Thursday, November 10, 2005


There it stands… bruised, battered, weathered, tired.

What am I speaking of?

The GOP of course. It stands there, looking as if it got screwed with its pants on. Their fire has been doused (by indictments, poor planning and cronyism) and the agenda of their leader is in shambles as everything that he earmarked to tackle in his second term is slowly flittering away.

Now comes word that the most integral of his agenda items (and the one he was hoping would be his legacy) Social Security Reform, is (most likely) dead in the water.

On Tuesday, Senator Chuck Grassley (R – PA), the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee announced (following a meeting at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington) that Social Security system reforms may have to wait until 2009. Not even taking into account Democratic opposition, Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee have not been able to reach an agreement on proposed changes; Senator Grassley even stated, “I can't even get a consensus among Republicans.” The senator went on to say that he will attempt to get his fellow committee members to act before 2009, but he also sees those efforts being hampered by next year's midterm congressional elections and the following presidential election in 2008.

“President” Bush proposed Social Security reforms in his State of the Union address earlier this year and encouraged the creation of individual (and private) investment accounts that he said would help boost the program's solvency. Many critics have said that private accounts by themselves will not help Social Security. (Many of you may be asking why social security is such a concern at this moment. Well, in the coming decade, Social Security is going to be facing the expected retirement of millions of Baby Boomers, an event that some have said will stretch Social Security to the breaking point)

In case you missed it, another Bush-Administration second-term agenda objective was also ‘bushwhacked’ this week (sorry, couldn’t resist) as Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives abandoned (for the moment) a drive to open Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil drilling. Why? Apparently the GOP does have a brain after all and concluded on Wednesday that the initiative was likely going to threaten the passage of a huge spending cut bill. Representative Jim Nussle (R-IA), the House Budget Committee Chairman stated “ANWR and OCS (outer-continental shelf) will be out” of the legislation.

(What is outer-continental shelf you are asking; it was a plan to allow for offshore oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts regions -- regions that are currently under a drilling moratorium)

The drilling proposals had drawn opposition from Democrats and two-dozen (24 for all you mathematically-challenged folk out there) or so Republicans in the House.

This minor little setback occurs almost a week after the Senate approved the controversial ANWR proposal. That measure estimates the U.S. government would raise about $2.4 billion in leasing fees if industry was allowed to develop the refuge's 10.4 billion barrels of crude. Environmentalists though have opposed expanding oil drilling to the sensitive area in Alaska while some Florida congressmen have been at work trying to kill the offshore oil and gas-drilling plan. (Should be said that both projects have been a high priority of U.S. oil companies… as if we should be listening to them right now)

With a much more ambitious, $54 billion spending-reduction bill getting bogged down in the House, Republican leaders ditched the oil drilling plans (for now) as negotiations on the budget bill continued in the House. (It should also be said though that even without these two energy initiatives, the fate of the budget bill was still uncertain, as no House Democrats were expected to vote for it and several moderate Republicans might defy their leaders and use their own brains to make up their own minds… there’s a radical concept for you)

The oil and gas drilling legislation is not dead as supporters are hoping for one more chance this year to win passage as Senate Republicans could insist the ANWR drilling proposal be reinserted into the House bill, thus forcing a vote by the full House of Representatives.

Is this an omen for the Bush Administration? Should they, and the GOP as a whole, be worried?

All together now: Only time will tell…

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