The mining newspaper for Alaska and Canada's North

The silence of Washington is deafening

Sometimes, it is a little amusing to see our elected leaders meet themselves at the door going both directions at the same time North of 60 Mining News – October 6, 2023

Generally, when there is a turn of the screw in DC, the pundits bombard the media with insight and analysis, often drawn on their experience with analogous events. Tuesday's vote to unseat the Speaker of the House somehow seems a little different since there is little precedent and even less Constitutional guidance as to what our leaders are to do next.

Contextually, we are in a bit of a dilemma. President Biden embraced an aggressive liberal agenda that contemplates the expenditure of trillions of new dollars for social programs; however, a key segment of the House of Representatives is dead set against appropriating the contingent funds.

The math is simple enough. Under the Constitution, the House holds the purse strings. A dysfunctional House necessarily complicates the annual debate over what programs will be funded and which ones will die.

The voice of fiscal restraint is rarely heard in Congress because the budget process is the classic way for members to "bring home the bacon" in terms of jobs and local government projects. Alaska has often been the beneficiary of this largesse, depending upon which party is in charge and how much seniority our delegation commands.

Those of us who watch the Alaska follies closely, must be glued to the Hi-D TV at this particular moment. Alaska has a lot of federal employees and a lot of federal programs that may be impacted.

With most Capitol Hill crises, there is a Constitutional roadmap to lead us out of the woods. Notably, however, the Constitution is remarkably silent on the current eventuality. This is exacerbated by the calendar, which sees many members out of town while the Speakership is being debated.

The House is politically split. When it came to a vote as to whether to reject the Speaker, the present and voting Democrat half was unanimous. In addition, a handful of Republican members who opposed the Speaker for entirely different reasons also joined the fray.

The result was a vacancy in the office.

How that vacancy will be filled is anyone's guess. All we know is that someone will be elected to the post sooner or later.

The Constitution only requires a Speaker. The Speaker arguably doesn't even have to be a Member of Congress, and his or her only job is to stand in line after the Vice President in case of a vacancy in the Presidency. Virtually every other function of the Speaker is laid out by House Rules.

So, there you have it. No Speaker. No clear path to getting a Speaker any time soon. A federal budget debate has been kicked down the road for a month and a half with no hope of an amicable resolution. Christmas is coming, and now there is the possibility that "non-essential federal employees" will be furloughed for the duration.

Non-essential federal employees include many in the ranks who are responsible for permits and statutory records maintenance. [A word to the wise for miners: Get your applications filed as soon as possible.]

In the larger scheme of things, of course, this trifecta is not a crisis, but only one more bump on the road of democracy. The Republic will survive, but it may be a long, dark winter.

The seeds of the current state of unrest were sewn decades ago, in no small part by the progressive agenda that followed World War II. One might say that the recent rise of the political right is a function of social evolution outpacing the widely held political, and even religious, views of a large segment of the electorate.

For instance, there was a time in the United States when "green" referred to something not quite ready for harvest. "Blackberries are red when they are green." And there was a time when watermelons, not people, were the only things that were green on the outside and red on the inside.

Likewise, there was a time when Alaska Native Land Claims were thought to have been settled, and a time when there would be no more withdrawals of public land from development. No longer.

We are mindful of the Uroboros, an ancient symbol depicting a serpent eating its own tail. To some the symbol reflects the circle of life. What goes around comes around. This week, it seems we are embarking on a new stage of that cycle.


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