CRomnibus and the Torture Report: Business as Usual in Washington

This week in Washington we saw two monumental reports come out, one in the form of a bill and the other a scathing report of a governmental organization. The bill, CRomnibus, saved the U.S. government from shutting down again for the second time in two years. The torture report exposed the CIA torture methods during the Bush administration, a policy that began a decade ago. Despite CRomnibus saving the government from a shutdown, the bill is overwhelmingly pro-business, and the torture report, without actual prosecutions of individuals, does nothing to reform a clandestine, governmental body that has consistently embarrassed the United States abroad for decades. These two developments, which have both conservatives and liberals upset, couldn’t be better indicators of how Washington hasn’t changed in recent years, and it is simply business as usual inside the beltway.

If average Americans can’t understand “Washington talk” then it’s time for them to stop talking.

 

Cromnibus

When #CRomnibus started trending on Twitter this week and the term was being thrown around on news programs, many people, including myself, wanted to know what the heck it meant. I thought Mitt Romney was riding some sort of bus. But, the term itself, which was conjured up on Capitol Hill, couldn’t better epitomize the disconnection Washington has with the rest of the country. I will now have to define this term, which perfectly illustrates Congress’s inability to be transparent. If average Americans can’t understand “Washington talk” then it’s time for them to stop talking.

CRomnibus is a term that brings together two ideas. The “CR” stands for ‘continuing resolution’; this is the way Congress continues to fund the government when a deal can’t be reached. Omnibus refers to an ‘omnibus bill’ which is how Congress funds the government when things are running normally. In layman’s terms, this term indicates that the government will continue to be funded but not exactly on a normal basis. It’s a resolution, or rather a compromise.

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Rand Paul and Kentucky’s Coal

We should be talking about energy freedom. Like all other sectors of the economy, allowing businesses and ideas to compete on the free market will not only produce the most efficient forms of energy, but will also pass along the savings to the consumer. –Rand Paul

Senator Rand Paul (KY)

Senator Rand Paul (KY)

As a senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul has to keep his constituents in mind when talking about the issue of energy innovation. The Kentucky coal industry, last quarter, employed 11,670 people, which comprises less than 1% of the Kentucky workforce. Obviously, this isn’t a lot; but what most Americans tend to think about with coal are greasy-looking miners or mountaintop removal. But, the real face of coal production is cheap electricity, and Rand Paul knows this.

As a champion for the little guy, Rand Paul understands that an attack on coal is an attack on his state of Kentucky. Kentucky currently has the third lowest electricity rates in the country, at $7.26/kilowatt. Its coal power plants produce nearly all electricity for the entire state. These cheap rates attract dozens of industries to set up shop in Kentucky; in turn, these industries provide jobs for thousands upon thousands of Kentuckians. Just think, every time you flick on a light switch you’re probably using energy from a coal power plant. Thus, heavy energy consuming industries, like the automotive industry, would like to work in states that have low electricity rates. This makes Kentucky an alluring and attractive option for many industries. Therefore, if you kill coal, these industries could kill Kentucky.

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Kentucky has both Eastern and Western coal-producing areas

But, Rand Paul is not some climate-change skeptic or a fool with his head in the sand. The obvious issue with coal is its pollution and Rand Paul understands that non-renewable energies increase CO2 emissions, and that alternative energy is the way of the future. But at the same time, he cares about that $7.26/kilowatt for electricity and knows that Kentucky’s coal provides a livelihood for thousands of families across his state.

Rand Paul believes in energy freedom.

As a true capitalist, he understands the power of the free market. This is certainly an area where progressive environmentalists might get wary, but the fact is, an open, unregulated market for sustainable (or renewable) energies is the best way to figure out which energy is the best. Handing out government subsidies to specific sectors of green energy (i.e. solar, wind) makes “it impossible for companies to know what is really the most efficient solution…Any energy source that really meets the needs of the American consumer would not need the government to subsidize it. Just as we don’t subsidize laptops and iPods, we should not be subsidizing solar and wind power” (Rand).

When the government gives out subsidies based on preference and not performance, there will always be unneeded lobbyists and special interests groups. Everyday Americans don’t like this game and this is what has turned Washington politics into a circus show. But, Rand Paul is among them ready to play hardball, for the sake of America’s energy future and of course, his fellow Kentuckians.

Far-left environmentalists simply want to pull the plug on the coal industry overnight, without even considering how many millions of families it could affect, or how many of these families have made a living off this industry for decades and even generations. But, all citizens will acknowledge that you can’t shut down an entire industry and not offset the job loss for these working Americans.  Rand Paul has a common sense proposal that champions these individuals and families, and opens and deregulates the sustainable energy market in order to find the most efficient and reliable energy alternative.

Listen to Rand Paul discuss several different issues below (including the energy industry starting at 4:40):

Is Obama justified in vetoing everything for the next two years?

The 2014-midterm elections have been a landslide victory for the Republicans and the next two years look like one big uphill battle for President Obama. On the state and national levels, Republicans have won big. Very big. They now control both houses of Congress and picked up 6 governorships in key states (Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, and Massachusetts). With Congress going all red and the White House still blue, what choices does President Obama have in the next two years?

In the simplest form, he can work with a Republican Congress and work to pass comprehensive, bi-partisan legislation or he can simply use every part of his executive power to veto everything Congress tries to pass. Is it acceptable for him to say “no” to the same party that has said “no” to him for the past 6 years?

Apparently, saying “no” worked for the Republicans. This midterm election is no bigger example of that. But if President Obama decides to say “no” for two years he, and his party, have a lot more to risk, most notably the presidency in 2016. Rumors continue to swirl that Hillary Clinton will run then and nothing would hurt her and the Democrats more than an inactive, disgruntled White House left behind by President Obama.

A president also has his legacy to consider. If Obama vetoes everything for two years not one history book or pundit will discuss the first 6 years of his presidency where he attempted to be bi-partisan and was given the cold shoulder from a disgruntled, gridlocked Congress. They will only remember the last 2 years where he decided to do everything possible to prevent the Republicans from passing legislation.

So he isn’t justified, is he? And everyone in America now expects him to work with a Republican Congress that never tried to work with him when they only had control of the House. They expect him to work with congressional leaders John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, the former being someone who is attempting to sue the President. Both of these Republican leaders feed into the extremist base of the Republican Party. Political scientist Alan Abramowitz summed it up perfectly on the eve of this election: “We’ll have a Republican caucus that is more conservative than it is now, and a Democratic caucus that is more liberal than it is now, [because] you’re subtracting moderates from the Democratic caucus, and adding very conservative Republicans to the GOP caucus.” With such sweeping victories by the Republicans this is exactly what has now happened. And no two leaders are better at rallying their troops than Boehner and McConnell. America, get ready for the pendulum to swing far right. Let the extremist legislation commence.

Now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (left) next to the Speaker of the House John Boehner.

And yet, Obama has to work with them. The Democratic Caucus will force him to. But why is it the Democrats that always have to yield to the Republicans. They’re the ones that have to compromise. President Clinton had to work with a Republican-controlled Congress during the latter stages of his presidency as well.

With this election, Americans have said that it is okay to say “no” until you get your way. The Republicans have been let off the hook by the American voter and rewarded them for acting like a child with full control of Congress. This mid-term election has taught us the importance of all three branches of government and over the next two years we will learn what President Obama intends to do about his legacy.

I leave you with a clip from freshman state senator Jeff Jackson from North Carolina that perfectly sums up the dysfunction in politics today: