Your Influence Counts ... Use It! The SPOTLIGHT by Liberty Lobby

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Congress Gridlock Good for U.S.

One delightful certainty was obvious on election night: Congress would be in "gridlock." The Senate is now 50-50 and the vice president will cast tie-breaking votes. The House is also closely divided.

Since President Harry Truman campaigned successfully against the Republican "do-nothing Congress" in 1948, it has been fashionable to lament "congressional gridlock." But gridlock should be ce lebrated, not mourned.

It's much better to have a "do-nothing Congress" than a "do-bad" Congress.

Most of what Congress has done in the past half-century is bad, not good.

If the nation had congressional gridlock for the past 50 years:

• The Department of Education would be nothing more than a desk at what had been the Department of Health, Educa tion and Welfare. Washington bu reau crats would not be ordering public schools to advocate homosexuality and pledge allegiance to "the world."

• Taxpayers would not be funding alleged "art" depicting the Virgin Mary co vered with animal feces.

• There would be no departments of Commerce, Energy or Housing and Ur ban Development. Multinational corporation executives would pay for their own travel and receive no taxpayer subsidies. Bureaucrats would not be ordering cancer patients to take certain treatment, and putting real healers in jail. Housing for the poor would be handled at the local level and Washington would not be paying the rent for hoodlums to live in high-class neighborhoods.

The list is endless and it's time to celebrate gridlock.

Hidden Mischief

Typical of the mischief hiding in huge "must-pass" spending bills is the work of Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), who wants to kill a controversial law passed by the once-sovereign state of Oregon.

Before the lame-duck Congress left town for the elections, Nickles inserted language effectively killing Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law in a huge year-end tax bill that is moving through Congress. The tax bill passed the House and is pending in the Senate.

It is an obvious emotional issue on which good Americans can disagree. There are patients -- mostly old, but some younger -- who are living out their final days in such pain they yearn for death.

There are many people who, because of religious convictions, oppose suicide for any reason. There are also those who raise the question of how far society will ultimately go if the state gets into the euthanasia business. People now choose late-term abortions on learning that the baby would be born with a disability.

But the place to fight out these moral issues is in state governments, not the federal government. And it certainly does violence to the 10th Amendment for Congress to undo state legislation.

If a state law violates the Constitution, fight it out in court. If not, respect the 10th Amendment admonition: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has pledged to take whatever action necessary, including a filibuster, to protect the law of his state from being usurped by Congress. Wyden, a left-winger, is motivated more by his commitment to assisted suicide than states' rights, which he has historically scorned.

Neither side is prepared to yield. Nickles' office said he is committed to the legislation and hopes it passes this year. Wyden's office said he will stand firm.

The Pain Relief Promotion Act, sponsored by Nickles and House Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), ostensibly clarifies the law pertaining to pain-killing drugs. It classifies the use of painkillers as a "legitimate medical purpose" and seeks to promote better understanding of pain management and palliative care.

But the act also bans the use of federally controlled prescription drugs for physician-assisted suicide and provides penalties of 20 years in prison for violators. Critics argue this would stop physicians from prescribing painkillers to all very sick patients for fear of prosecution.

Both sides have mobilized for the fight.

Catholic churches and organizations, the "Christian right" groups and the American Medical Association support the Nickles measure. The American Bar Association and the American Cancer Society object to certain provisions.

The ABA has taken no position on the issue of physician-assisted suicide but objects to the Nickles measure on grounds that it preempts the will of Oregon voters and "may have a chilling effect on the use of controlled substances for appropriate pain management."

The House has approved the Nickles bill twice, once as a stand-alone measure and again after it was added to a House-Senate Conference Report on extensive tax and Medicare legislation. But it has never gone to the Senate floor because of Wyden's resistance.

To get around Wyden, Nickles added it to the conference report on the tax and Medicare bill during negotiations with House Republicans. This complicates an already difficult situation for legislators trying to get the year's business completed before the new Congress is seated Jan. 3.

The package includes $27 billion in additional Medicare funding to hospitals, nursing homes and health maintenance organizations, and a $1 an hour increase in the minimum wage.

Clinton Mischief

While the lame-duck Congress is strugg ling to complete annual funding bills to keep the government operating, President Clinton is demanding education spending of nearly $40 billion.

According to estimates, on average, 7 percent of public schools' money comes from the federal government.

Clinton wants the spending for the most obviously local matters imaginable: to hire teachers and repair schools.

The federal government has no role in such activities; these are state issues. Some of the money would be used for such federal baby-sitting programs as Head Start and after-school activities.

Free breakfast and lunch, and after-school activities make life easier for the "single mother," the administration ar gues. Overlooked is the fact that it is biologically impossible to be a "single mother" -- a boy must be involved.

Rather than resist such 10th Amendment encroachments, Repub li cans are happily heaving taxpayer dollars at local schools.

Critics of the spending increase argue that the more federal government dollars invested in public school education, the more power federal bureaucrats will wield regarding contentious issues such as school prayer and sex education.

"The Republican Congress has in creas ed education spending by 50 percent over the past four years," boasted John Fee hery, spokesman for House Speaker De n nis Hastert (R-Ill.).

Contact your congressman and tell him to reject Clinton's education spending initiative by calling (800) 241-7109 or (202) 224-3121.