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November 08, 2006

Five Things Congress Could Do in Six Months
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

further to what Shadi and Suzanne have written on what next (ok, maybe we couldn't pass an energy transformation bill in six months, but it'd sure be worth trying):

1.  Homeland Security.  9-11 Commission recommendations, especially (finally) creating stronger standards for chemical plants and other hazardous-material facilities.  If they can't be passed, it'd be clear why.  And oversight, oversight, oversight.

2.  Reinvigorate a real non-proliferation agenda.  The US has been absent or outright hostile to efforts to re-invigorate the global non-proliferation regime for the 21st century.  It's time to turn that around, because the global consensus has never been under more threat, or more needed.  Various experts have put forward ideas on how to create verification and enforcement mechanisms that are relevant to the 21st century. Congress should, as Senator Clinton proposed last week, hold hearings that spotlight the problem and air possible responses.

3.  Energy Transformation.  I don't under-estimate the difficulty of this, but quite a few Senators, D and R (Lugar, Obama, Lieberman, Kerry, Clinton and more), have put forward thoughtful proposals about how to move forward toward a cleaner energy future and away from our dependence on oil and the resulting deformation of our foreign policy.  Several of them are thinking of running for President, so it ought to be in their interest to move something through Congress.

4.  Global Warming.  While they're at it on #3, direct the Administration to re-engage in international climate talks and come up with a next phase proposal.  Have some hearings to start acquainting the public with what that might entail.

5.  Europe.  I'd start thinking now about making sure we send really strong, well-briefed delegations to the various winter security conferences in Western Europe, with the message that partnership is back in business, that we want to listen to our allies but we also have some clear priorities and ideas about how we can move forward on neglected common interests.

Three other, less well-formed ideas:  high-profile inquiry into what more we could be doing to support democracy in Latin America; go back to the many good initiatives on Iraq that got partway through Congress earlier this year, maybe starting with mandating more specific progress reports and benchmarks from the Administration; invite new UNSG Ban Ki Moon down to Congress and have three well-publicized reform priorities to give him (betcha Suzanne could come up with those in a heartbeat).

Oh, and overturn the "global gag rule" that has made our international family planning assistance a nightmare for small rural clinics that are all-in-one shops offering women's health, family planning and abortion services.


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These are all fine ideas, Heather, and would be supported by a majority of voters.

But let's not forget that many voters around the country threw out Republican incumbents yesterday and cast their ballots for Democrats primarilly because they have rejected Bush's war, and want something done about Iraq - now.

The Washington establishment seems to be in some sort of morning-after denial about this salient political fact. But you can't run away from it. The voters have spoken, and very soon a new crop of Democrats, and a newly-educated old crop, are going to show up at the Capitol full of determination to fulfill their promises to their constituents.

And between this moment and the day of the swearing in of the new Congress, another couple of hundred American soldiers are going to lose their lives in Iraq. Think about that fact as you recommend that these eager new public servants lead off with an assortment of legislative initiatives that address every problem under the sun - except the chief problem they were sent to Washington to solve.

Democrats now control the legislative branch of government, and unless they act quickly and decisively, will soon become the despised co-parents of an orphan war. They have to accept the reponsibility which has been thrust upon them, and sieze the moment instead of trying to finesse it. Americans want to bring their sons and daughters home.

6. Eradicate global poverty!!! According to the Borgen Project, a Democractic Congress will pass HR 3605 (The Global Poverty Act) and will get the UN Millennium Development Goals on the political agenda of the world's agenda setter.

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