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Washington Week

August 13, 2010 - 6:00pm

Both the House and the Senate came back from the six-week August break to take care of items that both bodies thought were important enough that they couldn't wait until Congress reconvened Sept. 13. The House came back to town to pass the $26 billion education/FMAP bill. This legislation gave $10 billion to states to hire or retain teachers and the remaining $16 billion went to states to help them with their Medicaid bills. The tab for this bill was partly paid for by canceling a Food Stamp program increase that was set to go into effect by 2015. This budget gimmick is definitely one you shouldn't try on your home budget, or for that matter on your small-business budget, if you plan on staying in business! The House also passed a $600 million border security bill aimed at increasing security on our borders by hiring 1,000 new border agents. The cost of this bill came out of increases in visa fees.

The Senate came back in session on Thursday of this past week and quickly passed the border security bill and a Senate resolution honoring the life of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Ark.), who was killed in a tragic plane crash the night of Monday, Aug. 9, in Alaska. Sen. Stevens was the longest serving GOP senator in the history of the Senate when he was defeated in 2008.

Both the education and border security bill were signed by the president almost as soon as they arrived on his desk. Now Congress is officially out for the summer and is not expected to return for business until Sept. 13.

A recent NBS news/Wall Street Journal poll indicated that two-thirds of the American people believe that the economy has not yet hit bottom. This poll caused Sen. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to comment on the "sour" voters on Wednesday when he was in Washington, D.C., to open the Senate and pass the border security bill.

When he was asked why he thought the Democratic Party would lose seats in the upcoming November elections, he mentioned the "sour" voters and went on to say this: "It's the world we're in. It's a much more negative, critical world and people are sour now. The thing they are most sour about is the future, not the present."

This writer begs to differ with the former chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and senior senator from New York. The "sour" mood of the voters comes from a mistrust of Congress. When you have the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Congressman Clyburn (D-S.C.), say in 2006 that "if you can't budget, you can't govern," and this current Democratic Congress fails to pass a budget resolution for the first time in history, you get mistrust in the eyes of the American electorate. When you have Nancy Pelosi say on Dec. 6, 2006, just before she was elected speaker of the House of Representatives, that "We promised the American people that we would have the most honest and open government, and we will," and the president goes on to hire upward of 30 czars who escape the Senate confirmation process, you get mistrust in the eyes of the public. When the speaker said on Jan. 5 in a press conference on the health-care debate, "There has never been a more open process for any legislation," and then we learn she was contemplating allowing the health-care bill to be passed in the House without members actually having to cast a vote on the bill, you get mistrust in the eyes of Americans. Finally, when Article 1, Section 9 of our U.S. Constitution says, "No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law" and Congress hasn't passed a single appropriations bill, of which there are 12, and each is due to expire Sept. 30, this leads to mistrust of our Congress.

Have no fear, Sen. Schumer, about the "sour" voters of America. Because I can see the November elections from my house ... you betcha!

Stay tuned.

Elizabeth B. Letchworth is a retired, four-times-elected United States Senate Secretary for the Majority and Minority. She is the founder of

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