Congressional Watch – Oct. 2015

Posted: October 16th, 2015 | Congressional Watch, Featured, News | No Comments

Congress avoids another government shutdown … for now

By Andy Cohen

The federal government will not close for business this week, with Congress approving a bill on a largely party line vote of 277-151 — with 151 Republicans voting to shut the government down — to keep the lights on … for now.

The catch: We’ll be going through this whole debacle again in a couple of months, when the current funding bill expires on Dec. 11.

congressional_watch_sidebarEvery one of California’s Congressional delegation from the Democratic side of the aisle — in fact, all Democrats in Congress — voted in favor of keeping the government funded at current levels. While Congressional Republicans have waged a crusade to shut down the government unless funding for Planned Parenthood is dropped — the health care provider that caters to the poor, and yes, provides some abortion services (three percent of all services offered) — due to a series of heavily edited and deliberately misleading videos that purported to depict Planned Parenthood officials bartering for aborted fetal tissue, California’s Republican delegation displayed a degree of level headedness that has been sorely lacking from their colleagues; for the most part.

Twelve of California’s 14 Republican representatives in Congress voted to keep the federal government running, including Bakersfield’s Kevin McCarthy, the frontrunner to replace the retiring John Boehner as Speaker of the House and third in line to the presidency.

The two California members who voted to shut the government down were Tom McClintock, and San Diego’s Duncan Hunter (R-50).

Hunter tends to be an ideologue, but normally tends to reserve his ire for military related issues. Although he does tout himself as staunchly pro-life, believing that life begins at conception, he has stated that “the Supreme Court has determined that abortion is legal and only a Constitutional amendment [which I would support] or new court ruling can change that, [but] we can still work to end the practice and to give mothers faced with unwanted pregnancies choices other than abortion.”

This would seem like an odd time for Hunter to depart from his initial, more practical stance. It was a tactic that was doomed to fail from the start, just like the last time Republicans shut down the government in 2013 over funding for the Affordable Care Act. That shutdown cost the U.S. economy $23 billion in economic output according to Moody’s, one of the nation’s leading credit rating and economic research agencies, and more than $2 billion in direct costs to taxpayers according to the Office of Management and Budget. The impending shutdown will likely cost Americans more this time around.

It’s going to be an interesting Christmas season.

Darrell Issa (R-49) continued his push for more government transparency, particularly on spending issues.

“Imagine if all the spending in government to all the vendors was made open and available for non-classified work,” he said at a conference sponsored by the Data Transparency Coalition, and open data advocacy group. “Imagine how quickly we could find out that the government, through no fault of its own, paid 10 different prices for the same product, and in fact, may buy once from the company who manufactures it, once from the distributor and several times from retailers, and not even be aware when they went out with contracts that they did that. Imagine how much savings we could have.”

Issa has been a leading voice in Congress on data transparency and has helped draft and introduce a number of bills requiring government agencies to make their spending data available on the Internet for all to see.

Susan Davis (D-53) joined in introducing legislation strengthening protections for workers looking to unionize or improve working conditions and wages.

“The ability for workers to band together to support better working conditions, wages, and benefits is a bedrock for the strength and size of our middle class,” Davis said in a press release. “A strong middle class means a strong economy. Our focus should be on growing the middle class to grow our economy and strengthening the hand of workers in the workplace will help achieve this.”

Scott Peters (D-52) supported four bills in the final week of September that provideadditional support for veterans benefits, including one bill that will bring $206 million to San Diego for the construction of a spinal cord injury research and treatment facility as a part of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Bringing $206 million to San Diego for spinal cord research will combine the ground-breaking, innovative work that is already being done in our region with the ongoing needs that our warfighters have after their service. This will help San Diego continue pairing our scientific research leadership with veterans and their families who are suffering from debilitating injuries,” Peters said in a press release.

The other bills included support for homeless veterans, funding to expand benefits to fathers of permanently disabled or deceased service members that were previously only available to mothers of service members, and a bill to expedite the hiring of veterans into the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agency.

Juan Vargas (D-51) penned an op-ed in the Washington Examiner imploring the U.S. to do more to protect the rights of Christians in the Middle East, pointing to atrocities committed by Islamic State terrorists against religious minorities.

“Before the fall of Saddam Hussein, the number of Christians in Iraq had been estimated to be between 800,000 and 1.4 million,” he wrote. “In 2013, the Christian population was estimated at 500,000, around half the size of the pre-2003 level. Today, with ongoing violence and forced displacement, the Christian population continues to decline. Pope Francis recently declared that ‘in this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide — and I stress the word genocide — is taking place and it must end.’”

—Andy Cohen is a local freelance writer. Reach him at

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