Friday, December 14, 2007

Grinches in Congress and Scrooge in the White House?

I had a different post entirely queued up for today but then yesterday two news articles crossed my desk and I wanted to make sure that you were informed, on the off-chance you hadn't heard about this.

The first I read at one of my "read every day and write for when I get the time" blogs (I will be posting there today about the second item, H.R. 847): The Political Voices of Women. BlueBloggin (out of Texas) shared this AP news article:
Bush Vetoes Kids Health Insurance Bill
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush vetoed legislation Wednesday that would have expanded government-provided health insurance for children, his second slap-down of a bipartisan effort in Congress to dramatically increase funding for the popular program.

It was Bush's seventh veto in seven years - all but one coming since Democrats took control of Congress in January. Wednesday was the deadline for Bush to act or let the bill become law. The president also vetoed an earlier, similar bill expanding the health insurance program.

Bush vetoed the bill in private.

In a statement notifying Congress of his decision, Bush said the bill was unacceptable because - like the first one - it allows adults into the program, would cover people in families with incomes above the U.S. median and raises taxes.

"This bill does not put poor children first, and it moves our country's health care system in the wrong direction," Bush's statement said. "Ultimately, our nation's goal should be to move children who have no health insurance to private coverage, not to move children who already have private health insurance to government coverage."

Bush urged Congress to extend the program at its current funding level before lawmakers leave Washington for their holiday break.

Congress responded:
The House voted 211-180 late Wednesday to put off until Jan. 23 a vote on overriding the president's veto. "We are not going to let this veto stand," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Republicans said Democrats were scheduling the veto override vote to coincide with the week Bush comes to Congress for the State of the Union address.

The bill passed the Democratic-controlled Senate by a veto-proof margin, but the same was not true in the House. Even after the bill was approved, negotiations continued to find a compromise version that would attract enough Republican lawmakers to override Bush's expected veto. A two-thirds vote in both chambers is required to override a presidential veto.

But that effort was unsuccessful.

The bill Bush vetoed would have increased federal funding for SCHIP by $35 billion over five years, to add an estimated 4 million people to the program that provides insurance coverage for children from families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance. The joint federal-state program currently provides benefits to roughly 6 million people, mostly children.

For the record, the tax increase to fund the program would not be directly applied to citizens through income or similar tax. The funds would come from an increase on taxes for tobacco.

The second item that crossed my desk came from my dad---an extremely conservative Republican on the very far right side of religion who, because he loves me, fears for my immortal soul due to my completely opposite political points of view---who emailed me a Tony Perkins article about the House of Representatives officially recognizing, through legislation, Christmas and Christianity. The article concerned H.R. 847, which passed this week. H.R. 847's purpose is to recognize the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith. It reads:


Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.

Whereas Christmas, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and the world;

Whereas there are approximately 225,000,000 Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population;

Whereas there are approximately 2,000,000,000 Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population;

Whereas Christians identify themselves as those who believe in the salvation from sin offered to them through the sacrifice of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible;

Whereas Christians and Christianity have contributed greatly to the development of western civilization;

Whereas the United States, being founded as a constitutional republic in the traditions of western civilization, finds much in its history that points observers back to its roots in Christianity;

Whereas on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ;

Whereas for Christians, Christmas is celebrated as a recognition of God's redemption, mercy, and Grace; and

Whereas many Christians and non-Christians throughout the United States and the rest of the world, celebrate Christmas as a time to serve others: Now, therefore be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world;

(2) expresses continued support for Christians in the United States and worldwide;

(3) acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith;

(4) acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization;

(5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide; and

(6) expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world.

This is their second action of this nature. In October, they formally recognized Islam in H.R. 635.

Additional Resources
House vote Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith
House vote Recognizing the commencement of Ramadan
What do you think of Bush's veto of the latest SCHIP program?

What do you think of Congress officially recognizing certain religions and the holidays they celebrate?

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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Rebecca said...

I think this is the first step toward the US becoming a theocracy. Boo! Hiss! What happened to the principles upon which this great Nation was founded? This is unacceptable.

I, too, was raised by "Shiite Republicans" - Christian fundamentalists of the extreme sort. I think we are one step closer to religious extremism in our government. How does this make us any different than the Taliban?


Magpie said...

I have always wondered why Christmas was in the line-up of national holidays. Doesn't that mean it's already been recognized?

And, on a related tangent, why does it say "in god we trust" on our money, and "under god" in the pledge of allegiance?

Julie Pippert said...

Magpie, I have an answer and an opinion. LOL

Freedom of religion and free speech are already protected. There is no need (IMHO) to specifically protect Christianity or its holidays ESPECIALLY because, as the resolution itself says, it is the dominant religion.

As for being in the line-up of national holidays, I'd say yes, yes it has already got enough.

You can't legislate putting the Christ back in Christmas. That peeves me off on so many levels I'm nearly incoherent. That is a personal choice.

And as far as I can see, Christmas is at NO RISK whatsoever.

Have these people walked through a store lately??

WRT to the Pledge of Allegiance...I will try very hard to keep to your question and not go off. LOL

The "under God" was ADDED to the original pledge, which was written by a minister, in 1954 after the original author had passed on.

I think we all know what kind of Congress the US had in the 1950s. One name: Joe McCarthy.

So the fact that now we are repeating that Congress and doing the same sorts of things?

I hope legislators expect a HUGE backlash in the next decade A LA the 1960s.

Cutting self off NOW.

For a good history about the pledge, read this:

The Pledge of Allegiance - A Short History

Candy said...

I think it's a typical example of the politicians in our country not wanting to move too far away from those 225,000,000 Christian voters. It makes me sick.

And I can't talk about Bush any more. I just can't.

Yolanda said...

The SCHIP situation completely enrages me, because the President is deceptive in his language, which makes it seem as though he is being fiscally responsible:

(1) SCHIP was never intended to cover poor children. Poor children have access Medicare. SCHIP was designed to cover the children of working families who either do not have access to health care (since US employers are not obligated by law to provide it), or for whom opting in to their employer-provided healthcare plan would be too much of a financial burden.

(2)"Eleven states currently provide SCHIP benefits to adults, eight of which were approved during Bush’s term" (source). In fact, while Republicans had control of Congress, SCHIP spending on adults was seen as a way to encourage caretakers to seek coverage and care for their children. It's only now that Democrats control the legislature, that the President calls such spending wasteful and unacceptable.

As for 847 (and 635, and the future recognition of the Jewish faith that I'm certain will passed before Passover), all religions are recognized under the First Amendment. Nothing more needs to, or should be, said about it by the legislature. Those who insist that religion should be intertwined with our governing, put not only our governing at stake, but they place their religious freedom in severe jeopardy. The separation of church and state does not merely protect the state from religious influence, it protects organized religion from being controlled by the state.

The Callipygian Chronicle

Julie Pippert said...

Rebecca, Shiite Republicans! Oh my stars, that's a much better descriptor than neocon. Against my better judgment, I replied to my dad's email (with a one line slight disagreement about an "anti-choice" point). There is a reply this morning to me from him. It is tightly packed words that begin with, "I thought you went to college to be able to listen to all the voices, and discern which are reasonable and sensible, and judge accordingly."


I did. I have. I do. I just made a different choice.

Do you get that sort of thing?

I agree with you about the theocracy and religious extremism.


Candy, sorry to stress you out, babe, especially this month.

Julie Pippert said...

Yolanda!! You rock!!! Excellent points.

Yes, that is the part that enraged me too...defending his action as if it was about protecting our pocketbooks.

If you so happen to put that reply up on your blog I'd be ever so happy to linky over to you.

ALM said...

Sorry. Just lifting my jaw off my chest & getting ready for my rant. I'm appalled. And ok, it's more about the religion thing than the health insurance thing... because I think I've just about given up in terms of that... But... Umm... separation of church and state?!?! I can't. I. Just. Can't. Standit.
I understand that the US is a relgious country. I get that. But, it's also about the protection of the minority.. and even if congress had a resolution recognizing ALL religions.. what about the Athiests? They just need to stay the heck out of anything to do with religion. Period.

Julie Pippert said...

Alm, sorry to roast your chestnuts today with this topic.

I agree with you: we can't have a state recognized religion. That INEVITABLY leads to PERSECUTION. It has happened 100% of the time throughout history. I agree...the majority do not need additional protection beyond their status and constitutional protections.

This is one step closer to Handmaid's Tale.

And yes, those are black helicopters flying overhead. I'm not paranoid, it's for real. They are run by the Department of Homeland Security.

As one blogger wrote (and ACK, source?? can't recall!) today, "That sound? It was our government flushing the Constitution down the toilet straight to Guantanamo."

Family Adventure said...

Julie, I shake my head. And worry.


SciFi Dad said...

Days like today I think to myself, "Why don't people who live in the US but realize that news items like this are symptoms of a much bigger problem (like you, Julie), move to Canada? We get a bit more snow than some parts, but many areas aren't as snowy as say, Boston."

In Canada, we have government funded health care for everyone. Yes, part of the funding is from taxrolls, but the burden isn't as bad as you'd think. We can do it without the infrastructure the US has, so if the US doesn't have it, it isn't because of inability, but unwillingness.

As far as religious freedoms go, we have legislation that provides for paid statutory days off for religious holidays such as Eid, Rosh Hashanah and the like. I don't know about formally recognizing religions (I see little purpose for it, myself) here, though.

Julie Pippert said...

Sci-Fi Dad, well, having come here to the Republic from Boston, I can handle snow. :)

One company was Toronto-based (where my sister lived) and I had to commute there now and then---great city, loved it. I like Canada.

I agree this is a symptom of a bigger issue and the lack of services is unwillingness more than inability.

I actually know someone who emigrated when Bush got elected second time (OmegaMom, you know who I mean.) and she got a lot of flack about it. A lot.

I'm not afraid of flack but I did decide to try to stay here and do what I could to improve things because I care...I really, really care about the US and I want it to be a good place. In so many ways it is. We're just being run by theocrats with monarchy complexes.

And the media is too busy chasing Paris Hilton to actually report anything newsworthy and informative, especially TV news, which I think is most people's source.

So there is a high rate of ignorance. I scan multiple news sources daily and STILL miss probably 60% of it.

I try to pass out information and I do my best to get good candidates elected. I vote every opportunity I have. So far, I am losing, but I remain hopeful the tide will turn.

It surprises neocons to learn I am actually very patriotic...just on a different path.

And wow was that WAY, WAY more than you wanted to know. LOL

Space Mom said...

When will Congress recognize that the Jewish Founders need to have Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanna off too? My husband takes "annual leave" every year, while the Christian workers get Christmas as a Federal Holiday.
Interesting that Congress felt the need to point out the Christmas (the second most important holiday in Christianity) is so dammned important.

Sigh... I worry for my kids.

You can always point out to your dad that "reasonable" is an objective phrase. What is reasonable to one person is not to another... That's why you went to college. To learn that different people can find different answers from the same set of data.

melissa said...

Wow...where to start?

The whole SCHIP thing is a mess. And some of the cases they trotted out a few months ago to enforce their point were specious at best. It seems to me like they are more focused on PREVENTING access than helping those who really need it.

And the resolution? Way to efficiently use resources there. Reminds me of the constitutional ammendment here last year (?) that made gay marriage illegal. Hello? It already was! So how much did we spend on that election? Sheesh!

Here's something funny....I'm typing this comment to you, and I just got an email alert saying you just left me a comment!

wheelsonthebus said...

What do I think? I think Jesus would have funded S-Chip. That's what I think.

Emily R

Kyla said...

I don't even have words for the veto thing. Don't have words. But I will say that I totally agree with Emily. Jesus would NOT have vetoed that farking SCHIP bill.

Karen said...

I am a practicing Christian and it seems grossly unnecessary and a huge waste of time and effort (and paper) to even bother with an HR like that. I'm not sure what "we" are protecting Christianity from - and anyone who wants to put the Christ back in Christmas should feel free to do so and fund S-CHIP!!

Minnesota Mom said...

As I started to read about HR 847, I was totally appalled and getting ready to rant away. And then I got to the part about HR 635 recognizing Islam - or actually "recognizing the commencement of Ramadan". Now I'm a little conflicted. Although I do think that resolutions recognizing religions should be unnecessary, and are a violation of church and state, I feel tempted to applaud almost any official statement that is positive towards Islam.

And if I support a resolution for Islam, how can I totally condemn a resolution for Christianity? Now they just need to work on resolutions for Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Sikhism, Jainism, Shinto and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. That should keep them busy for a while.

Julie Pippert said...

MM, I see your point.


The legislature doesn't need to recognize ANY religion. ALL are protected under the First Amendment.

In fact, the First Amendment arguably PROHIBITS this type of lawmaking. If someone wanted to, both resolutions could (and should) be challenged as unconstitutional.


"The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is a part of the United States Bill of Rights. It prohibits the federal legislature from making laws "respecting an establishment of religion" (the "Establishment Clause")"

The challenge would probably fail because (a) Congress didn't ESTABLISH a religion and (B) both holidays cited allegedly have a "secular" purpose (although I'll laugh myself silly if they try to claim that) (both points are from the Establishment Clause).

But, IMO, it is arguable.

The main problem from my POV is not recognizing ALL religions but more so the inability to resolve anything wrt NO RELIGION.

It sets a bad and uneven precedent.

I'm also sure that HR 635 did very little if any good. Largely because it serves no purpose. Islam already had full rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Legislators should be plenty busy without this unnecessary busy work that's really more art and no matter, IYKWIM.

(And I hope this all reads in a really, really nice and thank you so much for replying with such a good point tone. It's hard to convey that when being factual alongside opinions, especially on a topic I feel pretty passionate about. So I am clarifying here. I mean this with my nice words in my nice voice---LOL, I say this 8 million times a day to the kids---and I say it because my first thought was very similar to yours. Then I came to this opinion.)

Angela said...

Well, as Catholics (religious instruction teaching Catholics, you might remember) husband and I kind of raise our eyebrows over the mention of "bigotry" and "persecution." That's a HOT one. I never really need, or in fact WANT, my government officially recognizing anything about my faith. They don't do Christians any favors, actually.

Julie Pippert said...

Angela, the "bigotry" and "persecution" bit caught me and my husband up short too. I had to think hard and came up with two possibilities:

1. A psychological condition, such as Munchausen syndrome or persecution complex

2. A long memory recalling back over two thousand years ago when Romans fed Christians to the lions.

If we want to concern ourselves with people suffering in the last 60 years from bigotry and persecution, it won't be the Christians coming first to mind, I'm afraid.

Rebecca said...

Julie, yes, I used to get those same messages from my parents. My dad, who is now 91, perseverates on various topics of extremism now. Right now, his rants are how we are all "creatures of God" but only those who are saved become "children of God." Pisses me off no end.

I've had to learn to forgive him and focus on the similarities, not the differences. He and my step-mom (84) are pretty much destitute, so I help support them by sending them money each month for living expenses. That act has been a huge part of my forgiveness practice.

I actually envy them some things - like the hour/day they spend in prayer (I would meditate instead) and the absolute faith they have in god (I would term it the Spirit of the Universe, or Higher Power). Our differences are really in the details of how we express our beliefs.

They are "outies" believing that external rituals and behavior and actions will take them to god. I am an "innie" believing that god is already within me and I just have to tend the flame.

My greatest freedom from the bondage that belief system came when a therapist long ago suggested it was a cult - it shares a great many characteristics of cults. Anyone who has been raised in a cult and tries to break free really gets how difficult and painful it is to leave.

Blessings in your journey. I'm so glad I found your blog!


Gunfighter said...

The bill to officially recognize the importance of Christmas is no more than a boatload of legislative sleight of hand. "Look, Christian voters, I did a piece of pro-christian legislation!"

What a bunch of crap.

I'm a Christian... but not a shiite Republican (Oh, I'm going to get LOTS of use out of that one), and I believe that God is strong enough not to need the protetion of a bunch of dopes like the U.S. House of Representatives.

As for SCHIP (and other moral failings)... GW Bush has a lot to answer for when HE meets his maker.

Christine said...

bush is a tool.

but you know that.

and recognizing religions? not sure how i feel to be honest. it seems like a lot of bs on the one hand, but on the other i can end up protecting people. maybe. well, probably not. i simply don't have the mental power to decide right now.

thanks for bringing this up though--!

Running on empty