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Mark Pocan has 37 better ideas for Congress

May 22, 2013
In The News

The U.S. House  voted last week to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Not for the first time, mind you, but for the 37th time.

Speaker John Boehner, never one to let a ridiculous moment go by without a ridiculous excuse, said that he scheduled the vote because he wanted newly elected Republicans who had not been able to participate in the three dozen previous votes to have a chance to engage in a meaningless gesture.

That raised the question of what other pieces of settled law new members might want to vote on. But don’t make too much noise about that, as they might go on a rampage.

The bigger — and more important — question is this: Will the Republican House leadership ever stop wasting time on the legislative equivalent of a toddler’s meltdown and actually try to govern? It’s not as if there aren’t other issues that are worthy of debate.

Most members of the Wisconsin congressional delegation walked through Boehner’s exercise in futility with predictable levels of disengagement. Democrats Ron Kind and Gwen Moore opposed the proposal. Republicans Paul Ryan, James Sensenbrenner, Tom Petri, Sean Duffy and Reid Ribble voted to repeal what is now commonly referred to as “Obamacare.”

What of the one freshman member from Wisconsin: Madison Democrat Mark Pocan? What did he do with his first opportunity to vote to repeal the extension of health care to millions of Americans who are uninsured or underinsured?

Pocan voted “no,” of course.

But he did not stop there. He came up with a list of 37 issues that Congress could have — make that should have — been addressing last week.

We commend Pocan's agenda to Congress:

1. Eliminate the sequester.

2. Appoint budget conferees to pass a national budget.

3. Prevent student loan interest rates from doubling.

4. Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

5. Approve mandatory background checks for gun purchases.

6. Pass comprehensive immigration reform.

7. Pass the DISCLOSE Act to required disclosure of political expenditures by corporations and lobbying groups.

8. Pass the BE SAFE Act to strengthen military sexual assault enforcement.

9. Address the Veterans Affairs claims backlog.

10. Pass the Put America Back to Work Now Act.

11. Enact a farm bill.

12. Invest in American jobs — strengthen buy American requirements for investments in infrastructure projects.

13. Pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

14. Pass the Paying a Fair Share Act to codify the Buffett rule, requiring a 30 percent minimum effective tax rate for those with incomes over $1 million.

15. Reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

16. Reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

17. Pass the Building Our Clean Energy Future Now Act  to provide grants for transportation projects to reduce emissions without raising prices or cutting services.

18. Pass the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act.

19. Pass the Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act to allow same-sex partners of military couples the same benefits as heterosexual partners.

20. Pass the Student Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination or bullying of students based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

21. Pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act.

22. Pass the Postal Service Protection Act.

23. Pass the Make It in America Manufacturing Act to provide competitive grants for public/private partnerships to promote American manufacturing.

24. Increase benefits to veterans to keep up with cost-of-living changes.

25. Pass the GI tuition assistance bill.

26. Pass the Bring Jobs Home Act  to eliminate tax deductions for companies moving jobs overseas, and provide a tax credit for companies bringing jobs back to America.

27. Pass the Child Tax Credit Permanency Act.

28. Pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act to require local educational agencies to establish policies that prohibit bullying and prevent hostile learning environments.

29. Pass the Healthy Families Act.

30. Pass the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act.

31. Pass the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act.

32. Pass the Water Resources Development Act.

33. Pass the End Big Oil Subsidies Act.

34. Pass the Bringing Reductions to Energy’s Airborne Toxic Health Effect (BREATHE) Act.

35. Pass the Taxpayer and Gas Price Relief Act.

36. Pass the Excellence in Mental Health Act.

37. Pass the Respect for Marriage Act.

That’s a long list.

In many cases, the legislation has already advanced through the committee process. It shouldn’t be that hard for a Congress that has time for its 37th meaningless-gesture vote to find time for 37 meaningful votes.

We agree with Pocan when he says: “From promoting economic growth, to passing a responsible national budget, to making college more affordable, the House should be working night and day to support middle class families and to help get Americans back to work. Instead, Republican leadership seems determined to waste valuable floor time on a 37th vote to turn back the clock to when health insurance companies could deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition and millions of families had lifetime limits on their coverage. The people of Wisconsin and of this great nation deserve better. Congress must redirect our focus away from partisan pandering and toward efforts to strengthen American families and communities.”