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They deserve a vote

By Seymour Klierly

President Barack Obama's declaration that victims of gun violence deserve a vote in Congress was one of the more poignant moments of his latest State of the Union speech. However, his strong-willed statement was a harsh contradiction to an earlier and equally declarative statement on climate change: "If Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I will."

Obama has never shied away from a partisan fight, as his outline for his administrative agenda demonstrates. While he encouraged Congress to "pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change," he knows that will not happen anytime soon. "Cap and Trade" is dead on arrival in the House of Representatives, let alone in the Senate where several Democratic senators in red states will be up for reelection in 2014.

The president laid out a full court press for action on climate change. "Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods--all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science--and act before it's too late." Obama knows that many of his plans will get defeated in the legislative process, yet he is willing to skirt legislators and encourage the Environmental Protection Agency to act on its own.

During the Republican response to the speech, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, rebutted the president specifically on climate change. "When we point out that no matter how many job-killing laws we pass, our government can't control the weather--he accuses us of wanting dirty water and dirty air."

At this point, the 113th Congress seems poised to continue the same partisan gridlock as the last session. Using the president's theme of votes deserved, several key pieces of legislation have stalled in the last few years, and each should have seen action on the floor of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

For example, the president is required every year to submit a budget for consideration. While the House has continually met the obligation of passing a budget, the Senate as a body has not passed a budget in nearly four years. Surely Obama could rally the American people around the idea of Congress doing the simple act of budgeting. Nevertheless, there was no call to action besides raising taxes.

Likewise, last year the farm bill overwhelming passed the Senate in a bipartisan fashion. Once it cleared the House Agriculture Committee, the bill was never considered on the full floor. Certainly the president could have called for a vote on the farm bill, yet he failed even mention the bill or rural America at all.

Instead of working to find common ground, the State of the Union speech pandered to the left and extolled the right. Per usual, another leadership opportunity was wasted and left folks in the middle wondering what's the matter with Washington.

Editor's note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.

Date: 2/18/2013

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