It’s late at night and I just realized the new Congress – with 13 new senators, 84 new members in the House, and the most diversity ever – is positioned to tackle the difficult issues facing this country and pass bipartisan solutions. Here is what the 113th Congress will accomplish:
Debt Ceiling – I no longer expect a lengthy debate. Tea Party Republicans realize the debt ceiling needs to be increased so the government can pay bills that are due and that Congress is not therefore approving new spending. The increase is approved by voice vote in both chambers.
Deficit Reduction – After serious self-reflection, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D- Calif.), age 72, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), age 73, admit that even though Medicare and Social Security are fine to take care of their needs and the needs of those already receiving benefits from those programs, they will not be around for their grandchildren unless they act now. In coordination with Republican leaders in both chambers, a proposal to make Medicare and Social Security solvent for several generations, based on Simpson-Bowles, is agreed to and passed with little opposition. With the war in Iraq over and the war in Afghanistan in its final year of U.S. involvement, an agreement to reduce the Department of Defense budget to pre-9/11 levels, with adjustment for inflation, is also achieved.
Tax Code Reform – In its first meeting, the House Ways and Means Committee appoints a sub-committee to re-write the tax code. The guidance to the sub-committee includes direction to review all deductions and credits, rate structure, and benefits of both the flat tax and fair tax proposals. The resulting bill is passed by both the House and the Senate after some minor revision in time for 2014 implementation.
Gun Control – Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, contacts leaders of both parties and asks that a bipartisan commission be established to identify the root cause of gun violence. Agreement is reached on some restrictions of guns and ammunition. Video game developers and the entertainment industry agree to self-regulation and federal grants to state mental health programs are increased.
Immigration – Republicans agree to a modified DREAM Act with Democratic acceptance not to include an automatic path to citizenship. Following passage, a bipartisan group comprised of members of both the House and Senate develops a program of comprehensive reform of our immigration laws. The resulting bill provides funding to eliminate the current visa processing backlog and enforce current laws, consolidates visa categories with higher allocations and guarantees of shorter processing time, establishes a new unskilled temporary worker visa program to include family members, establishes E-Verify as the only acceptable method to verify eligibility for employment, strengthens the requirement for employers to verify no U.S. citizen or permanent resident is available before requesting new foreign workers, and reduces the time required before citizenship can be applied for. Given the bipartisanship in developing the program, the bill passes both chambers unanimously.
What’s that? Oh, the alarm is going off. Time to get up.