Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - The non-voting delegate to Congress from the District of Columbia says the rapid success in dismantling the Taliban government in Afghanistan proves U.S. legislators can and should get back to regular business when the House and Senate return in late January.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) says the biggest challenges for her as a congresswoman in 2001, and the biggest challenge for Washington, D.C., was Sept. 11 and the anthrax scare. But she says now that the war in Afghanistan seems to be winding down, Congress needs to refocus its priorities.
"I'm going to insist that we get back to the domestic national agenda that was cruelly interrupted by Sept. 11 and then the anthrax scare," Norton said. "We've got to get back, first, to unemployment insurance, health benefits, and a stimulus for the economy that will work and that will benefit moderate and low income people."
A Republican-backed plan that would have provided unemployment benefits, health insurance, and cash payments to unemployed workers, along with tax incentives for business investment passed the House, Dec. 20 by a 224 to 193 vote. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) blocked the bill from being considered before the Senate adjourned Dec. 21.
But the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI), a California think-tank promoting "laissez-faire capitalism," believes having no economic stimulus is better than having either of the packages under consideration.
"The battle was all about what looked best to the voters, not about economic reality," said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the ARI. "Mr. Bush was desperate to be seen stimulating the lagging economy in the middle of a war...(while) his chief opponent, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, was even more desperate to appear as the liberal savior of the poor and disadvantaged."
ARI believes that a "massive repeal" of taxes and government regulations is needed to give the economy a real boost. But Brook, a former finance professor, predicts that won't happen anytime soon.
"So the political battles go on forever, and the economy will probably stumble to 'recovery' on its own," he said, "feeding on the remnants of freedom and individual rights left to us."
Norton did address the issue of government regulation, as it relates to new security measures in the nation's capitol city in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
"We have got to make sure that the words 'open society' do not become cliches" she said.
The six-term Democrat has pushed for Pennsylvania Avenue to be reopened in front of the White House, although she backed away from that position following the attacks. She says government must do everything possible to return the District to its pre-Sept. 11 open-ness.
The Secret Service has maintained that the boulevard must remain indefinitely closed to properly protect the president, staff, and visitors in the White House. Tours of the executive mansion have been cancelled since Sept. 11.
"I want to make sure that this city is not closed down. If we close down this city, we close down every city in America," she said. "The nation will look to see whether we run to our bunkers to see whether they should run to theirs."