Jewish World Review Oct. 1, 2002 / 26 Tishrei, 5763

Edward I. Koch

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Congress is not doing its job | Congress is not doing its job. Congressional attention should be focused on how we deal with the growing danger of Iraq. President Bush and his Cabinet have made a strong case that Iraq is a threat to its regional neighbors and the United States. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein can now manufacture chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and secretly make them available to terrorist groups. If the nuclear bombs are not already available to Saddam, they could be within as little as one year, according to British intelligence and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Iraq could ease the tension by allowing U.N. inspectors unfettered access to all its installations. But Iraqi intransigence has kept the crisis going. It has also strengthened President Bush's hand at the Security Council, which is considering a new resolution on inspections.

Democrats, led by Senator Ted Kennedy, have denounced the President's efforts to obtain a bipartisan congressional resolution requiring Iraqi acceptance of unfettered access or be subject to U.S. military force. Kennedy, and those who share his views, are making a serious mistake. Going soft on Iraq, besides being a grave error from a national security standpoint, will cause the Democrats to lose control of the Senate and will increase the Republican majority in the House.

A question not asked of Democratic Senators like Ted Kennedy and Chris Dodd on last Sunday's talk shows, in which they opposed the President's request for a war resolution against Iraq, was "How did you vote in 1991 on the Gulf War resolution requested by President George H. W. Bush?"

We know that Kennedy and Dodd voted "no." I have never heard them admit they were wrong. Indeed every Democratic Senator north of the Mason Dixon line voted "no" in 1991 except for Senator Joe Lieberman from Connecticut. They were wrong then. They're wrong now.

Senate Democrats are coming up short in other areas as well. They have refused to propose legislation on a whole host of vital issues. Senate Republicans share the blame and responsibility for not challenging them and making clear to the American people where each Senator stands on these issues.

For example, an enormous federal budget deficit threatens to become a raging torrent. Primarily responsible for that deficit was the President's tax reduction legislation -- 37.6 percent of the total tax cut went to the wealthiest one percent of taxpayers - those earning $373,000 a year or more. Why hasn't Senate Majority Leader Tom Dashle brought a bill to the floor rescinding many of those tax cuts instead of simply braying that the Republicans were wrong to pass the legislation?

It is also incomprehensible that the U.S. Treasury will lose over the next ten years billions, perhaps trillions, of dollars in tax revenue as a result of the richest corporations in the U.S. relocating their mailing addresses to offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. If Congress passed legislation denying the legitimacy of this tax avoidance scheme, every cent of profit would continue to be taxable, as it should. Congress hasn't done it, because both parties are controlled by special interest groups and particularly those making huge financial contributions.

On the issue of health insurance, why doesn't Senator Kennedy seek to amend the Kassebaum-Kennedy legislation passed in 1996? That legislation promised to provide laid-off and other U.S. workers with continued healthcare coverage by allowing them to pay the insurance premiums, but Congress never put a cap on the chargeable premiums, thereby preventing the law from having its desired effect. A majority of the 41.2 million currently uninsured are people who at one time held jobs and were covered by employer-paid health insurance policies. Where are you, Senator Kennedy?

On March 20, 2002, a congressionally authorized medical report was released. It stated that blacks who had health insurance and paid the same medical fees paid by whites to the same doctors received inferior medical care. The Congress, including the members of the Black Caucus, have done nothing that I am aware of to correct this shameful situation. America is not well served by a Congress many of whose 535 members seem unable to chew gum and legislate at the same time.

On another issue, in a 1991 Louisiana gubernatorial race between Ed Edwards and David Duke, Democrats and Republicans correctly exhorted, "Vote for the crook, not the bigot." In the New Jersey race for U.S. Senate between Robert Torricelli and Douglas Forrester, the slogan should have been "Vote for the zealot not the liar." Now that Torricelli has withdrawn, the issue before the New Jersey courts will be whether the Democratic Party is entitled to a substitute candidate.

A major party should always be entitled to a candidate in the general election, notwithstanding apparent technical obstacles in the state law. Millions of New Jersey voters should not lose their right to choose a U.S. Senator because Torricelli finally did the right thing and withdrew.

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JWR contributor Edward I. Koch, the former mayor of New York, can be heard on Bloomberg Radio (WBBR 1130 AM) every Saturday from 9-10 am. Comment by clicking here.

09/26/02: Confronting pathetic Americans in a post 9-11 world
09/19/02: Don't be fooled by Saddam
09/05/02: Necessary or not, getting congressional approval for war is common-sense
08/28/02: In defense of terrorism
08/22/02: Saddam Hussein is extremely popular in "Arab street," so why attack him?
08/15/02: My potpourri
08/09/02: Traitors: Journalistic and 'patriotic'
07/31/02: Euros should spend their time analyzing their own country's wartime actions
07/25/02: I may know next to nothing about the stock market, but I'm not getting out
07/18/02: Dems should stop trying to 'Whitewater' the President
07/11/02: Real Americans and the Islamic threat

© 2002, Edward I. Koch