(Providence, Rhode Island) – This week’s “Brunch” is more of a smorgasbord – a hodgepodge of political odds and ends. There is no main theme this week, as our lawmakers and politicians seem to be all over the place.
“Biden’s Birthday Suit” – A book out this week by controversial political author Robert Kessler says that Vice President Joe Biden has a proclivity for skinny dipping (spoof photo above), something that female Secret Service agents apparently find offensive. Whether it is really true or not doesn’t matter, because the mental image is already seared into too many minds. If he runs for President and wins, will he hence be known as the “Commando-in-Chief?”
“Run for the Border!” – Congress is in recess until September 8th. In the end, little got done this year. On Friday, the House approved about $700 million for immigration reforms and border security, out of the $3.7 billion the President wanted. The Senate probably won’t even take it up, so zero will get approved. In the meantime, upwards of 90,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the U.S. southern border illegally this year. The failure to address it in any meaningful way is hardly a selling point for either party in campaign 2014. Is there a third option out there?
“Highway to Hell” – Much of the Congressional infighting the past few months has been about providing new money for the “Highway Trust Fund,” which is mostly fueled by the gasoline tax. The federal gasoline tax has been at 18 cents a gallon for two decades, but many Democrats pushed to raise it to 30 cents a gallon this year. While the idea of creating billions for badly needed road, highway and bridge repairs nationwide is a great idea, (not to mention all the jobs created), the political reality of boosting the gas tax by 66 percent was just crazy. In the end Republicans agreed to a “temporary” funding measure (aka a band-aid) until next May. The two parties couldn’t be further apart!
“Start the Meter on Billable Hours” – The House voted this week to sue President Obama over his use of Executive Orders, often to circumvent Congress. It’s unlikely any Federal Court will accept the case, citing the separation-of-powers clause of the Constitution. Every modern President has signed Executive Orders – yes, some to excess – but here’s the scorecard: Jimmy Carter, 320 in one term; Ronald Reagan, 381 over two terms; George H.W. Bush, 166 in one term; Bill Clinton, 364 in two terms; George W. Bush, 291 over two terms; and, Barack Obama, 183 over one-and-a-half terms. Still, the uniqueness of altering the provisions of Obamacare only from the Executive Branch (since it was passed by Congress) may prove tempting to the Courts, but my guess is they will pass.
“Want Some Chowda’?” – This is an "only in Rhode Island" story. Controversy erupted in the Ocean State this week, when it was learned the State Police were investigating the contract to provide food concessions at state-owned beaches. The contract was won and managed by the Chairman of the State Democratic Party (who promptly resigned) and a sitting State Representative. On the face of it, that may not be illegal, but could violate the state’s Ethics Committee guidelines. TBA on all of that, but the worst revelation (among 73 since-repaired health code violations) was that cans of Clam Chowder sold at the concession stands were being stored in a nearby restroom. YUCK!!!
“Spies vs. Senators” – A lot of people don’t trust their government, but that is actually a sign of a healthy democracy. A good dose of skepticism means we aren’t overly trusting, and that helps keep the elected and appointed folks and their staffs on their toes, we hope. On the other hand, some CIA investigators got caught spying on members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the very people who oversee the CIA. That’s unprofessional, creepy, and - just perhaps - illegal. It makes you wonder who - from the top down - is minding the store. When I spoke of the separation of powers in one of my above missives, it was a clear plug for the importance of that cornerstone of our Constitution. This clearly crossed the line. It smacks of something from the Nixon era.
“From the Land, Sea and Error” – The political gaffe of the week comes from U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes (D-Kentucky). While she has a good shot at defeating Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) this year, she clearly goofed when she said the following about foreign policy and the current Israeli-Hamas fighting: "The Iron Dome has been a big reason why Israel has been able to withstand the terrorists that have tried to tunnel their way in." Well, actually the Iron Dome is Israel’s stellar missile defense system that prevents attacks from the air. It has nothing to do with terrorists tunneling in. Could the gaffe cost her the election? Stay tuned!
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