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Osgerby: Senate’s subtle changes could have drastic ramifications

BY PAUL OSGERBY | JANUARY 26, 2015 5:00 AM

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Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has spearheaded the renaming of one of the Senate’s six subcommittees. The now-former “Subcommittee of the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights” omits the last two categories, civil rights and human rights. The change happened overnight, with no formal announcement.

Senate subcommittees act as a judiciary organization of the branch of Congress.

Does the renaming necessarily mean a redefinition of the subcommittee? Republicans argue that it doesn’t, but time will tell.

New Chairman John Cornyn, R-Texas, has said that the ideology behind the Constitution inherently addresses civil and human rights as a basic freedom for all Americans. His spokeswoman, Megan Mitchell, told the Huffington Post that those issues and all other broader rights remain the focus.

However, to me this seems as an opportunity for the Republican-dominated Senate to realign its priorities. Is it really for the better?

Cornyn argued that the new vision of the subcommittee would act as a “watchdog” against the “overreach” of the Obama administration, especially in regards to federal oversight of state and local elections.

In 2013, a key provision of the Voting Rights Act took that power away from the federal government. The result allowed for a controversial voter-detection program utilized in 27 states, mostly Republican-dominated, that an Al Jazeera America investigative report called “Jim Crow Returns” and stated that millions of minorities were potentially at risk of being barred from voting last November.

I fear that by realigning the specific focuses of this subcommittee, and primarily by omitting civil and human rights will allow future controversial legislation to pass through. It scares me that over time the emphasis would become lost on the civil and human rights.

As we see how the Republican-dominated Congress comes to combat Obama, I imagine there will be a great deal of political rhetoric exchanged and disputed. I just hope that this renaming of the subcommittee isn’t just used as a legislative means for Republicans to oppose further Obama developments — ultimately becoming another form of rhetoric.

Our country’s progress is in serious jeopardy if our elected officials have come to renaming existing subcommittees and realigning priorities to combat a presidency in its waning years.

Today’s media are oversaturated with the push-pull rhetorical battles between the two political parties, and I am aware that this is adding more to that pool, but I fear that Congress is disillusioning itself with its obsession of opposing Obama. Don’t let a change of emphasis become a potential avenue that in the future ends up forgetting to protect the basic civil and human rights of the American people.


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