The November elections gave Republicans a larger majority in both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate so Democrats like U.S. Rep. James P. Moran are realistic about what to expect as this Congressional session begins.
“I really don’t think we can expect much in the way of new programs,” Moran said in an interview this week. “The things that the Republican Party ran on, abortion, guns and gay rights, are never really going to be resolved and they know that. The only thing that will be relevant to the abortion issue is the Supreme Court justices that the Senate will confirm. The guns: the National Rifle Association owns the Congress anyway so not much is going to happen there. The only thing that we can have some hope for is the ban on 50 caliber assault rifles because it’s insane to sell them legally.”
That ban is legislation on which Moran is working. “Why does anyone need a weapon that can shoot down an airplane from the parking lot or kill someone from two to three miles away,” Moran said. “I understand that Al Qaeda has purchased some of them already so that should indicate just who the constituency is that supports legal sale of these weapons. I am hopeful but in this climate it’s just too hard to say.”
As to the Supreme Court: “I expect that the president will have the opportunity to appoint two justices and name the next chief justice,” Moran said. “The chief justice will most certainly leave during this term and Justice O’Connor is older now. I believe that any nominee will have to pass a litmus test on abortion before their name even comes forward and I expect the Senate to confirm that nominee no matter how conservative.”
ON GAY MARRIAGE: “They would have to propose some sort of Constitutional amendment and that takes years if it ever happens,” Moran said. “In terms of acting in a legislative capacity, then all of the main issues that the president ran on were really meant only to divide and by dividing, they conquered.”
The president has expressed Social Security and Medicare reform as one of his top priorities. What will happen related to that in Congress this term? “The Republicans have been trying to repeal Social Security since it was enacted in the early ‘30s and, so far, they have been unsuccessful,” Moran said. “Most Republicans voted against Social Security and they continue to try to repeal it because they think it’s socialist. Of course it has enabled generations of parents to be able to pay for their kids’ entire education, housing and medical costs and has transformed our entire society. I think now what they want to do is move Social Security money into the equity markets and eventually people will have private investment accounts. The problem with that is that you are going to pay a great deal of money for administrative costs and you are going to separate out the poorer people who are dependent on Social Security for their subsistence from those who are younger and healthier. Then it will become a welfare program and they will attach the liberal, socialist label to it and they will have accomplished their objective to kill it.
“I’d like to think that this country is not just more compassionate but more understanding that the wealthy in this country are doing well enough without having to take from the poor. Seventy-five percent of America ’s working families pay more in Social Security tax than they do in federal income tax so they’re paying for themselves primarily. The wealthier you are the less you are paying into Social Security,” Moran said.
He agrees that Social Security does need to be revamped in terms of financing. “You could add a quarter of a percent onto the payroll tax and that would make it solvent or, instead of repealing the estate tax, you could say that you’ll cap the estate tax exemption at $6 million per person and at $12 million per couple you would still save several billions of dollars and you could use that money. Also, instead of making all of the tax cuts permanent, you could let some of them expire and use that money to pay for Social Security,” Moran said.
MORAN HAS fought drilling in Alaska ’s National Wildlife Refuge. “We need to look at ways to use our energy resources more efficiently,” he said. “If we don’t, any oil we get from drilling in that pristine wilderness will be gone and we will have nothing to show for it. We really need to have a comprehensive energy policy that addresses our consumption of resources and I don’t see that happening,” he said.
Moran will continue to work to close Mirant’s Potomac River power plant. “We at least got a resolution out of the state precluding coal-fired plants from trading emission credits because we are in a nonattainment area,” he said. “That’s something and we will try to build on that.”
While the national picture looks bleak from where Moran is sitting, the region (specifically Northern Virginia) is doing well. “In 2001 and 2002 there were 223,000 new jobs in Northern Virginia,” Moran said. “That means that one in every four new jobs that was created in this country was here. A lot of that has to do with the federal procurement we have been able to steer here in terms of high tech and security jobs. This region has the fastest growing economy in the country and I intend to do everything I can to ensure that that continues.
I, of course, will continue to work hard for the people of the Eighth District but this Congressional session just isn’t going to be very uplifting,” Moran said.