I have been a regular on the Capitol luncheon circuit for the past three years, which qualifies me a connoisseur of chicken, political speeches and the sauces that they put on chicken to make it seem like their chicken is different than the last chicken.
By connoisseur, I mean I’m picky. For example, I often avoid writing about the keynote speeches at lunchtime events because they are generally frilly, predictable and unsubstantial. Furthermore, even though I always eat the chicken, I rarely enjoy it.
But the experience was much different on April 5 at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce’s Update from Capitol Hill Luncheon. Although the speakers – Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl – spent a fair share of their stage time rehashing all the ways Democrats are screwing up the country, they also gave some pretty insightful predictions about what Congress will do next, now that its finished the monumental task of passing the federal health care law.
I had just carved out my first bite of – you guessed, it – chicken when Kyl started out his speech with, as he put it, “a few declarative statements about what I think is going to happen.” When I heard that, I stopped eating and started taking notes.
First of all, Kyl said he doesn’t think Congress will pass the Employee Free Choice Act, known as card-check legislation. But he said he’s worried that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will agree to an administrative rule that would allow the establishment of labor unions without a secret-ballot vote, essentially as outlined by the card-check legislation.
Kyl was worried that the appointments of two Democrats to the NLRB – Craig Becker and Mark Pearce – will shift the board solidly to the left and give unions an advantage in labor agreements.
For the past two years, three of the five seats on the board were empty, and many of the cases the board dealt with wound up gridlocked when the two members of the board couldn’t agree. President Obama’s recess appointments of Pearce and Becker leave only one seat open – a seat reserved for a Republican.
Becker, Kyl said, was particularly concerning, given his background as an attorney for the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union. It’s likely, Kyl said, that Becker will lead the charge for an administrative rule change that would create a cap-and-trade program similar to the one outlined in the Employee Free Choice Act.
On Immigration reform, Kyl said it’s not likely to occur this year because President Obama “doesn’t have the courage to take on the issue” because of its political ramifications. The immigration measures proposed so far lack the support necessary to pass, Kyl said, and none of the bills will move forward until it addresses two priorities: the creation of a guest-worker program, the deployment of 20,000 National Guard troops to the border, and continued funding for a border fence.
“Before immigration reform has a chance, we have some unfinished work to do,” Kyl said.
McCain, after predicting Kyl would someday become majority leader of the Senate, said creating a legal worker program “has to be part of any (legislation) addressing the issue in this country.” He also said border security must be the top priority because the gang violence that has swept across Mexico “threatens the existence of the Mexican government.”
Any legislation that deviates from those priorities won’t have enough support to pass, said Kyl, the Senate minority whip.
Two final predications: Kyl said Congress will vote to increase spending on unemployment benefits; McCain said the U.S. will not meet its renewable energy requirements without additional nuclear power.
Of course, the pair couldn’t resist taking a few jabs at their political opponents. McCain said Nancy Pelosi was the reason offshore drilling was not allowed on the West Coast. Kyl said the federal stimulus has failed to create private-sector jobs. And McCain noted the health care law inexplicably provided $100 million to a hospital in Connecticut.
There’s more where that came from. But I focused on the new because I’m tired of the old. A person can stand only so much repetition at one time – and I was already stuck with the chicken.