Dobbs: Five-weeks off for 'do-nothing Congress'
By Lou Dobbs
Editor's note: Lou Dobbs' commentary appears every Wednesday on CNN.com.
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- This Republican-led, do-nothing Congress is on its way home for a five-week vacation. I'm sure while there, they'll be glad to explain to their constituents why they need so much rest in a year in which they will work fewer than 80 days.
The Republicans in Congress have little to brag about when they return home. And the Democrats have a lot of explaining to do, as well. Once the party of the New Deal, Fair Deal and Great Society, the party of working men and women, the Democrats are now buried as deeply in the pockets of their corporate masters as are the Republicans.
The Democratic Party has played a major role in helping to pass legislation that is grossly injurious to middle-class Americans and their families. This Congress, Republican-led with complicit Democrats, has cut $13 billion in college-student aid, passed numerous free-trade agreements that threaten good-paying jobs and approved an unconscionable bankruptcy law written by credit-card companies that is nothing less than a federal government heel in the neck of American families bankrupted by catastrophic illness and crushing medical bills.
In fact, 18 of the 44 Democrats in the Senate and 73 of the 201 Democrats in the House voted in favor of the creditor-friendly bankruptcy bill. They apparently either didn't bother to learn or didn't care that half of all bankruptcies are caused by the soaring medical bills that stem from unforeseen illnesses and injuries.
The Democrats are also casting deciding votes on the so-called free-trade agreements that have allowed corporate supremacists to export American jobs to the cheapest sources of labor. Twenty-two House Democrats approved the recent Oman free-trade agreement, including 10 that had previously voted for the Central American Free Trade Agreement. CAFTA, which passed the House by only two votes at the midnight hour, opened up to American businesses a market about the size of New Haven, Connecticut.
And Democrats in the Senate have embraced the wrongheaded policies of the Bush administration on border security and illegal immigration. Thirty-eight Democrats joined with the Senate Republican leadership to crush the Republican majority and pass the illegal-alien amnesty bill.
Forty-two Democrats voted against legislation that would have built a border fence to stop the flow of illegal aliens and drugs across our borders. In fact, it was Democrat Christopher Dodd of Connecticut whose amendment was attached to the legislation that would require the U.S. government to consult with the Mexican government before building a fence along our southern border.
Congressional Democrats are even more dismissive of the need for border security than the Senate Republicans. House Republicans have taken to calling the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill the "Reid-Kennedy bill" because Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts shaped most of the legislation.
The Democrats incredibly talk about illegal aliens as victims as they press for amnesty, yet not one has raised concerns for the true victims of corporate America's lust for cheap labor: American working men and women, taxpayers all.
It was, after all, Sen. Reid who argued in 1993 that illegal aliens place "tremendous burdens" on this country's justice system, schools and social programs, stretching our federal wallet to the limit as a result of "illegal aliens getting welfare, food stamps, medical care and other benefits."
What could possibly explain Sen. Reid's complete conversion on the issue? He's said it was from talking to his wife and immigrants, but could his state's wholesale importation of illegal aliens and the importance of all that corporate lobbying and campaign contribution money be a factor? Surely not.
And how about that firebrand advocate for the Democratic Party's traditions and values, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean? Once considered a presidential candidate with a refreshing vision for America, Dean now spends no time pursuing ideas and proposals that would help working men and women. Instead, he's devoting his time and energy begging for money at the same contribution slop trough as his opponents while hurling insults at Republicans and indulging in petty name-calling.
Instead of articulating a vision and plan to help the United States win the war in Iraq, he said simply late last year, "The idea that the United States is going to win the war in Iraq is just plain wrong." And when Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was to address a joint session of Congress, Dean called him an anti-Semite for criticizing Israel. The petulant DNC chairman outdid himself by comparing an inconsequential Republican congresswoman, Katherine Harris of Florida, to the rather consequential Joseph Stalin. The incomparable Howard Dean managed to do that while calling for an end to political divisiveness.
The Democrats want to wrest control of Congress from Republicans, and they have a better than average opportunity to accomplish the feat. The next five weeks just might be a good time for frustrated, disgusted constituents to ask what it will take to elect a Congress willing to represent working men and women and their families.
And let me know what you hear.
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