September 23, 2012

Congress puts focus on election while the rest of America is waiting | Times West Virginian

We’ve seen the ads. We’ve heard the campaign promises. 

But while most members of Congress are focused on the election, the rest of America is waiting. 

Just what are we waiting for? The list seems endless. 

Let’s start with postal reform. The U.S. Postal Service lost more than $5 billion in the third quarter of the current fiscal year. According to published reports, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, who has said that the Postal Service needs to cut $22.5 billion from its annual costs by 2016, has been calling for months for Congress to quickly finish up its work on postal reform. Lawmakers in each party blame the other party for inaction. 

While they play the blame game, America waits. 

What about a national energy policy? Much has been said about the “war on coal” in recent months, and it’s no secret that strict federal guidelines are crippling the coal industry in West Virginia. 

The new Stop the War on Coal Act, which includes the reinstatement of the use of coal and disallowing of the definition of coal ash as a toxic substance, could be part of the answer, but lawmakers were scheduled to vote on it last week just before they left Washington, and they won’t return until after the election in November. 

So we’ll wait. 

Education reform is also on a lot of people’s minds. Guidelines and standards set in the No Child Left Behind Act clearly aren’t working, so it’s time to repeal it for something that makes sense. 

But America waits. 

And Social Security and Medicare? Let’s just say the issue is one that is hotly debated in every corner of the nation. 

As Gaylene Miller, state director of AARP West Virginia, explained recently, residents in the Mountain State are especially eager to see a healthy discussion of ideas take place. 

“A majority of the members we’ve met with in recent months feel very strongly that these vital programs must be strengthened for their children and grandchildren, and they’re open to benefit and revenue changes to make sure Medicare and Social Security will be there for future retirees,” Miller said. 

Yet they’ll have to wait. 

There are six weeks left until the election. Imagine the work that could be done in those six weeks. Some decisions could have immediate, long-lasting results. 

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has an upclose view of the issue. Last week he urged his colleagues to stay in Washington until the nation’s fiscal problems are solved, asking them not to sell the American public short “just because this is an election year.” 

“They can tell when you’re dealing straight with them — or when you’re playing politics. And right now is not the time to play politics,” Manchin said during a floor speech Thursday.

The senator is right. This isn’t the time to play politics. This is the time for Congress to make some landmark changes to help this country, not just for the remainder of this year, but for years to come. 

As Manchin said, “It’s time we cancel our flights home, roll up our sleeves and get down to the people’s business, because we’ve reached a dangerous point in our history — a point at which our debt is threatening not just our economic standing in the world, but also our national security.” 

But did his colleagues listen? No. Instead, the country’s elected leaders have recessed again, and most are focused on just one thing: being re-elected. 

The rest of us are left waiting.

By:  Editorial