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Congress Reaps What it Sows

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Cross-posted from Tikkun Daily.

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In his book, "Don't Ask What Good We Do", Robert Draper describes a dinner meeting of a group of Republicans on the night of President Obama's inauguration. The group decided they would not cooperate with President Obama, that they would do everything in their power to obstruct his agenda for the country. They would attack Democrats in the media at every turn in order to take back the Congress in 2010 and the White House in 2012.

According to Draper, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan, Pete Sessions, Jeb Hensarling, Pete Hoekstra, and Dan Lungren from the House of Representatives and Jim DeMint, Jon Kyl, Tom Coburn, John Ensign and Bob Corker from the Senate attended the dinner. Newt Gingrich also attended the dinner hosted by Frank Luntz.

This is no surprise to those of us who have been paying attention to national politics since 2008. While 50 million people in this country live without health insurance, while people die daily unnecessarily because they do not have access to quality health care, we watched Republicans stand united against President Obama's efforts to pass a universal health care law.

The Affordable Care Act is modeled on Republican ideas, not the Medicare for all system that liberal/progressive such as myself want. Yet Republicans bear false witness against it and call it a government take-over of health care. They won back the House of Representatives in 2010 with falsehoods regarding changes in Medicare.

Further, with the United States and the world suffering one of the worst economic contractions since the Great Depression, with millions of people out of work, Republicans stand united against economic stimulus, against sending more money to state and local governments to keep teachers, police officers and fire-fighters working, against a jobs bill that would put Americans to work rebuilding the nation's crumbling infrastructure.

After 2010, Republican brinksmanship manufactured an unnecessary crisis over raising the debt limit. This resulted in a downgrade of the nation's credit rating because, according to Standard and Poor's, of a weakening in the "effectiveness, stability and predictability of American policy making and political institutions."

When this group of lawmakers made the decision to work against President Obama from his first day in office, they forgot the Biblical wisdom: you reap what you sow. (Galatians 6:7) Congressional approval ratings fell to an all-time low.

We have no control over all that happens around us. We do have control over how we respond to what happens. Rather than a peevish and petty response to a historical moment in world history, these lawmakers could have chosen the way of patriots and statesmen by working WITH the president and his party.

Republicans continue to make these same bad choices. Some are now calling for the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder. They falsely claim that he has not cooperated with an investigation into Fast and Furious, a program by which U.S. weapons were used in violent crimes in Mexico. They also want Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate security leaks that they think come from inside the White House.

However, the most astonishing accusation on a list of grievances voiced by Texas Senator John Cornyn is Holder's efforts against voter Identification laws that could disenfranchise some voters. This is a solution in search of a problem because there is virtually no voter fraud in the United States.

In further developments on the Attorney General vs the House of Representatives saga, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is asking for internal documents pertaining to the Department of Justice discussions around a letter written to Senator Charles Grassley that contained false information pertaining to Fast and Furious. When the DOJ received better information, it withdrew the letter.

Attorney General Holder requested and President Obama has asserted executive privilege over the documents that the Committee has requested. In his letter to the president asking for this privilege, Holder says:

". . . the Department has provided a significant amount of information in an extraordinary effort to accommodate the Committee's legitimate oversight interests, including testimony, transcribed interviews, briefings and other statements by Department officials, and all of the Department's internal documents concerning the preparation of the February 4 Letter."

Attorney General Holder says further in the letter that to release documents of internal deliberations that Congress wants would have a chilling effect on the DOJ's ability to function both now and in the future since people will be unwilling to be completely candid in such discussions if they know that their thinking will not be confidential.

Republicans claim that they need the documents so that they and the American people will know who knew what and when. They are seeking evidence of a cover-up of Fast and Furious. Democrats say this is another example of a partisan witch-hunt, an attempt to find wrong-doing where there is none, that the investigation has not been fair since the same kind of gun-walking operations existed under the Bush administration and the people responsible for it have not been called to testify.

I am a great believer in congressional oversight. However, this Congress has shown itself to be extremely partisan and unwilling to work with this president. Some of the questions from Republican members of this committee to Attorney General Holder have been disrespectful, and he has said so. I do not trust that they are acting in good faith. Such a lack of trust is the crop that comes when partisan seeds of disrespect and obstructionism are sown.

Republican members on the committee speak about the American people's need to know the facts, and they speak of justice for Brian Terry, the border patrol agent whose death uncovered the gun walking scheme. Democrats say that justice for Terry and the thousands of unnamed victims of gun violence requires legislation that stops the sale of automatic weapons, especially the sale of these weapons that are then resold to criminals.

The Republican majority in the House of Representatives ought to know that the contempt action they plan against Attorney General Holder will be and ought to be read within the context of their disrespect and obstructionism. They are taking this country at lightning speed toward a parliamentary system of government. Voters will know that if they want to see any decent measure of cooperation between the executive and legislative branches of government, they must elect a president and a congress of the same party.

I say again: in a democracy we get the leadership we choose. We get the leaders we deserve. The good news is: we get to choose again on Election Day.

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