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December 21, 2014

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Where I Stand:

A pair of no-brainers for stagnant Congress

A do-nothing Congress finally did something. In fact, two somethings.

I am sure I am not alone when I express a very high degree of frustration with Congress, which has managed to maintain the lowest ratings of public approval in recorded history.

The only reason the public’s opinion can’t go lower than the single digits, where it has been mired for months, is that there are a few people who just don’t know what is going on. They think Congress is doing a good job. Strike that, any job at all!

But, in a rare moment of recognition (something that used to be the norm and now is an exception) that there really are some issues that demand that Tea Partyers and other coagulating agents cease their ideologically driven work stoppages, both the House and Senate came together to enact two must-pass pieces of legislation before they broke for a much-undeserved summer vacation.

The first no-brainer was the Veterans Administration bill that is designed to fix the mess that the VA has become, which has caused so much distress and even some deaths for the very people to whom this country owes so much. It has been a shameful stain on the national psyche that had to be fixed.

Fortunately, even though there was so much wrangling and politicking where there should have been none, the money was allocated and the rules where changed to provide proper and timely health care for our country’s men and women in uniform who have served us so well and unselfishly.

Most Americans expected Congress to fix this national travesty as soon as it was exposed. That didn’t happen when it should have, but now it has. So kudos to a Congress that doesn’t deserve them.

•••

The other significant accomplishment (significant because it was actually accomplished as opposed to almost everything else that needs to get done but doesn’t because of congressional dysfunction) is the emergency aid of $225 million for Israel’s Iron Dome defense against Hamas’ rockets.

In that case, while there was general agreement in both houses that it needed to get done, it was not likely that it would happen before the Senate and House left for vacation. This country was faced with the specter of an Israel left without the ability to defend itself from terrorist rockets raining down upon it because politics was trumping policy, responsibility and national security.

Fortunately, there was one man left in Washington who was determined that leaving Israel vulnerable to terrorism was not going to happen on his watch.

Within 24 hours after the request from the Obama administration came in to fund Iron Dome, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., included the military request in an appropriations bill, which the Senate was getting ready to consider, intended to help fix the immigration crisis. That was deemed to be the fastest way to get the money appropriated for the needed defensive missiles.

After all, who in their right mind would deny the money to help manage the crisis on our border? That was a rhetorical question, by the way.

When it was clear that the Senate was frozen on the immigration crisis, Nevada’s Reid stripped the Iron Dome money out of the host appropriation bill and sent it to the floor all on its own. This was not a move designed to upset most Republicans who favored the military aid to Israel — even though there was some Republican objections to the move that ultimately went away thanks to Reid’s persuasive powers — but it did cause significant heartburn among Reid’s Democratic colleagues who were using the popular Israeli package to force a positive vote to stem the looming immigration crisis.

In short, Harry didn’t play partisan games for political advantage. Israel’s security was at stake, and there was no playing around with that. Not for Harry Reid. Not now, not ever.

The leader of the Democrats in the Senate acted like a leader of the United States, even though it caused some damage to his partisan credentials among his colleagues. He couldn’t have cared less. The call wasn’t even close. Israel’s security trumped all for Reid.

I know there are plenty of Reid detractors in Nevada, and I believe there are some honest political disagreements with the majority leader from time to time. But, in this day and age when elected leaders are often found wanting, it is refreshing to have a man who stands up for what is right no matter the consequences.

After the passage of the Iron Dome money, Nevada’s senior senator put together a bipartisan resolution that passed in a matter of hours and supported Israel’s right to self-defense, condemned Hamas’ use of human shields and called for a cease-fire that leads to the demilitarization of Gaza.

Harry did what leaders are supposed to do. He led. We could use a lot more of that in Washington.

Brian Greenspun is owner, publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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