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Congress should capitalize on its powers

It is well known that Congress is not well regarded right now.

In fact, its approval rating is lower than Vice President Cheney. How can that be?

A few examples:

Congress has had zero effect on the administration of the Iraqi war. We continue to fund the war and watch this president move forward to passing on the war to the next president. If the Democrats truly believe they were elected to end the war, then why fund the war without caveats that require the return home of the troops?

The reason is simple — values aside, the Democratic Party is afraid it will be cast as not supporting the troops in the field if it holds back a penny of funding. The party so much wants to win in 2008 that it is willing in 2007 to stand silently by as more Americans die and are wounded daily.

The Senate is about to vote into office Mr. Mukasey as Attorney General. Mukasey cannot seem to acknowledge that water boarding is torture. Even though it has been known as torture for more than 100 years and is prohibited by the Geneva Convention and the U.S. Military Code of Conduct, Mukasey cannot know if it is indeed torture.

Mukasey also cannot seem to see any limitations upon the power of the executive branch of the government. The current administration has violated the constitution and does so almost daily with signing statements, yet this candidate cannot see those violations.

Mukasey is not qualified to serve, but the Democratic Senate seems to fear that the president will make an ever worse recess appointment if they do not vote for Mukasey. So they vote for a man unqualified to hold the position strictly because it is politically expedient?

Now the House of Representatives takes responsibility over dealing with the ATM, the Alternative Minimum Tax that has changed from its original focus upon seeing that the wealthiest Americans pay at least some tax, to a tax that hits as many as 23 million taxpayers. Charlie Rangel, who heads the house committee, has come up with a reasonable proposal that cuts that tax, and shifts the burden to increase dividend taxes and the tax rate for hedge fund managers.

Rangel’s solution is value neutral and solves a problem the Republicans had ignored under their leadership. But now comes the hard part.

Will the Democrats, in both the House and the Senate stand behind a bill that Republicans will rail on as a tax increase?

It is time for the Democratic majority to stop telling us what they cannot do because their majority is slim and instead show us what they will do as a series of principled stands against simply bad government.

Bowing to the will of a president who is now less popular than Richard Nixon immediately prior to his resignation, and a Republican Party that has lost its way with both voters and ethics, is absurd. Congress has budget control and all of the major budgets to approve. It is time to use the budget to dictate policy.

If the Democrats will not use their budget power to reign in an administration that is out of control and acting against the interests of the American people, then how are they different from the Republican Congress that failed utterly in its oversight function for six years?

Senator Reid, Speaker of the House Pelosi, stop acting like a minority party and take over running the budgets. It is what America expects of you.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Ironton Tribune.