Thursday, January 7, 2010

A few thoughts on the shape of national politics

It is funny how not posting anything for two days makes me feel like I have abandoned my poor little on-line effort here at Καθολικός διάκονος. Rest assured, I have not. New Year is a time for reflection and introspection, but I am not too keen on that these days either, which for me is not a bad thing.

As always, there is no shortage of issues to comment on: matters religious, cultural, and political. On the political front, I am appalled that the Senate and House health care bills are not going to a typical Senate/House conference committee to resolve differences and come up with a unified bill that can be voted on by both chambers and signed into law. Instead, it will all be done by Democrats from the House and Senate. I can unequivocally write something I have been hinting at all along: I oppose both bills and likely will oppose whatever emerges from what I can only call Democratic health reform caucus. This is different from opposing health care reform. The grounds on which I oppose what will emerge is that it will be too expensive, it will still not provide universal coverage, and not include adequate protection for human life across the board and very likely allow for tax payer money to be used for abortions. Nonetheless, I am ready to be surprised.

I suppose if there is any good news in all of this it is that no Republicans will vote for the bill and, given that there are elections next year in which every member of the House Representatives will stand for re-election, at least the ones choosing to run, with quite a few Senate seats at stake as well, there are likely to be quite a few Democrats in the House and some in the Senate who will not vote for the bill. All of this means that at end of the day there is no good news because we will either have an atrocious reform or no reform at all. As I have written before, the Obama Administration's mantra of "doing nothing is not an option" and then proceeding to sub-contract the writing of legislation to Congressional Democrats who invariably come up with an ineffective, pork-laden bill is not sound policy-making. Since we are talking about health care reform, perhaps the Hippocratic oath should be in effect- first do no harm!

On the positive side of the political equation, it looks like there is starting to be some positive momentum for enacting comprehensive immigration reform. I am very glad that this effort is being led by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who have declared this week National Migration Week. However, enacting meaningful and necessary immigration reform will be no less a fight than is health care reform.

I am not politically naive, but I think some bi-partisanship of the kind promised by the president during his campaign would go a long way towards breaking the impasse on big issues, like health care and immigration reform. It seems increasingly evident that the White House does not have effective congressional liaison, especially with the House leadership. One need look no further than Speaker Pelosi's recent criticisms of the president for evidence of this disconnect. It looks increasingly like in next year's congressional elections the pendulum will swing back towards the Republicans. It is almost a certainty, however, that the GOP will not wrest control of either the House of the Senate. It seems equally certain that the Democrats will not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Sadly, such a swing will not result in any better governance.

I end with the prayer for this week:

Lord Jesus, when you multiplied the loaves and fishes, you provided more than food for the body, you offered us the gift of yourself, the gift which satisfies every hunger and quenches every thirst! Your disciples were filled with fear and doubt, but you poured out your love and compassion on the migrant crowd, welcoming them as brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus, today you call us to welcome the members of God's family who come to our land to escape oppression, poverty, persecution, violence, and war. Like your disciples, we too are filled with fear and doubt and even suspicion. We build barriers in our hearts and in our minds.

Lord Jesus, help us by your grace,

•To banish fear from our hearts, that we may embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister;

•To welcome migrants and refugees with joy and generosity, while responding to their many needs;

•To realize that you call all people to your holy mountain to learn the ways of peace and justice;

•To share of our abundance as you spread a banquet before us;

•To give witness to your love for all people, as we celebrate the many gifts they bring.

We praise you and give you thanks for the family you have called together from so many people. We see in this human family a reflection of the divine unity of the one Most Holy Trinity in whom we make our prayer: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


  1. What a great and thought provoking post Scott. I wish I had some witty and intelligent comment to leave, but all I can really say is thank you for sharing your thoughts in such a way.

    There are times when you and I are not in complete agreement, but I have such tremendous respect for you and you always make me reflect, think. Thank you.

  2. Thanks, Fran. It is funny I just helped my 13 year-old daughter with an assignment identifying the state of the current administration, it's strengths and weaknesses. It was fun.


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