Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What will the new Congress do?

By Carol Gee

When the U.S. House and Senate come back into session in early January, it will be a changed legislative body. There will be a number of new senators and House members, for starters. And most of them will be Democrats. But will it mean a real change, or just a change of bodies? It will be interesting to observe whether Congress can listen to its better angels, or whether it will in 2009 again be business as usual.

If they are smart -- Congress can easily renew the SCHIP children's health insurance program before it expires in March 2009. It could be one of the easiest and earliest successes possible. A recent poll showed that they could even garner widespread support for covering the children of legal immigrants, according to the Congressional Quarterly. And Congress is wisely considering adding a number of other health care measures to the economic stimulus package, the Washington Post reports, a clever way to "kill two birds with one stone."

If they are vigilant -- They will continue to investigate. There are pertinent committees chaired by smart peopole with no lack of situations that cry out for the light of day, and/or legislative fixes. ProPublica's recent investigative pieces include: Unsafe/unhealthy housing provided to Katrina victims; gaps in aviation security; as well as threats to the nation's water supply. The economic rescue program alone could occupy a dozen committees for a dozen months. Yahoo! News spotlights the banking bailout scandal regarding huge gifts to banking execs#. Another similar story points out that there has been no overall accounting of how the banks spent# the bailout monies.

If they are patriotic -- They will investigate the true nature of the loss of civil liberties in the past eight years, as chronicled by Tom Head at liberties. And they will investigate themselves as the peoples' guardians of constitutional protections in the process, as the latest Glenn Greenwald post at suggests. Jeff Schweitzer at the Huffington Post reveals just how bizarre are Dick Cheney's recent revelations# on the administration's blatently lawless view of a unitary presidency. Will there be any criminal prosecutions? It remains to be seen.

If they are brave -- They will begin to try to bridge the partisan divide, the widest in a long time, according to a fascinating recent Congressional Quarterly study. And they should work hard to avoid intra-party divisions, that could be nudged along by spoiler Republicans, according to

If Congressional leaders are to be a match for our new presidential leader, they will turn over new leaves, letting go of their previously ineffectual tactics. There will be no more excuses in 2009.

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are betmo* and Jon#.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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