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Joe's Weekly Update: Issue 542

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Business as usual

Congress had to stay late in 2007 in order to take care of some must pass legislation, but leaders in the House must not have learned much from the experience. This week consisted of two legislative business days and aside from naming post offices and other non-binding resolutions, only one vote was cast on a piece of legislation of any substance. And that vote was a duplicate of an earlier vote. Democratic leaders in the House brought a bill that would expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program up for a vote for a second time. Last October, the House failed to override President Bush's veto of the bill, which he said expanded the program beyond its original intent to cover poor children who would otherwise go without insurance. The outcome of the vote was known before it was even taken on Wednesday, since the exact same vote had already been taken. The measure failed by 15 votes; almost the identical count as the vote held in October. Even as issues like the economy and rising gas and food prices continue to affect everyday Americans, Congress holds rerun votes and names post offices. The outlook for 2008 being a productive legislative year is not promising.

March for Life

Demonstrators descended on Washington D.C. this week as part of the annual March for Life to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Organizers estimate 100,000 people participated in the rally on the National Mall and the march to the Supreme Court. Several busloads of people came down from the 16th district of Pennsylvania to voice their support for the unborn. The weather, as usual, was cold with some rain mixed in. I was pleased to host a reception here in my office for those who made the trek down from the 16th district. About 75 people stopped by to warm up with coffee and hot chocolate and share their views on life and other issues that concern them.

Republican retreat

The House Republicans retreat to the mountains of West Virginia this weekend to regroup for the new legislative year. Republicans in Congress know that part of the reason we lost the majority was that we lost the voters' confidence in our credentials as the party of smaller government and fiscal responsibility. One of the discussions at the retreat will revolve around our conference's policy on earmarks. The most public displays of Congressional irresponsibility in regards to spending the taxpayers' money has come from earmarks over the last few years. The "bridge to nowhere" will live in infamy as an example of such poor fiscal judgment. With the number and price tag of earmarks spiraling out of control, reform is needed. Republicans will need to decide if we intend to be the party of reform in this regard or continue with business as usual.

Stimulus for the economy

Republican and Democrat leaders in the House, along with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, announced a proposed economic stimulus package this week. The compromise is being touted by the group as a package that is quick, targeted, and temporary. However, the path toward government rescue for the economy might already be getting rough. After Senate leaders last week acknowledged they would defer to the House in putting together an initial stimulus plan, one Senate Committee Chairman this week has already said he plans to hold a hearing that would mark up his own package, one that includes many of the aspects left out by Democrats in the House in an effort to achieve compromise.

Quote of the Week

"The fingers and toes and beating hearts that we can see on an unborn child's ultrasound come with something that we cannot see: a soul."

-- President George W. Bush, addressing those attending the March for Life, commemorating the 35th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.

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