The Pope’s sermon to America

Pope Francis addressed a joint session of Congress, taking the opportunity to preach against tenets of both liberalism and conservatism.  Liberals were zinged by his remarks opposing abortion, redefining the family, and infringing upon religious liberty.  Conservatives were zinged by his remarks on the necessity of supporting immigrants, measures to combat climate change, the elimination of the death penalty, tempering the excesses of capitalism, offering help for the poor, and (interestingly) opposing “fundamentalism.”

To his credit, the Pope twice mentioned “vocation” in a more or less Lutheran sense (as opposed to the medieval Catholic application of the term to church professions alone):

A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk.

“Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129).

Here is an annotated text of the speech (click the yellow highlights for the annotations).  After the jump, a detailed account of what the Pope said and how Congressmen and Senators reacted. [Read more…]

Pro-life initiatives in Congress

Senate Republicans say they will put forward a bill that would ban all abortions after 20 weeks.  Meanwhile, the House is putting forward a bill that would ban funding to Planned Parenthood.

If these issues get attached to spending bills, they could shut down the government.  That tactic turned the general public against Republicans before.  But is it worth doing?  Congressional leaders are reportedly trying to get these measures through without shutting down the government. [Read more…]

The Obamacare confession

When I heard about the Obama operative who said that the passage of Obamacare was helped by Americans’ “stupidity,” I assumed it was just a gaffe, with which Republicans could play “gotcha.”  But it turns out, the comment was in the context of a frank explanation in front of a friendly liberal audience at MIT about how the administration got Obamacare through Congress.

And the operative’s other comments are even more damaging to the bill.  A second video supports the opponents’ of the law’s case before the Supreme Court by indicating that the language restricting subsidies to state exchanges was intentional. [Read more…]

Our latest war is now illegal

The War Powers Act allows presidents to launch hostilities at their discretion, but they must receive the concurrence of Congress (to which the Constitution gives the authority to declare war) within 60 days.  If that doesn’t happen, the president has 30 additional days to end the hostilities.   The clock ran out on our war against ISIL on November 6.

President Obama is invoking the authority previously granted to fight the War in Iraq, but legal authorities question its applicability, since that war has been declared over and much of the fighting against ISIL is taking place in Syria.  But he could certainly make a good case for fighting those monstrous terrorists.  So why doesn’t he?

I suspect that neither the lame duck Congress with the Democratic Senate or the incoming Republican legislative branch wants anything to do with this issue.  This leaves the President to, once again, rule by decree. [Read more…]

Republicans are now playing nice on the budget

Republicans in Congress tried to cut the deficit by letting the government shut down, being willing to dive over the fiscal cliff, and sequestering expenditures, but those measures didn’t go over very well politically.  So now Congressional Republicans are going along with the Democrats, and they are close to an agreement on a budget deal.   Is that good news or bad news? [Read more…]

Laws that try to cover everything

In a discussion of the struggling Immigration Reform Bill, George Will tells about the Compromise of 1850.  Henry Clay worked it out, but the bill that would implement it–dealing with scores of inter-related issues, such as limiting the spread of slavery, statehood for California, the mode of territorial government for Utah, what to do about fugitive slaves, and on and on–could never get passed.  It was up to Stephen Douglas, better known as Lincoln’s nemesis, to get the legislation through.   He broke the gargantuan bill apart into smaller bills, each of which found its own constituency, and each of which passed.

Mr. Wills says that part of the problem in our paralyzed government is that bills are just too long.  They try to cover everything.  Which is a symptom of a government that thinks it knows everything. [Read more…]