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CONGRESS : 100 Days Agenda and Beyond


BlingBling
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With their votes on Nov. 7th, the American people asked for change in Washington, an end to the partisanship and paralysis that had come to mark the outgoing 109th Congress. According to exit polling, 61 percent disapproved of the job Congress was doing. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said that Americans desire a "new direction," including a return to the bipartisan civility that is needed to advance a change of course. Pelosi has articulated a 100-hour agenda that provides the right start for the 110th Congress. Among other things, that agenda pledges new ethical reforms for how Congress will operate and calls for passage of legislation that should attract broad support on both sides of the aisle, such as raising the minimum wage, empowering government to lower prescription drug prices, replacing tax breaks for polluting oil companies with clean energy technologies, lowering the cost of college, and promoting stem cell research. The mandate for change has provided progressives an opportunity to show that our governing philosophy addresses real people’s concerns. The righted ship of Congress should leave Americans feeling that progressives have delivered change that clearly opens the doors of opportunity to a growing middle class, reawakens our conscience, and commits us to the common good, reforms government, and restores the image of the U.S. as a nation of both strength and a force for progress. To accomplish these goals, the Center for American Progress Action Fund yesterday released its recommendation for fresh ideas and policies that the 110th Congress should enact in the first 100 days. Read the full agenda here. Some highlights:

 

NATIONAL SECURITY GOALS BEGIN WITH IRAQ: The number one priority of the new Congress is to forge a consensus for achieving a successful conclusion to the war in Iraq. Doing so would increase stability in the broader Middle East, restore the strength of the overstretched U.S. military, and most importantly, free up our resources to bolster our efforts to address the real threat, global terrorist networks. As the Center for American Progress proposed in its plan for Iraq -- Strategic Redeployment -- Congress should urge President Bush to begin a responsible redeployment of troops that reduces the U.S. military footprint in Iraq in phases, starting as soon as possible and resulting in a virtually complete drawdown within 18 months. Beyond advocating phased withdrawal, Congress should urge the creation of a Special Envoy for Iraq, an official who would be responsible for organizing an international peace conference that would include Iraqi and other regional leaders. Moreover, the U.S. should lead the establishment of a Gulf Stability Initiative, a regional security framework to enhance security and cooperation among countries in the region. To enhance cooperation with the administration, Congress should establish a bicameral and bipartisan working group that would meet with top administration officials on a weekly basis to collaborate on getting the policy in Iraq right.

 

SECURITY PRIORITIES BEYOND IRAQ: Beyond Iraq, Congress needs to take action on a host of other national security priorities. With its power over the budget, Congress should work to restore the military readiness of our armed forces. The Army and Marines are showing the wear and tear of nearly five years of constant battle. Two-thirds of the Army's combat brigades in our operating force are not ready for combat. To restore readiness levels, the Army alone estimates that it needs more than $40 billion, while the Marines need an additional $10 to $15 billion to reset the force. With its power to conduct oversight of the administration, Congress should demand a number of critical reports from the administration. First, Congress should enact a requirement that the Intelligence Community provide new or updated National Intelligence Estimates as soon as possible on: (1) Trends in Global Terrorism; (2) Iraq; (3) Afghanistan; (4) Iran’s nuclear weapons development and delivery capability; and (5) North Korea’s nuclear weapons development and delivery capability. Second, Congress cannot countenance the ongoing genocide in Darfur. It can begin by demanding the adminstration produce a set of detailed reports outlining U.S. plans for obtaining United Nations Security Council support for multilateral targeted sanctions and providing U.S. military and diplomatic support of the rapid deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

 

ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY AND FAIRNESS AT HOME: The 100 days agenda seeks to address existing economic disparities for low- and middle-income families struggling to make ends meet and expand economic growth and opportunity through greater energy security, education reform, and investments in health prevention. Currently, the amount of the Child Tax Credit that families can receive is limited if they have low incomes. To begin to address economic disparities, Congress should expand the Child Tax Credit, and it should also triple the small Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers as an important step to increase employment among disadvantaged young adults. We can restore fairness in the workplace by empowering workers with the right to organize. A good first step would be to allow employers to recognize a union if the majority of employees sign union recognition cards in support of union representation. To work towards greater energy security, Congress should establish a benchmark of producing 25 percent of the nation’s fuel from renewable resources by 2025. It can begin to implement that goal by tying an extension of the CAFE credit for Flexible Fuel Vehicles to reductions in the mileage penalty and increases in the percentage of auto fleets that run on both ethanol and gasoline. To rebuild our public school system, Congress should enact proposals contained in the TEACH Act that use bonuses and other rewards to help ensure that high quality teachers are teaching in hard-to-serve schools. And lastly, our agenda identifies approximately $100 billion that can be saved by cracking down on offshore tax shelters and reducing highway earmarks.

 

AFTER 100 DAYS: Some progressive policy prescriptions simply cannot be accomplished by the new Congress in 100 days. Accordingly, between now and the August recess we recommend that the congressional leadership take the following eight steps to help restore the common good as the primary goal of progressive government policy. First, Congress should enact legislation that protects consumers from abusive credit card lending practices. Second, Congress should protect Social Security’s guaranteed benefit and promote ownership with a new Universal 401(k) that offers all Americans a private retirement account on top of Social Security. Third, Congress should establish an independent agency -- the Wellness Trust -- to set priorities and pay for disease prevention and health promotion. Fourth, Congress should enact comprehensive immigration reform that would combine effective enforcement with a process of earned legalization that regulates future flows of immigrants into our country. Fifth, Congress should ensure that electronic surveillance of persons in the United States is conducted in accordance with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Sixth, Congress should adopt a temperature target to help guide climate change policies. Seventh, require 25 percent of electricity production from renewable sources by 2025. And eighth, improve high school graduation rates by holding schools and districts accountable and providing sufficient flexibility to meet these targets.

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Edited by BlingBling
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