Tuesday, Dec 06, 2016
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Dan Simpson

Our paralyzed Congress

AT THE moment, Congress is not meeting the increasingly grave needs of the American people.

Take the question of health-care legislation. Two facts about U.S. health care indicate a need for change. First, it is costing employers, people, and government an increasing and dangerous amount of money.

Health care cost 17.3 percent of the entire economy last year, up from 16.2 percent in 2008. It was reported that the nation's five largest health-insurance providers' profits in 2009 were up 56 percent over 2008. Their profits constitute a heavy and growing burden on the U.S. economy and people.

Second, 47 million people, many of them children, do not have health insurance coverage. If that remains true, America cannot call itself a civilized, developed country.

A person who has a sick child but no health insurance does not care whether his congressman is a Democrat or a Republican or which party appears to control one or both houses of Congress.

One absurdity is the idea of a majority meaning 60 rather than 51 votes in the Senate because otherwise someone might filibuster to get his way. Why should any citizen see anything holy about a filibuster?

The majority needed to pass a law in the House or Senate should be 50 percent plus one, whatever the current composition of either house. This country cannot function in 2010 with a legislature that runs according to self-imposed, obsolete rules.

What are Americans supposed to do about the prevalence of special interest-money in getting congressmen to act or vote one way or another? The basic argument is that the best thing to do is to get rid of all incumbents — the ones who are good are as guilty as those who are not, in that they enable the dodgy ones to play games that paralyze our legislature.

The liberal whine is that since the Democrats have majorities in both houses, turning the rascals out universally would benefit Republicans. And that is bad, they say, eyeing some of the current stars of the GOP.

Another, viable version of turning out the incumbents would be that both parties should nominate new people, not the incumbents. Let voters choose between a fresh Democrat and a fresh Republican.

I would argue for electing independents, if Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut weren't one.

Dan Simpson, a retired diplomat, is a member of the editorial boards of The Blade and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

E-mail dsimpson@post-gazette.com

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