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The 110th Congress's Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).
News and Opinion

A Word From The Publisher
Hopes for the 110th Congress.

-- Dr. Daniel E. Loeb

The Jewish community has spoken clearly in calling for change, with 87% of the Jewish vote going to Democrats and 12% going to Republicans. But what sort of change are we interested in?

New leadership is on its way, but what principles do we expect our leaders to champion?

The incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has set out an agenda for Democratic Congress's "first hundred hours" in power. What do you think about her priorities.

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice hopes to encourage debate on these questions. What are your hopes for the 110th Congress? What do you want Congress to do? What legislation should be proposed? And if the President will not sign the bill, is there still value in proposing it?

To get the ball rolling, here is my personal laundry list for the 110th Congress. Please give us >feedback, share your own list, or write in detail on your favorite initiative:

1. Global Warming. Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth and the visible impact of climate change on New Orleans have opened Americans' minds to global warming. Long after the problem was identified in the 1950's, the increase in carbon dioxide levels continues unabated to this very day. During the 1990's, the US showed leadership in this domain by spearheading the negotiation of the Kyoto protocols on the reduction of greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, George W. Bush withdrew the United States from the protocol, and we now stand along with Australia as the only nations out of compliance with the protocol, even though we are responsible for 36% of the pre-Kyoto greenhouse emissions. Congress should move swiftly to enforce compliance with the Kyoto protocols as many U.S. states and cities have already done.

2. Minimum Wage. The national minimum wage of $5.15 per hour has been frozen since 1997. A full-time wage earner only takes home $10,712 per year and remains firmly below the poverty line. While the purchasing power has dwindled away, Congress has continued to pass pay raises for its own members, and hypocritically link a temporary, small increase in the minimum wage to a permanent repeal of the inheritance tax for the most wealthy Americans. Congress should propose a simple up or down vote on a bill to increase the minimum wage to $7.25 and index it to inflation, so that a decent wage for the most vulnerable Americans is never again used as a bargaining chip in Republican class warfare.

3. Earmarks. Pork barrel earmarks should be forbidden. In particular, the allocation of homeland security funding and military bases should be based on non-partisan, expert analysis of our security interests. These funds must not be distributed as favors or to curry votes.

4. Loan Guarantees To Israel. Congress should restore the $289 million in loan guarantees to Israel which were cancelled by the administration in 2003 to penalize Israel for constructing the security fence to defend itself from terrorism.

5. US Embassy in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 stipulates that Administration must move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. However, the Act allows the administration to defer compliance for six months at a time if it reports "that such a suspension is necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States." Accordingly, the Clinton and Bush administrations have made such reports every six months. Bush clearly has no intention of moving the embassy unless forced to do so. Congress should strengthen the Jerusalem Embassy Act in order to compell the president to fulfill his campaign promises.

Why devote so much attention to the location of the Embassy, since the move would ultimately be symbolic? We and the majority of Americans know that Jerusalem is Israel's capitol. Critics argue that with so many real issues before us, symbolic issues seem less pressing. I respectfully disagree. Symbols hold great power. People die for symbols. People are inspired by symbols. People are frightened by symbols. Our liturgy, fasting, waving lulavs, eating maror, hearing the shofar, do not literally accomplish anything. But symbols do remind us, inspire us, and warn us.

Why do we want the embassy moved? It is not merely to save commuting time for diplomats. It is because the presence of the Embassy in Tel Aviv gives the Arabs hope that Jerusalem in its entirety could someday become theirs. I would argue that the Arabs hold out on a final peace agreement in part because they always hope for more.

6. Lautenberg Amendment. Sentator Frank Lautenberg has proposed an amendment to the embargo on Iran to close the loophole which allows companies like Halliburton to continue to deal with Iran through their office in the Cayman Islands. Lautenberg was thwarted by Senator Rick Santorum, who cast the deciding vote against the amendment. Now that Santorum is back home in Virginia , there is no reason to continue to allow Halliburton to collaborate with a terrorist state.

7. Iraq. Staying the course in the War On Iraq has proven to be a failed policy and a distraction from the War On Terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world. After spending more time in Iraq than we required to defeat Nazi Germany, the fighting has only gotten worse, with one part of the government (the Interior Ministry) literally attacking another part of the government (the Ministry of Higher Education). Congress should eagerly await the conclusions of the Baker commission and speedily implement any sensible recommendations. Meanwhile, it should call for an accounting of any alleged misappropriated funds, war profiteering, torture, or war crimes and hold all parties responsible for their conduct.

Pennsylvania's "creatively drawn" 172nd House District and 6th U.S. Congressional District.
8. Redistricting Reform. Congress should set strict guidelines for redistricting in order to outlaw gerrymandering. Iowa passed such laws, and they worked. Virtually every Congressional race in Iowa has been competitive. Generally, the outcomes of most races in other states are foregone conclusions. Even in an election year like this one, in which so many voters were dissatisfied with the Republican majority, pundits and statisticians alike were amazed to see even 10% of Republican incumbents defeated. Voters should choose their representatives- --- rather than politicians chosing their electors --- so that politicians will be more responsive to their constituents.

9. Campaign Finance Reform. Congress should consider public financing of political campaigns. In Parshat Mishpotim , we learned that officials should "take no gift, for the gift blinds the wise, and perverts the words of the righteous". Just as bribes surely corrupt judges, political money corrupts politicians.

10. Oversight. Above all, Congress should not hesitate to use its subpoena power to investigate alleged wrongdoing and properly carry out its responsibility of oversight, restoring to our government the constitutional checks and balances which we cherish.

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