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Today in Washington – June 22, 2010

Conservatives and libertarians in Washington are buzzing about Thomas Sowell’s Op Ed in Investor’s Business Daily titled “Is U.S. Now on Slippery Slope to Tyranny?”  These are trying times for Americans who treasure the idea of small government.  Many share the concern of Sowell that the damage being done by this Administration and Congress in expanding the size and scope of the federal government, can’t be undone under new leadership. 

The Senate’s schedule is up in the air while Senators try to cut a deal on stalled nominations and the Tax Extender bill that includes an extension of unemployment benefits.  The House will conduct 5 suspension votes including one commemorating “Men’s Health Week.”  The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will have a hearing on S. 3495, Senator Byron Dorgan’s (D-ND) bill to promote electric cars through loan guarantees.  The House and Senate continue work on the Financial Services Deform bill.

Issues for Conservatives to watch today in Washington are the following:

  • The Jones Act- The Jones Act signed into law in the 1920s is protectionist legislation that forces all goods transported between U.S. ports be done by American ships, as well as owned and operated by U.S. citizens.  There are two ways for foreign ships to get a waiver of the Jones Act, yet these waivers are very complex and difficult to obtain.  As oil spills into the Gulf of Mexico, many Americans don’t understand why environmental regulations and protectionist laws are being allowed to slow the cleanup of oil.  Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) has submitted legislation, S. 3512, titled “Water Assistance from International Vessels for Emergency Response Act (WAIVER Act)” in an effort to get rid of some red tape.  The legislation will grant a short term waiver of the Jones Act to allow foreign vessels to help with the cleanup in the Gulf.  Seems like a common sense idea and something that Congress may want to consider, quickly, to allow foreign nations vessels to help with the cleanup. 
  • No Budget – Congressional Democrats have thrown in the towel on completing the traditional budgeting process.  The Hill reports that “House Democrats will not pass a budget blueprint in 2010, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) will confirm in a speech on Tuesday.” This is a major fumble for Congressional Democrats, because (as The Hill notes) “the House has never failed to pass an annual budget resolution since the current budget rules were put into place in 1974.”  Hoyer will say that a “GOP-led Congress didn’t pass a final resolution in 1998, 2004 and 2006,” yet this does not mitigate the fact that not much “change” has come to a Congress that has promised so much.
  • Sliding into TyrannyThomas Sowell has produced a very important piece for all Americans to consider as we get closer to Independence Day.  “In our times, American democracy is being dismantled, piece by piece, before our very eyes by the current administration in Washington, and few people seem to be concerned about it.”  Conservative and libertarians are concerned that many of the policies of this Administration are doing lasting damage.  “Just where in the Constitution of the United States does it say that a president has the authority to extract vast sums of money from a private enterprise and distribute it as he sees fit to whomever he deems worthy of compensation? Nowhere.”  Sowell agrees with many who think that the Obama Administration went to far with the “$20 billion fund to be provided by BP to compensate people harmed by their oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.”  As Sowell argues, our laws and institutions should establish a compensation fund under the existing laws of the nation.  “If our laws and our institutions determine that BP ought to pay $20 billion — or $50 billion or $100 billion — then so be it.  But the Constitution says that private property is not to be confiscated by the government without ‘due process of law.'”  As Sowell concludes – “With vastly expanded powers of government available at the discretion of politicians and bureaucrats, private individuals and organizations can be forced into accepting the imposition of powers that were never granted to the government by the Constitution.  If you believe that the end justifies the means, then you don’t believe in constitutional government.”  Some food for thought today.

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