Well Congress will be back in session after its five (5) week vacation and I would guess that the politicking and position jockeying will start again.  Actually, it started before the Republicans in Congress adjourned because they pulled a “parliamentary trick” to prevent President Obama from making any recess appointments.  They obviously hadn’t read Article II of the Constitution, Section 3, “State of the Union, Convening Congress.”  This provision provides, among other things, that the President “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend for their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.” As with everything, however, there are caveats such as what constitutes an “extraordinary occasion” and getting the Congress (House and Senate) to both disagree about the time of the adjournment.  But, in all fairness, the Democrats were guilty of similar parliamentary maneuvers during the Bush administration.  I guess all’s fair in love and politics, or is it?

In my view, one of the major issues that have already surfaced is the position that Eric Cantor is taking with respect to providing disaster relief for Hurricane Irene’s devastation.  There has never been an occasion in Congress where spending cuts were required before disaster relief is approved.  But spending cuts had never been required to raise the debt ceiling either and that didn’t stop House Republicans from creating a crisis that caused the Standard and Poor’s downgrade.

In case you didn’t know, Cantor has a history of calling for offsets in exchange for federal disaster aid.  After the tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri, Cantor said, “And also we see in the healing process that there is an appropriate federal role. Congress will find the money and it’ll be offset.” However, this same offset standard doesn’t apply to Cantor’s own district.  After the recent earthquake that was centered in Cantor’s district, he promised that federal aid would be given and did not mention a word about spending cut offsets.  In addition, after Tropical Storm Gaston hit the Richmond, VA area in 2004, Cantor appealed to President Bush and Department of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge for disaster assistance and even took credit for securing federal funds when they became available.   If that’s not being hypocritical, I don’t know what is.  This should not even be an issue and was never an issue under previous administrations.  This is just another Republican political tactic for trying to make McConnell’s pledge of making Obama a one-term President realized.

FEMA is running out of money and early estimates suggest that damage from Irene could exceed $10 billion.   Cantor and the rest of the GOP leadership in Congress seem to agree that more funds are needed but they refuse to budge until President Obama and the Senate agrees to more budget cuts.  Recently on Fox News, Cantor made clear that he would not support any additional funding unless matched with “savings elsewhere.”  Cantor also said on Fox that he supports $1 billion in disaster relief funding as part of the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill which contains massive cuts to FEMA and first responders.

This past July, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) detailed the draconian problem with the legislation Cantor favors:  The House bill slashes funding for grants to equip and train first responders by 40 percent.  This is on top of the 19 percent cut in FY 2011.  The House defense appropriations bill provides $12.8 billion to train and equip troops and police in Afghanistan — yet the House provides only $2 billion for first responders here at home.  The proposal also slashes FEMA by 6 percent at a time when the agency has never been busier.  Does it really make sense to pay for response and reconstruction costs from past disasters by reducing our capacity to prepare for future disasters?

Cantor’s budget cut hang-ups have only been an issue under this President.  In fact, during the Bush administration, Cantor and the rest of the Republicans of Congress, supported the Bush tax cuts, the Iraq war, and raising the debt limit five times without a penny in spending cuts.  Yet Cantor calls himself a patriotic American.  I sure hope that the folks in his district realize that he is not representing his constituency by trying to take America hostage once again.  You would have thought that the debt limit fiasco would have been enough.

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