Saturday, November 15, 2014

Four Concerns about the New Congress

In early January 2015 the 114th U.S. Congress will convene for the first time. As a result of the Nov. 4 election, both chambers will be controlled by Republicans.
Senators in the 114th Congress
Some of the new senators, such as Joni Ernst of Iowa and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, are quite conservative. Consequently, I have four serious concerns about the new Congress.
Personally, I will likely be impacted little by the new Congress. In fact, my modest portfolio might grow even more than it has in the past two years. So my concerns are not personal.
But my Christian faith compels me to love all people, especially the weakest and most vulnerable people in our country, as well as to care for the earth God has placed us on. So from this perspective here are four of my greatest concerns about what the new Congress and the new Missouri legislature will, or will not, do.
(1) My first and biggest concern is for the poor people across the nation, the people (and especially the children) who do not have enough to eat, who do not have adequate housing, and who do not have sufficient health care.
Conservative, Tea Party type legislators seem to be primarily interested in reducing the size of government and lowering taxes. Cuts in welfare, or the so-called safety net, are common proposals for those with this mentality.
But, for the well-being of a sizable percentage of people in poverty, in addition to sustaining their welfare provisions there needs to be an expansion of Medicaid eligibility.
Missouri is one of many states where the latter is badly needed. But with the new General Assembly, that likely won’t be done.
And while their efforts will not be successful, the U.S. Senate will possibly try to repeal “Obamacare,” removing millions from healthcare insurance.
(2) I am also concerned about the new Congress exercising adequate care for the environment. Republican congresspeople, such my Missouri Sixth District Representative Sam Graves, repeatedly criticize regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency, whose purpose is to protect the earth for the coming generations.
And it is quite likely that Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, a global warming denier, will be the next chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Heaven help us!
(3) Concern for the children of “illegal immigrants.” Immigration reform has long been a major desire of the President and many legislators.
The Senate passed a comprehensive bill last year, but the House never even took it up. I am very concerned that this needed legislation will not be passed and that the President will take executive action leading to turmoil and even greater dysfunction in Washington.
(4) Concern for women and gays/lesbians as there is the likelihood of further anti-abortion laws and rejection of LGBT rights.
One does not have to agree with women who seek an abortion or of gays/lesbians who want to have legal marriages in order to uphold their civil rights.
If the new U.S. Congress passes legislation necessary to help the poor of the country to survive and to raise what is often a wretched standard of living, passes legislation that will protect the environment for the sake of our grandchildren, passes legislation that will give dignity and stability to the past and future immigrants into this country, and if they pass legislation that respects the freedom and dignity of women and LGBT people, then perhaps the election results were all right.
But until I see all the above happening, I will continue to have grave concerns about the election outcome on November 4.


  1. A local Thinking Friend was the first to write in response to this morning's article. She says,

    "Your concerns are mine too and I fear will be validated in the months to come. As I have been known to say lately, my husband and I will go on becoming richer and richer under this congressional regime.

    "So why do I care what happens to everybody else? Because I love my country and the variety of folks who live here. I want ALL of us to have health care, a cleaned-up environment, safe sojourn while we work hard each day and so on."

  2. I share your concerns. Since the election, I just keep wondering how many lives this Republican congress is going to destroy among the poor, the ill, the immigrants, the workers...

    1. Yes--and that is the reason I see this not as a political issue but rather as an ethical and religious issue.

  3. I hope, of course, that the current momentum towards equality for LGBT people will not be stoppable.

    1. That is my hope also, but it will depend on what the SCOTUS decides if or when they take up the issue--and it could go 5-4 either way, it seems to me.

  4. I never cease to be amazed that the opposition to the ACA is so ferocious and persistent.
    Why would anybody be opposed to efforts to provide health insurance to more people?
    Furthermore, this Gallup poll indicates general satisfaction by those who obtained insurance through it.

    1. Thanks, Clif, for reading and responding to my blog article this morning.

      Yes, the Republican opposition to the ACA is quite amazing, but according to an op-ed piece in the 11/5 Wall Street Journal, Boehner and McConnell noted that a commitment to creating jobs “means renewing our commitment to repeal Obamacare, which is hurting the job market along with Americans’ health care.”

  5. "Would that our politicians could state it so succinctly and find some ways to act cooperatively and compassionately!" (from a Thinking Friend, a women who lives in Springfield, Mo.).

  6. Local Thinking Friend David Nelson shares these comments,

    "Thanks for sharing these concerns. I too, as a Christian, cannot ignore the Gospel mandate to care for those most venerable. Somehow I want to restore democracy in this nation.

    "When money can buy elections, those in power can continue to pass legislation that increases the power of money, it becomes a vicious cycle that hurts the majority and really hurts the poor."

  7. Your concerns are shared by knowledgeable Christians here in Japan, too. With a republican-controlled Congress in the U.S. and the continued rightward trend of the Abe regime, we are in for some mighty dark times in the months and years ahead.

    1. Thanks, Dan, it was good to hear from you again. I haven't kept up adequately with the situation in Japan, but I have been much concerned about the rightward trend in the Japanese government. And now there is the incipient economic recession to deal with also. Hang in there!

  8. While I have concerns at the national level, I have a feeling that the Republican Party is also aware that they could easily spend the next two years tanking the next presidential election. The population does not share some of their ideals. This will cause them to move carefully. If not, the next election in two years will correct it.

    I am more seriously concerned about Missouri as the elected representatives seem to be dedicated to running the state into the ground, preferably faster than Kansas that already has a good head start. The reason I am more concerned is it seems the majority of Missourians agree with the direction and either do not know of or do not care about what the results will be.

    1. Thanks, Dennis, for writing; it is always good to hear from you.

      Yes, the situation in Mo. is certainly a concern also, and I mentioned that more in a similar article I wrote for my hometown newspaper (The Times-Tribune in Grant City, Mo.)

      And, yes, I think a large part of the problem is that there are far too many who "do not know" and/or "do not care," as you indicated.

  9. You highlight the divides within our country. But regardless of how one lands on specific issue, with the President and courts overturning the will of the people (democracy) there will continue to be hardliners pushing back. And with a popular vote installing a strongly Republican House, and a Senate with an assumed 59 Republicans (only 1 crossover needed to make a bill veto proof), I do not expect much compromise (except with the one who will cross over).

    Money was not the issue of the election. Both sides shoveled it in like never before. Both are idolatrous. And scandalous ads by both sides. Maybe it's time for a Christian Centrist party - but without money, I doubt that that will happen.

    Politics are looking more and more pre-civil war in nature. And NONE are righteous, no, not one.

    PS - Not all of the issues above are definitively "Christian". And people are being hurt on both sides of issues. My clients in particular who are losing work due to ACA, and those who can no longer afford the premiums of Obamacare (we may be next, this year). This would be a very good time for some serious changes there - if no compromise, then repeal and start again. (As a side note, many of my Latino friends in Iowa and Illinois switched parties this year due to the ACA - notice how the elections went there. Some were voting their "Christian" values, some their jobs.)

  10. Two comments on the first paragraph: first, even if Sen. Landrieu loses her Senate seat in the Louisiana run-off, there will still be only 54 Republicans; there will be 44 Democrats plus two Independents who caucus with the Democrats.

    Then in response to the comments about the President and the courts. The latter don't decide (or are not supposed to decide) things based on the "will of the people." They are supposed to interpret the law and make decisions in keeping with the laws of the land.

    As for the President, he was elected in two elections, receiving the majority of the popular and the electoral college votes. So he is in office by the will of the people. As for the election this month, there were only 36.6% of the eligible voters who voted—the lowest since 1942. And in Mo. it was just 32.3%. Even if the Republicans got 60% of the vote, that means that those elected got only about 20% of the vote of all eligible voters. So what is the will of the whole electorate? Who knows?