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I served in the US Navy from 2002-08; four of those years were as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. I engage in political activism in various Democratic circles when I am able to. I have a cat, and I am an uncle.

All opinions that I express are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization that I represent.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A USELESS HOUSE




Congress returns from their summer recess on Monday.

I too have taken one myself, but I think mine was more productive than Congress's break.

Before leaving DC to return to their districts, the House took care of one piece of business.

Repealing "ObamaCare."

Since Republicans took control of the House as a result of the November 2010 election, they have pursued this endless quest of repealing the cornerstone of President Obama's agenda and what will certainly be a historic piece of legislation once he leaves office 20 January 2017. "ObamaCare" or the Affordable Care Act of 2010 as it is correctly known as, survived a Supreme Court challenge in June 2012 where the conservative-leaning Chief Justice John Roberts cast the deciding vote in the landmark case. "ObamaCare" survived the Presidential election and campaign against the original author of "ObamaCare".

It will survive the votes that House Republicans will continue to make. These votes are nothing more than symbolic and have now become... well... sad. On the last day before the summer recess, this was the 40th vote that the House GOP has scheduled to repeal "ObamaCare." Senator Harry Reid (D, NV) got the memo and it immediately went into this file:


The House can hold their little vote to repeal "ObamaCare" but all it is theatrics. It won't come up for a vote in the Senate because Democrats are the majority party in that chamber. The only way if it comes up for a vote in the Senate is if Republicans take control of that chamber and while that is a possibility in 2014, right now I cannot see that happening given the mood of the country toward Congressional Republicans.

But.... as much as I hate it, let's play the "What If" Game. Say the GOP gets the Senate in the 2014 mid-terms as Nate Silver is predicting and the GOP holds the House. So you have a Republican controlled Congress.... and a Democratic President. Nate Silver projects that the GOP will have a slim majority in the Senate, 51 seats to be exact. If the GOP was serious about repealing "ObamaCare" they'd fight to get veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate. To override a presidential veto it takes a two-thirds vote in both chambers to do so.

So.... if my math is correct, two-thirds in the House is 290 votes and that same threshold is 67 votes in the Senate. The best the GOP can do in the House is get to 240 seats as shown during the 2010 mid-terms. The path to 67 votes in the Senate is impossible. Even if the GOP wins ALL of the Senate races in 2014, they would still end up one seat short.

So, veto-proof majorities are out of the question. They could try impeachment of President Obama and Vice President Biden, but it would be some bullshit charges that would backfire on the GOP so quickly that their party would become irrelevant in not just Presidential Elections, but also down ballots.

Oh... and speaking of Presidential Elections, there is one in 2016 which is its own nasty animal given that the GOP has a BIG problem courting key demographics such as Women and Hispanics.

So while the GOP controlled Congress in this "What If" Game passes the "ObamaCare" repeal bill out of their chamber and Obama takes out his big red rubber "VETO" stamp to it and the Congress doesn't have a two-thirds vote in EITHER chamber to override his veto, the electorate is getting sick and tired of this dog and pony show. President Obama will act like the adult as he always does and keep his mind on the long game.

In this case, the long game is ensuring that Obama's party controls the White House until at least 20 January 2021... maybe 20 January 2025 given the inability of the Republican Party to cope with America's changing voting demographics. Meanwhile the Republicans will be unaware of that the public has become tired of their consistent efforts to block legislative proposals by their Democratic colleagues in the Congress and President Obama.

For starters, let's start with something that I am passionate about: infrastructure, in particular roads.

In the five years that I have lived in Texas since I've almost driven the entire length of Interstate 35 through Texas. I cannot count how many times I have gone down to Austin in this time period.

Since my first post-Navy trip to Austin in December 2008, I have seen the construction project taking place along I-35. The plan is to widen I-35 between Hillsboro and Austin to where it is at least a three-lane freeway in both directions. The two-way frontage roads will become relics of the past and give way to the one-way frontage roads that are common in the highly urbanized areas. This construction project along I-35 is in part due to most of the population in Texas resides along this interstate and the freeway is a major north-south route for transit through the middle of the United States as it starts at the US-Mexico border in Laredo, goes through San Antonio, Austin, splits into E-W branches when it reaches the Metroplex, and heads north into Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Iowa, splits into another set of E-W branches at Minneapolis-St. Paul and ends in Duluth, MN.

Even though we have made advances in travel, we are still a nation that predominantly travels by car. We need high quality roads if we are to maintain our global economic advantage. Case in point: this story from the Texas Tribune about roads in South and West Texas being downgraded to gravel.

While there is this major construction project going on between Hillsboro and San Antonio, let's see about what is going on in the Metroplex.

The last time there was major improvements to I-35 in the Metroplex was to the widen the original stretch of I-35W from Downtown Fort Worth to I-20 in the late 1980s. As shown in the pictures below, I-35W opened in 1957 and was still designated the old US-81 signage.




When the freeway was widened in the 1980s it also included a new stack interchange at I-20.






The next major improvement was replacing the old interchange at I-35W and I-30. The project was completed at the turn of the century and involved redirecting I-30 to its current location south of the Fort Worth post office and a new stack interchange that also involved a more direct connection with South I-35W to South US-287.




But since then, there has not been any major improvements to I-35W or I-35E in Dallas as the population of the Metroplex continues to grow especially in the suburban areas of the northern parts of Tarrant and Dallas Counties. Currently construction is taking place along I-35W between Alliance Airport to Loop 820 in Tarrant County as part of the larger North Tarrant Express project. Just recently there was an announcement about the widening of I-35E from US-380 in Denton to the LBJ/635 interchange in Dallas will begin this year. These were roads that needed to widened at least 15 years ago to keep up with the growing population.

While I understand that there is a LOT of planning that goes into freeway widening and these roads go through highly suburban and urban areas, eventually there needs to be some kind of action. My fellow drivers and I are getting tired of sitting through traffic on poorly maintained roads.

This is how bad I-35E is in Denton.


As shown by the picture, it is still a two-lane freeway. No left shoulder. Hardly any right shoulder. If a car breaks down or there is a nasty accident on this portion that goes near the UNT campus, all traffic will stop.

Traveling south on I-35E from Downtown Dallas to the split at US-67 in Oak Cliff is no better. That road is BADLY needing repaving... you know what, (expletive deleted) it, it needs to be replaced.

So, what does this have to do with the Republicans consistent voting on repealing "ObamaCare?"

House Republicans can hold these votes to repeal "ObamaCare" and in some cases threaten a government shutdown all day long, but it will not solve the problems our country faces. Eventually after the campaigning and grandstanding, you have to GOVERN. And frankly as I have stated SEVERAL times, the Republicans have FAILED at it.

If you thought the 112th Congress was unproductive, the 113th has been no better. Prior to going on their summer vacation, the House passed 15 bills compared to 23 bills at that same junction in 2011. Right now at this pace the House is on pace to pass 60 bills which is far fewer than the 219 bills passed by the previous congress.

As witnessed with the Violence Against Women Act and Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill, Republicans are the ones who are kicking and screaming in order to get the most basic forms of legislation passed.

"Why should we pass a Violence Against Women Act?"

Because a Justice Department study shows that the rate of sexual violence against women and girls age 12 or over has fallen 64% in the 10 years it has existed. Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, stated that despite these positive statistics, "It is clear there is still too much violence and too many are fearful to report it."

"Why should we provide disaster relief? Those people are idiots for living in places that are hit by storms."

I kid you not, someone told me this. He's now a state rep.

These folks are anti-relief. That is UNTIL a disaster strikes their community and suddenly...


You can read my thoughts on these folks here (West Fertilizer Plant) and here (Texas and Oklahoma tornadoes).

The American public and myself are not too confident about Congress tackling the serious issues like Employee Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) and Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

For one, the House is slated to work only 9 days when they return from their month long vacation.

That is correct. Work only 9 days after a month long vacation.

And they wonder why folks are not big fans of the legislative branch.

And two, there is the looming debt ceiling crisis that is expected to dominate when Congress returns.




But here is the main point that I am FINALLY making....

Right now there is a serious debate about whether we should intervene in the Syrian Civil War. While the Senate has cut short their vacation and returned to Washington to participate in hearings, the House appears to be in no hurry to participate.


A whip count from Friday shows that it is likely to be defeated in the House with a majority of support coming from Republicans. I can't tell if they are being sincere about not wanting to put American forces in harm's way and they have learned the lessons from The Iraq War or this is just another political power play.

Recall the sequester when it happened earlier this year? I recall Rachel Maddow saying this in an interview with The Today Show when it happened:


"The bigger problem is crisis-to-crisis-to-crisis is not the way the biggest country on earth should govern itself. Other countries spend their time trying to build up their resilience. We, instead, invent our own crises."

Which is very true. Instead of actually taking on and solving the REAL problems our country faces, the House GOP manufactures crises. Gutting food stamps, stalling disaster aid relief, discussing whether women have access to contraception, voting to defund ObamaCare, and threatening to shutdown the government which would damage the slowly recovering economy because Republicans don't get everything what they want.

This does not instill a lot of confidence in governing.

If there is any reason why the GOP needs to be voted out of governing in 2014, this is it right here. The House GOP is great at channeling the faux outrage of their manufactured media machinery while inside the bubble...

BUT...

When it comes time to step out of the bubble and participate with the rest of the country, they are nowhere to be found.

This should serve as a reminder to why elections matter and why it is important to put competent people in charge of governing.

Otherwise... we get a useless House.


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