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News ::
Congress Passes Bills "With a Zipper On Our Lips"
12 Nov 2001
Since the September 11th attacks some government officials and business leaders have used the tragedy as cover to more vigorously pursue policies that serve themselves and not the general public, under the guise of "supporting the president."
Since the September 11th attacks some government officials and business leaders have used the tragedy as cover to more vigorously pursue policies that serve themselves and not the general public, under the guise of "supporting the president." Republicans have intensified their efforts to push legislation and policies that would otherwise be subject to intense debate, which is an essential duty of congress.

U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd commented that the current climate has "put a zipper on our lips," and has questioned the lack of debate that gave President Bush the green light for the war. "We have united behind him in this hour of crisis," Said Byrd "but we remain mindful of the somber history of the nation, of the blood that has been shed over centuries to protect and defend the values enshrined in the Constitution. We must, therefore, be as constant in our vigilance of the Constitution as we are strong in our battle against terrorism."

Only U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, (D-Calif) voted against using force in response to the attacks. She has been heavily criticized and has needed extra security due to death threats. In this atmosphere, it is no surprise that few critical voices are being heard.

$40 billion was allocated for military action and relief efforts. This was quickly followed by a $15 billion bailout to the airline industry. So far, 130,000 workers have been laid off in airline and aerospace. Meanwhile, a $100 billion stimulus package made up of tax cuts and increased federal spending is stalled in the Senate that would hardly benefit those out of work or in need of health care.

The airline security bill passed the Senate on October 11 by a resounding 100-0 vote, but has stalled in the House. The bill would federalize airline security workers, but has met opposition by Republican leaders. Led by majority whip Tom DeLay of Texas, they fear a 28,000 strong work force that would likely unionize and vote Democratic. “There are some Republican members who fear the unionized labor force working against them on Election Day,” said Jack Quinn (R-NY)

With the recent devastating job cuts, the worst recession in 21 years looms large. Although America was previously headed toward a severe economic downturn before the attacks, the cause of the current business woes have been painted as the result of the Sept. 11th attacks. "It's no longer the Bush economy," CNN polling analyst Bill Schneider commented, "It's the bin Laden economy."

Under that logic, every move that aids profit strikes a blow against terrorism. "Fast Track" authority would transfer congressional power over trade negotiations to the Executive. U.S. Trade representative Robert Zoellick feels that giving the president the Fast Track to negotiate the Free Trade Area of the Americas (an expansion of North American Free Trade Agreement) is more than just a benefit to American big business. "Today's enemies will learn that America is the economic engine for freedom, opportunity and development. To that end, U.S. leadership in promoting the international economic and trading system is vital. Trade is about more than economic efficiency. It promotes the values at the heart of this protracted struggle."

However, progressive groups and most members of Congress oppose Fast Track. Public Citizen, a non-profit public interest organization, said that “thanks to past Fast Track deals such as NAFTA more than 550,000 manufacturing jobs have been eliminated in America in recent years.”

Capitol gains tax cuts that would benefit the richest taxpayers are also now portrayed as a potent weapon against terrorism. "By reducing the rate at which capitol gains are taxed," said NTU director of congressional relations Eric Schlecht, "President Bush and Congress could help revitalize the sagging economy and bring new revenues to Washington . . . decidedly aiding our war against terrorism."

Relaxing FCC regulations has also been pushed as a symbol of American strength. A week before the attacks, broadcasters were fighting to repeal rules that prohibit a company from reaching more than 35% of the country or from owning a TV station in an area where they own a cable company. Just days after the attacks, Chiarman of the FCC Michael Powell (son of US Secretary of State Colin Powell) pushed forward with the repeal, in the belief that a national emergency can't hinder discussing groundbreaking deregulation proposals. "Our reaction must be to defy these dastardly acts and not cower or be deterred from our duties: To our families, to our friends, and to our countrymen.” Said Powell “The flame of the American ideal may flicker, but it will never be extinguished, so we are here today. We will do our small part and press on with our business... solemnly, but resolutely."

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