Congressman Doc Hastings will be the first to admit that Washington D.C. lawmakers have a full plate awaiting them once they return to the nation's capital after Labor Day weekend.
Home on summer break, Hastings is spending his time touring Central Washington, visiting with constituents. One of his stops was in Sunnyside yesterday (Monday), where he reviewed some of the hot-topic issues that legislators will tackle on their return to D.C.
Complicating each of those issues, however, is that the two sides of the aisle are at odds on just about everything that will come up for discussion. And, with a Republican White House that has little support from a Democrat-controlled Senate and House, the chance of finding common ground isn't all that great.
Hastings (R-Pasco) said he, as well as many other lawmakers, is eagerly awaiting the report requested this past May from General Petraeus. The report, scheduled to be released on Sept. 15, is expected to detail for lawmakers the progress being made with the recent military surge in Iraq.
The Central Washington legislator confirms there is growing support, especially from the far left, to withdraw troops from the Mideast. Despite the swelling unpopularity of the war in Iraq, Hastings said he remains committed to the American military's presence there.
He cites the threat of terror, saying he's become enlightened that... "this is a real threat on our Western way of life." Hastings said radical Islamists are bent on destroying Israel, and have targeted the U.S. for total destruction, as well. Gen. Petraeus's report, he hopes, will go a long way in convincing lawmakers how to carry out the war in Iraq.
As slim as the chance for consensus on what to do in Iraq, there is even less hope for the two sides of the aisle to come to an agreement on an immigration bill. Hastings said because the U.S. Senate failed to act earlier this year on establishing an immigration policy, there is no chance the U.S. House will act on the issue.
"It died on a bi-partisan level in the Senate," he said.
He's holding out the slimmest of hopes, though, that the two sides can reach some kind of compromise on a guest worker program, sorely needed, he said, for the agriculturally-driven Central Washington area.
"We'll take a look at that," he said, noting that he has received bits of encouragement when talking with some select members of the Democrat side of the aisle.
"Both sides know the seriousness of this," he added.
In addressing the recent law that was enacted, making employers responsible for verifying the Social Security numbers of their workers, Hastings said business owners and farmers "...have every right to be concerned.
"You can't expect a farmer to be a policeman," he said.
Hastings said one of the first things he'll do on returning to Washington D.C. will be to meet with government officials from the INS and the Social Security Administration to learn first-hand the intricacies of the new law, and how they intend to implement it.
Hastings, too, said the federal budget will be an item up for heavy discussion in September. He credits the Republican-led tax cuts adopted in 2001 and '03 as the catalysts for the robust economy the nation has been experiencing for several years. He said the Democrats, however, haven't made those tax cuts permanent in their version of the budget.
Complicating everything is the fact that President Bush is on the last legs of his second term in office, and the focus right now is on the 2008 Presidential candidates.
Hastings concedes that it's often the case that policies focusing on such issues as health care, immigration and the war against terrorism are often formulated, and eventually adopted, by newly elected administrations. But, he vowed, he'll continue to work for his constituency in Central Washington on the matters that affect them, despite the current climate in the nation's capital.
"There's a lot of work that remains," he said.