Information & Referral
By Alan M. Schlein
Normally, in a presidential election year, Congress doesn’t get much done. This year is no exception. But with a few months before July’s political nominating conventions, a brief window of productivity exists and some lawmakers are pushing bipartisan proposals to help change Congress’ gridlock image. Let’s look at what’s on the agenda (with the exception of the seemingly never-ending attitudes and activities surrounding Obamacare) over the next couple of months before politics overwhelms all congressional activity.
Congress left town for most of May, with lawmakers missing deadlines on resolving the budget. Must-do items facing lawmakers upon their return include finding money to counter the Zika virus, and a scary July 1 deadline for averting a fiscal disaster in cash-strapped Puerto Rico.
To their credit, the Senate finally passed a major energy bill, the first in nearly a decade, and made some progress on providing help for Flint, Michigan, which is grappling with a water contamination crisis from lead pipes.
But efforts to revive the moribund process of passing more than $1 trillion worth of annual spending bills ran aground and talks on finding $1 billion plus to help fight the Zika virus continue to appear shaky.
A budget agreement is critical because it would contain virtually all options for passing any health care legislation as amendments to a larger bill. It would also authorize spending for key health care proposals. But both the House and Senate missed an April 15 deadline for producing a budget blueprint, which was particularly embarrassing for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., who as Budget Chairman had successfully passed four budgets. Meanwhile, in the Senate, lawmakers have gone directly to the 12 annual spending bills in hopes of avoiding a year-end omnibus measure. Nonetheless, some lawmakers are working privately to find bipartisan measures they can get through to show accomplishments as they face voters for re-election.
By Fern Smith-Brown
This story could, no doubt, be told a thousand times throughout the years — and such letters are even now being penned by children to daddies far away from them in strange countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. But it was, in fact, WWII and the year was 1944, a time when families were torn apart as war raged across Europe.
A soldier sat in the icy, dank stillness of a foxhole. Cold and weary, his heart ached for his wife and small children back home. Their sweet voices filled his mind, echoing round the earthy confines, as his thoughts dwelt on them once again. He leaned back shouldering his rifle. He twisted to reach the wallet in his hip pocket. From it, he withdrew a small scrap of paper.
Written in a childish scrawl, he read the letter telling him of his little daughter’s love and how much she missed him. She was in the first grade now and the paper revealed that she could write her numbers. They were scrawled in a lopsided angle among the words of endearment.
Such a brief little note, but it said so much. It filled the empty void that prodded at his subconscious relentlessly. In some strange and oft felt way, it spread a warmth through heart and soul and helped him through the trying days and weeks that would grow into months and years.
He had read that little letter of love so often that it had become fragile. He pressed his lips to the labored, scrawling print of his youngest daughter and gently replaced it in his wallet.