights as written. If they can't, fine. Leave. We are quite capable of finding someone who will. So 116th Congress, it's time to play nice, put aside your partisan BS and do your jobs. Fund the wall, end the shutdown and get back to work!

List of Acts of the 115th United States Congress

Meet the New Freshmen in Congress

Faith on the Hill

Rashida Tlaib Wants to Impeach

Everything you need to know about the government shutdown

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