Republicans outline agenda

Posted 1:04 p.m. Nov. 8

by Bernard Pollack
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON–Senate Republicans and President George W. Bush have begun to outline an agenda ranging from Social Security to the environment for the new all-Republican Congress in the wake of Tuesday’s historic mid-term elections.

The president took a political gamble in the weeks leading up to the election, crusading across fifteen states in the final five days. This gamble paid off with the re-election of his brother in Florida and critical Senate seats for the GOP in North Carolina, New Hampshire, Texas, Missouri, and Minnesota.

Six of the nine Senate candidates and five of the six House contenders whom Bush stumped for in that final blitz won on Tuesday.

Since Tuesday’s unexpected win, Republicans on Capital Hill have been arguing that this election offers them a mandate to forge Bush administration priorities that had been stifled by bitter partisanship with the majority Democrats in the 107th Senate.

Among the issues at the forefront of the debate is Homeland Security legislation, environmental policy, and whether or not we will see a partial privatization of the federal Social Security program.

Bush made his first objective clear in a public statement Thursday, calling for a Homeland security bill to be passed within the next few weeks, often called the “lame-duck” session.

“The election may be over, but a terrorist threat is still real,” Bush said at his first new conferences since the election. “The Senate must pass a bill that will strengthen our ability to protect the American people … It’s imperative that the Congress send me a bill that I can sign before the 107th Congress ends.”

Under the Bush administration proposal, parts of several existing government departments and agencies and their 170,000 workers would be merged into one massive department. At odds between the two parties is whether or not these workers should attain collective bargaining rights and civil service protections.

According to a recent national poll conducted by Peter D. Heart Research Associates, a slim majority of Americans recognize the importance of guaranteeing job protections and rights to union representation for prospective employees of the proposed Department of Homeland Security.

Bush has threatened to veto Homeland Security legislation unless it strips prospective department employees of collective bargaining rights, stating that it limits the his control over the agency. About 50,000 of the workers are current union members, while the rest are protected by civil service laws.

Also near the top of Bush’s agenda-new environmental legislation aimed at de-regulation, job creation, and partial privatization. Among this legislation is a new energy bill that would allow for oil drilling in Alaska.

Senate Democrats were able to successfully stifle the proposed $30 billion in tax cuts for the oil, gas, coal and nuclear power industries, drilling in the artic refuge and selective logging under Bush’s plan to reduce fires in national forests.

“The good news,” said Environmental Group the Sierra Club’s Executive Director Carl Pope, “is that never before have so many people been elected to Congress claiming to care about the air, the water, and the land. The bad news is that so many of them didn’t mean it.”

In addition, both parties had drastic differences in their approach to Global Warming. The Democratic approach to regulate carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas responsible for global warming will not likely be passed. Citing high costs to the U.S. economy, the Bush administration and the oil, coal, utility and auto industries have opposed regulating carbon dioxide.

Also on the Republican agenda is a campaign to reform the Social Security system. Democratic candidates across the country ran on a platform that condemned the partial privatization of social security, while Republicans maintained that people should have the right to invest their money in the stock market and that there is not enough money to maintain social security given the rising age of the American population.

“I still strongly believe that the best way to achieve security in Social Security for younger workers is to give them the option of managing their own money through a personal savings account,” Bush said.

Despite a clear majority in both Houses of Congress, the Bush Administration pledged on Thursday to “work with both parties” to “get things done.”

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