The current Congress, the 112th session of this representative body, is quite possibly the most dysfunctional in American history. Granted, there were no doubt difficult sessions, such as that in session during Reconstruction, the period directly after the Civil War.
Whereas the sessions of Congress during the years 1863 to 1867 were dominated by Radical Republicans who sought to enfranchise the freed slaves and extend them rights as freed men, the current Congress appears to be moving in the opposite direction.
In 1866, the radicals, who at the time were Republicans, wanted to extend the franchise to the freed slaves. The army under Ulysses S. Grant had to protect the freed slaves from resurgent whites, who wanted to keep the status quo and deny African-Americans the vote.
The current Congress, and many states, dominated by Republicans have continually attempted to suppress the vote, especially for minorities. Not only minorities, but a number of demographic groups are affected by radical Republican attempts to deny citizens the right to vote.
The radicals of 1866, attempted to create a free labor economy, as well as extending the vote to enslaved Africans. By 1877, Southern Democrats, the conservatives of the time, regained power, and attempted to roll back Reconstruction legislation permitting freed men to vote. President Rutherford B. Hayes, prevented their actions, but the Black Laws would continue to gather momentum and affect the lives of African-Americans until the 1960’s and Martin Luther King.
In 2012, Republicans are trying to freeze people out of the labor pool as well as the voting pool, roll back civil liberties and the social safety net. Radicals infested the southern states during Reconstruction as they do today, except that this time, the Republican radicals are conservative, whereas in 1866, the Republicans were liberals.
Today, the radical conservatives in Congress are doing everything they can do to inhibit and obstruct the agenda of the American people and take us back to a time before the civil war, during which many people were indentured servants, and southern authoritarianism exploited African-Americans and Native Americans.
In 1866, coalitions of blacks and whites raised taxes and founded schools in the reconstructed southern states. Just as today, taxes were low for plantation owners, who wanted to invest their own money and cared little about the needs of the population and the electorate. Conservatives today believe the same thing.
During Reconstruction, government funded the railroads, which would not have managed the enormous investments needed to lay the tracks necessary to cross the country. Conservatives were solidly against actions of this type, preferring that private investment create the rail services. Without the intervention of the Federal government, the rail system that we have today would not exist.
The obstructionism extant in 1866 still exists today, albeit in a different form, imposed on the people of this country by gerrymandered districts, voter suppression and congressional obstructionism.
In 2010, Mitch McConnell, Republican leader of the Senate, declared that “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.“.
Instead of concentrating on the job he was given in the Senate, to make sure the smooth passage of appropriate legislation through that sometime august body, he wasted the people’s time and money on obstructing the President. This is precisely what has happened since that date. McConnell and the House Republicans have spent much of their time impeding the president’s progress instead of doing what they were hired to do.
Senators John McCain and his partner, Lindsey Graham have declared that they will obstruct the nomination of any candidate proposed by the President for Secretary of State to replace Hilary Clinton. They have declared their intent that John Kerry is the only candidate for whom they will allow passage to that position. They seem to forget who won the 2012 presidential election.
It is their belief that, like Mitch McConnell, their job is to obstruct the functioning of the government of the United States to further their own agenda, just as the southern Democrats did in 1877. They want to make sure that John Kerry give up his Senate seat to force a special election to be held in Massachusetts. They are certain that their candidate will win that senate seat. This is the kind of obstructionist manipulation that they are intent on forcing on the United States.
In 2011, the failure to ensure passage of a federal budget agreement almost led to the shutdown of non-essential government services. Almost 800,000 federal employees were scheduled to be furloughed if a shutdown did occur. The Grover Norquist agenda of smaller government could well have led to a complete shutdown of the federal government.
If this continued at the time, it would certainly have led to a state of anarchy, and ultimately an insurgency of radical groups, or a coup by the military. Government would have stopped payments to services like the police and military, ensuring civil strife and social breakdown.
Republicans in the House proposed a budget in that year that legislated spending cuts in social programs, vetoed by President Obama. Programs such as Planned Parenthood, which provides help to millions of women across America for things like cervical cancer screenings, breast exams and contraception would have been cut, just as candidate Romney proposed during his presidential bid.
In August of 2011, the congressional Republicans again threatened to shut down government as the nation approached the statutory maximum debt ceiling. Republicans threatened to renege on the United States obligation to repay its debts unless drastic cuts in government services were agreed to.
During normal times, the increase in the debt ceiling is a formality that passes through Congress. It was done several times during the Presidency of George W. Bush without incident. The current congress wants to create a president with little if any power, and is using any instrument at its disposal to carry out that wish.
John Boehner, speaker of the house of representatives is again obstructing Congress with the rapid approach of the fiscal cliff, a dramatic series of tax increases and across the board spending cuts. This Congress still believes that it can force its will on the people through radical obstructionism, despite the fact that the President won a clear mandate in his reelection, the Democratic Party increased its majority in the Senate, and Democrats won the popular vote, if not the majority in the House. It is only by gerrymandering that Republicans managed to hold on to the House.
Republicans want to include Medicare as part of the negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff, regardless of the mandate that the President won, in which he explicitly stated that he was not going to balance the budget on the backs of the Middle Class. Republicans are again holding up negotiations, and blaming the President for not passing their agenda. They do not seem to understand the idea that they did not win the election. That, to them is a small detail that is not going to stop their extremist rush for power under any circumstances.
Republicans want to raise the eligibility age for Medicare, which would impose significant hardship on workers that cannot continue their jobs well into their sixties. Any worker that relies on heavy manual labor, or standing for long periods of time will be significantly affected by a rise in the eligibility age. Conservatives, of course, have little remorse at the suffering that their intransigence causes to others.
Republicans are insisting that the president make his proposals for cutting social programs. It is the job of the legislature to propose legislation and put that before the President. If they want cuts to certain programs, they need to say what cuts they want, and the President can decide whether to support them or not, not up to them to say that they want cuts to those programs, but that the president should propose cuts that Congress wants. This again is another act of Congressional cowardice.
Conservatives want the President to be blamed for any cuts to these programs, rather than doing the honest thing and making their own proposals. The devious manner in which these people treat the President is almost without precedent. It is clearly because we have a black, Democratic President that they take this stance. Congressional conservatives are threatening to hold the nation and much of the planet hostage in their overzealous zeal to shred the safety net for the poor and Middle Class
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