And Pope Francis has shaken up Washington politics.
While done in a subtle manner, the pope’s speech to Congress was forthright and unyielding in reminding each lawmaker of the responsibility they have to “defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good…”
His bottom line message for the multiple issues he raised and one Congress seems to have strayed away from in recent years was, “Let us remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’” (Matthew 7:12). Simple, right? Yet Congress seems to be out of touch with the needs of the American people.
As the least productive Congress in history begins to wind down its first legislative session, immigration reform is coming to a boil.
It’s already been 160 days since the Senate passed its immigration bill and the House already has 191 co-sponsors on its bipartisan bill. Still, House Republicans have failed to take the next step and have only voted on one immigration provision so far this year — Steve King’s (R-Iowa) amendment to defund DACA and deport DREAMers.
And with King (most famous for saying young immigrants have “calves the size of cantaloupes” from lifting 75 pound bags of drugs across the border) at the helm for Republicans on immigration, it’s no wonder that they’re getting nowhere on immigration.
But the tragic irony of all of this is that King’s own constituents (myself included) overwhelmingly support immigration reform. Recent polling by The American Action Network, a conservative outside group, shows that 79 percent of voters in his district support the tenets in the Senate Gang of Eight bill. Despite that popularity, King and his shrinking list of allies in the House have kept Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) from addressing the moral crisis afflicting millions of workers, children, mothers, and fathers.
Politics at its best serves the common good — far above any one interest or political party. And right now in Washington, we see that playing out as we continue to reach accord on immigration reform. But when it comes to our budget debate, partisan ideology and special interests are winning out over the common good.
The ever-looming “sequester” that was never supposed to happen goes into effect tomorrow. Billions of dollars will be cut from domestic and military spending without any plan or strategy; jobs will be lost and people will suffer. Public frustration is growing with our elected officials, while they continue to argue over the role of government instead of governing responsibly. The press discusses who wins and loses in the polls, but it is clear that it is the common good that is losing.
On the other hand, immigration reform is being discussed, at the same time with the same political players, in a very reasonable and hopeful way. On that important policy change, bipartisan work is going forward to shape legislation that could pass both houses of Congress.
Now that the election is over, policymakers and the media have refocused their attention on the looming budget battles in Washington. In January, a variety of tax increases and spending cuts will go into effect unless Congress and President Barack Obama agree on a plan to avoid what has been deemed “the fiscal cliff.”
As the country braces for another fiscal showdown in the nation’s capitol, here are five things you need to know on the issue likely to dominate the news over the next several months.
On the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday afternoon, a year and 17 days after she was shot in the head by a would-be assassin's bullet, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords tendered her resignation as representative of Arizona's 8th Congressional District.
An unusually emotional scene unfolded in the House chamber, with many members of Congress struggling — and failing — to keep their composure as Gifford's close friend, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, tearfully read the resignation letter on Gifford's behalf.