The New Congressional Caucus on Homelessness
by Anthony Stasi
May 11, 2010 | 7411 views | 0 0 comments | 204 204 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The United States House of Representatives has many caucuses, which are groups of congressional members that convene for common legislative purposes. Sometimes they are ethnic based (Congressional Black Caucus), sometimes they are based on specific issues (Children’s Environmental Health Caucus), and then there are the ideological caucuses (the Blue Dog Coalition – which are conservative Democrats).

Last Tuesday was the kickoff of the first ever Congressional Caucus on Homelessness. It was attended by Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings and Illinois Republican Judy Biggert. These are leading members on this issue.

This comes no time too soon, as social services budgets are vulnerable with state and city budget cuts. Most federally funded programs, meaning those that receive money through the government’s McKinney-Vento Act, are not in major danger, so long as programs apply for their funding annually.

The risk, however, is that local governments (cities and states) might cut funding and personnel that help these programs function. The caucus will hopefully work to develop strategies that make this management more efficient until the economy climbs out of its slump.

Florida Politics is No Disney World

Politics is fun and exciting until it becomes government. At that point, it is work. The United States Senate, and the races we follow, is important because these are the people that either support or reject budgets, send troops to war, fund innovative projects, and confirm Supreme Court justice nominees. A Senate race in any other state is important to New Yorkers, because they are voting on things that can affect us as New Yorkers. For this reason, the race in Florida should matter to us.

Florida is a state with a growing population on two fronts, senior citizens and its growing Hispanic population (and some of them are seniors as well.) The Senate race in that state has become a national focus, especially the primary race between Republicans Charlie Crist (Florida’s governor) and Marco Rubio, the state’s former speaker of the house.

I wrote about Rubio about two years ago when he wrote a book called “100 Innovative Ideas for Florida’s Future.” Pundits have taken to describing this as a shining example of the giant split between the conservative ranks of the Republican Party and its more moderate candidates.

But is this any more of an issue than it was in Connecticut when Joe Lieberman decided to run as an independent? Is this not just Florida’s problem, and not indicative of anything more? Well, it is a little different than what the Democrats had to deal with in Connecticut.

The Republican Party, as the minority party, does not need any infighting at this point, and Crist knows this. He had a political future without being elected senator. Lieberman was an established senator, who knew that he was more important to his country in the Senate than his primary challenger Ned Lamont could be. Crist does not have important work in the Senate for which he needs to return. He ought not have split the vote in Florida, and run as an independent.

Crist has had his mettle as a GOPer questioned a little in this race, and he cannot be blamed for being annoyed with that, since he has been a relatively successful governor. The blame in Republican ranks might be directed toward Crist right now, but ultimately it will fall on beleaguered national chairman Michael Steele. Steele has been unable to avoid landmines like this in his tenure as party chair. The entire world saw this Florida split coming, and Steele was unable to stop it. He was unable to stop the same thing form happening in New York’s 23rd District.

Steele is without question,a likable man that has strong party loyalties. But his time as party chair has been similar to his own run for the Senate in 2006 in the sense that it lacks any real following. A party chair is responsible for fundraising and making sure that the membership does not implode. In Steele’s defense, he has raised some money, but it is that second issue which is the flag-draped elephant in the room.

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