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Why Democrats Should Use Reconciliation

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

At the health care summit last week, nearly every Republican senator and congressman made clear their disapproval of using a process known as reconciliation to pass health care reform. Reconciliation is a process that is used for budgetary reasons in order to circumvent a filibuster and achieve a straight up-or-down vote. It helps needed budgetary bills move through Congress in a timelier manner. It has become somewhat of a hot-button issue due to the possible repercussions. Democrats fear using reconciliation would divide the House and the Senate or, in other words, Republicans would continue to vote no on every last thing Obama proposes. So really, there would be no repercussions.

The health care bill does, in fact, account for a large portion of the economy and would have a significant impact on the budget. Republicans actually back me up on this. By the Republicans persistent efforts, they have declared over and over again that health care accounts for a large part of the economy. At the health care summit last week, Lamar Alexander defiantly said that health care makes up roughly 17 percent of the economy and that we should not change it all at once. With that line of thought, reconciliation actually should be used in this case, right?

POLITICS: Incredulous Republican Fear of Debate

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

There have been plenty of complaints about the health care debate not being transparent enough, and that President Obama and the Democrats have not included the Republicans enough in piecing together legislation for a health care bill.

There have been accusations that the president has not kept his word. For example, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz tried calling the president out in a question at the Republican retreat a couple weeks ago.

“When you stood up before the American people multiple times and said you would broadcast the health care debates on C-SPAN, you didn’t,” Chaffetz said. “And I was disappointed, and I think a lot of Americans were disappointed.”

Fair enough. Although the majority of the congressional hearings and committee meetings dealing with health care were, in fact, televised on C-SPAN. I guess the question for critics of this sort is how do you logistically make sure that every meeting is televised? Should every single hearing be televised? What about unofficial talks before actual meetings? Conversations? Opinions? I am as big a supporter of transparency as anyone, but it undeniably gets a little messy.

But now, perhaps in response to the criticism, the White House has invited congressional leaders of both parties to a summit to discuss health care with the hope of moving forward and making health care reform a reality. And yes, it will be televised in its entirety.

Unbelievably, almost immediately Republicans criticized the gesture. The talking points were heard far and wide, migrating from Fox News and the EIB Network directly into Republican leaders’ mouths. “It’s a trap,” they said, typically followed by “I don’ t know what to expect.” There are also fears the president is trying to “intimidate” the Republicans and Americans into a “government takeover of health care.”

From what we know about the debate, it is hardly a trap. By the time it takes place, Republicans will have had nearly three weeks to prepare. The Democrats’ updated bill will be posted online before the gathering, challenging the Republicans to put forward legislation of their own. Both parties were allowed to choose additional participants and staff members specializing in health care policy. In other words, if Republicans are caught by surprise or feel trapped, it will be their own fault.

Republicans are acting like they’re new to debate — or politics, for that matter. A televised debate with more than enough time for preparation is not a trap. Republicans complain about the health care process going too fast, but cannot get enough time to prepare for a debate on a policy we have steadily been talking about for over a year now? Isn’t that the point of debate, to present your proposals and see who has better ideas? Doing an interview with Stephen Colbert is more of a trap than the White House summit will be. (Chaffetz has done an interview with Colbert, by the way.)

Having a couple weeks to get ready for a televised, transparent debate on the people’s health care policy is not a trap. Public policy debate is not a trap. It’s part of open democracy.

Randal Serr is a liberal political columnist for Rhombus.

POLITICS: Taking Some of the Politics Out of Politics

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

Obama SOTU

Randal Serr

Randal Serr

President Obama gave his State of the Union address last week — a speech that has been called both inspiring and tough, as well as rhetorical and lacking content. I thought the speech was good and I heard a lot of what I wanted to hear. What I thought was more impressive, however, was when the President took questions from House Republicans at a retreat in Baltimore two days later.

The State of the Union has received and continues to receive a lot of analysis and criticism. The question and answer session deserves a lot more attention than it is getting. Watching the retreat was an educational experience. It was much more candid and stimulating than the State of the Union. Both Republican representatives and the president were addressing concerns they had with each other and talking about them.

You could sense the tension discussing certain issues, but they were addressed respectfully and forcefully. Not only that, but the whole thing was transparent since it was broadcast live on C-SPAN. That is how politics should be, rather than the over-the-top accusations and boxing each other in we are used to hearing from talking heads like Beck and Olbermann.

Understandably, we like to listen to those that we agree with politically. People are not going to stop watching and listening to their side’s political talk shows and that’s just the way it is. But you cannot tell me Fox News is the only station that “tells you how it really is” any more than I can tell you MSNBC is purely objective and unbiased.

We tend to get so obsessed with ideology that we let it turn into demagoguery. In other words, we end up making arguments that are completely unsubstantiated or backed up by any facts just because that is what is being ingrained in us every day. If we insist on watching these people, we need to acknowledge that some of what we are watching and listening to only serves to make us into unblinking ideologues.

I do not mean to undermine the importance of the president’s State of the Union address. It is an important event that Americans should be more concerned about than the season premiere of Lost. At the same time, the session most people missed or do not even know about was both intellectually challenging and healthy. What I am saying is these sort of meetings need to happen more frequently, because they open the door for honest discussion and debate.

Randal Serr is a liberal political columnist for Rhombus.

POLITICS: Still Hope and Change

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

Barack Obama Change

Barack Obama ran his successful 2008 presidential campaign based largely on the catchphrases “hope” and “change.” For every person that clung to these words and took them to heart, there was somebody else that would mock them, brushing them off as nothing more than campaign tools to win over the mindless. As cliché as it has become, these slogans continue to be the brunt of jokes in the world of politicos and cable talk shows. But a recent Pew Research Center poll shows that “hope” and “change” may be more than just empty phrases used by the first black president.

The results of the poll show that African-Americans are surprisingly optimistic about progress in the country, even in a time when the unemployment rate for blacks is 15.6 percent, much higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate of 9.7 percent. Yet the Pew poll makes clear that African-Americans are significantly more upbeat than they were just two years ago. In a poll of nearly 3,000 people, when blacks were asked if they are better off than they were five years ago, 39 percent said yes in November of 2009 as opposed to just 20 percent in 2008. When asked if the future will be better for blacks, 53 percent responded yes while just 44 percent responded yes two years earlier.

About 76 percent of blacks also feel that blacks and whites get along either “very well” or “pretty well” compared to 69% in 2007. The poll also shows that a majority of blacks, roughly 53 percent, now believe blacks who fail to get ahead have their own actions to blame rather than discrimination, compared to about 34 percent who said so in 1994. Whether or not that is substantively true, the election of Barack Obama is credited for this large uptick in positive attitudes.

Attitudes of whites are notable as well. While 55 percent say the election has made no difference in improving race relations, 32 percent actually say President Obama’s election has improved race relations. One out of  three is a pretty substantial portion of the Caucasian population.

These results do not tell the whole story of course. Aside from the unemployment rate, there is more to consider when examining the current situation. Unfortunately, according to statistics, the standard-of-living gap between blacks and whites hasn’t narrowed. Likewise, African-Americans have suffered the consequences of the recession in the areas of health and education as well.

There is still much to improve by way of standard-of-living for African-American communities across our country. Discrimination still exists and much remains to be done before the United States can truly say racism is no longer an issue. President Obama’s election has, in fact, given (and continues to give) a sense of hope to a lot of people. Attitudes are changing — and that is a big step in the right direction.

Randal Serr is a liberal political columnist for Rhombus.

POLITICS: Is the Public Option Really Dead?

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

Randal Serr

Randal Serr

Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic Party, has bluntly stated that no health care bill is better than the health care bill proposed by the Senate. His reasoning is that the Senate bill is complicated, therefore, making it a target for Republicans.

Dean’s opinion is that the House and Senate should scrap the bill and start over so that they can simplify the bill and get the reform they set out to achieve in the first place, specifically either a public option or expanding Medicare. While I absolutely agree with Dean that the bill needs a public option or something similar to it to put the insurance industry in serious check, I disagree with him that we should just kill the bill and start over. I disagree for a few reasons.

Democrats are not going to have such a large majority forever. The 2010 elections are coming sooner than we think and Democrats are bound to lose at least a few seats. It has taken them nearly a year to get this far and trying it all over again would put any form of health care reform at risk. The public is getting more anxious all the time and the more the debate goes on, the more the public gets tired of it. According to Gallup polls, support is slumping for health care reform the longer it goes on. Support was above 50% in September and it has now waned to the high 40’s. The lag in support could be due to the tiring debate or lack of a public option, but either way the overall support has dropped.

While the health care bill lacks what I and many others would prefer, a public option, it still has plenty to offer. No more getting denied health care because of a pre-existing condition. That change is long overdue, especially because some insurance companies have listed things like domestic violence as an uninsurable pre-existing condition. Patients will also be protected from being dropped by insurance companies. People with incomes of up to 400 percent of the poverty level would be eligible for subsidies to help them buy insurance, while families with an income of less than 133 percent of the poverty level would be covered under Medicaid (insuring an additional 14 million people). Small businesses will receive tax breaks to help them ensure their employees. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects about $1 trillion in savings over 20 years if the bill passes. Any of these measures by themselves are worthy of passage, just as was expanding health care for children through SCHIP earlier this year. In sum, they form a very strong bill.

It is important to remember that there is still a lot up in the air about what the final bill will look like. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) have been very vocal about continuing to fight for more competition, specifically the public option. Conyers said the following:

“My message to the these Senators is this: Just as it took compromise to pass your bill last night, so now will it require additional compromise to successfully reconcile your legislation with the House.”

Fiengold added:

“I will be urging members of the House and Senate who draft the final bill to make sure this essential provision [the public option] is included.”

However, Feingold also said that if the public option does not make it into the final bill, it still offers “meaningful reform.” There are plenty of legislators that are sure to do all they can to get some form of a public option in the final bill. Yet, even if a government-run option does not come out of the bill, it is still a great step forward — with room for even more progress in the future. As Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said, “It’s something we can build on. Social Security passage was [originally] just widows and orphans.” What happened with the expansion of Social Security could very well happen with health care in the future.

There are still questions about how the House and Senate bills will merge, but even if the public option does not make the final bill, it is still a great bill. Supporters of health care reform, especially Democrats, should not let one missing provision overshadow how much this bill will accomplish and the doors it will open for people.

Randal Serr is a liberal political columnist for Rhombus. He is currently pursuing a graduate degree in public policy at the University of Utah.

POLITICS: Obama's Afghanistan Repercussions

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

Randal Serr

Randal Serr

President Barack Obama’s recent decision to increase U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan has resulted in some interesting coalitions. Democrats are split with all sorts of opinions. Some people inside and outside of the Democratic Party have abandoned all hope they had in Obama, claiming he is no different from Bush. Another group has been assuaged by his speech, giving him some breathing room to finish up in Afghanistan.

Conservatives are divided on the issue as well. Part of them agree that the U.S. should send the additional troops and leave victorious. Even Karl Rove offered President Obama a certain amount of praise, saying his speech “deserves to be cheered.” And there are all sorts of critiques in between, some less informed than others. All in all, he has somehow accomplished becoming the first liberal socialist far-right warmonger in U.S. presidential history.

This was undoubtedly a tough decision to make and the president made it clear it was not easy for him. There was inherently a lot of risk involved in this decision. If Obama was concerned purely about elections and politics, then he probably would have made plans to immediately exit Afghanistan since a majority of his party (and America) is skeptical of the war.

The July 2011 timetable for withdrawal is more of a goal than a sure exit date. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said we will not leave until the Afghans are ready to take over their own security. If the strategy fails and U.S. troops are required to remain in the country longer, Obama surely will suffer political losses. If the strategy succeeds, he will undoubtedly win back some doubters and former supporters, but not all of them.

Obama and his administration made a comprehensive analysis of the situation. He consulted with experts looking at the reality of the situation on the ground and listened to wide-ranging and differing opinions, a scenario far from the “groupthink” of the Bush administration. He reached a decision after months of consideration. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the conclusion, at least his decision process was thorough. He addressed the concerns of both Americans and Afghans, rather than trying to coerce or scare them into following him.

Having had a few days to let President Obama’s decision to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan sink in, I’m still not convinced it was the right decision. Nor am I convinced that pulling out the troops as soon as possible would have been the right decision either. I’m not exactly sure what the best decision would be. The conclusion I have reached, however, is that this is a very complex issue and I appreciate the president treating it as such, rather than making a knee-jerk decision or just “following his gut.”

Randal Serr is a liberal political columnist for Rhombus. He is currently pursuing a graduate degree in public policy at the University of Utah.

SPORTS: RSL Makes Utah Champions

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Sports

Utahs heroes celebrate the states first professional sports championship.

Utah's heroes celebrate the state's first ever professional sports championship.

The struggles of Real Salt Lake as a new franchise are long gone. They have established themselves as heroes in the state. With RSL’s unlikely arrival in the playoffs and amazing MLS Cup run, they brought Utah its first professional sports championship. When asked about this, Coach Jason Kreis said he had a feeling their win would “really, really” mean a lot to Utah and the fans. I know it means a lot to me. And from the looks of it, it means a lot to many other Utahns as well.

Real Salt Lake could not have done it all in more dramatic fashion. Having lost their second-to-last regular season game, their playoff hopes were hanging on a thread. There were three teams that had to lose in order for them to keep any hope of taking a step into the tournament. They did not back down. Rather, they thrived on the opportunity, beating Colorado 3-0 at home. As if by destiny, things played out just how RSL needed them.

In the first round of the playoffs, they knocked off the defending champion Columbus Crew, beating them first in Salt Lake City with a goal in the 88th minute and later in Columbus after rallying from a 2-0 deficit. Real then faced a daunting challenge from the Chicago Fire. Nick Rimando, RSL’s goalie, made three saves to win the game on penalty kicks, and Cuautemoc Blanco, a notorious soccer player from Mexico, departed the Fire in disappointing fashion thanks to Real. With that win, they moved on to face the Hollywood-esque dynasty from California, the L.A. Galaxy, starring league MVP Landon Donovan and English superstar David Beckham.

RSL liked being viewed as the underdogs by virtually everyone outside the state of Utah — it fueled them. Before the game, hundreds of RSL fans met at a plaza near the stadium and started chanting and waving flags before marching to Qwest Field, many of them enduring a 30-hour round trip to watch their team in the final. It was an impressive, if not intimidating, act by RSL fans showing just how confident they were in their team, and just how much they wanted to bring home the championship cup. There was no such showing by Galaxy fans.

The championship game came down to penalty kicks once again and Rimando pushed his team to victory with two more saves, making him the MVP of the game after Robbie Russell made the final goal to seal the deal. The joy Russell had after his goal ended the game literally brought him to his knees. The team ran toward him with pure euphoria and Russell was suddenly at the bottom of a dogpile.

After the game, Coach Kreis and the players expressed their confidence and the belief they had in each other. Kries got the last laugh, saying “I told you so” to the millions watching on ESPN. In his post-game interview, Rimando said “the underdog has the championship now.” Voices were shot from all the yelling. Tears were shed. Fans were hugging perfect strangers in celebration of the victory. People at home were jumping up and down, finally knowing what it feels like to win a championship.

RSL’s momentum has propelled their popularity. Clint Mathis, the team’s veteran and one-time star of the U.S. men’s national team, was elated and surprised by the hundreds of people that greeted the team at the airport when they returned from Seattle. Wearing his emotion on his sleeve, he said, “This is great. This is something you don’t see in America for soccer at all.”

That just might be changing. On media day before the MLS Cup, there were few reporters expected. In past years, there had been just a handful of journalists asking a few questions. This year, there were many more reporters, even international media anxious to ask questions of the players and coaching staff. Within the past month alone, RSL has doubled their fan base on Facebook, from 6,000 to well over 13,000 people. (The page gained over 1,000 fans while I was writing this article.) So much for a team taking root in the community. Dave Checketts, owner of the club, said it best in a speech to the team after the championship game: “It’s one thing to win a championship. Now you’ve got to build a dynasty. Now, with the new stadium and a championship, there’s nothing that’s gonna stop us.” I feel the same way.

Randal Serr is an occasional sports correspondent for Rhombus. He also covers politics for the magazine.

POLITICS: A Big Small Step

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

Randal Serr

Randal Serr

Last week, the same church that propelled a campaign prohibiting gay marriage in California came out in support of a statute in Salt Lake City that would protect the GLBT community from discrimination in housing and employment. Before the Salt Lake City Council unanimously approved the measure to a standing ovation, the LDS Church sent a spokesman to officially represent them and show support for the proposal. The representative recognized the complexity of the issue and the strong feelings involved, and went on to say the ordinance would grant “common-sense rights that should be available to everyone.” He finished his statement by emphasizing the importance of human dignity and respectfulness.

While gay-rights supporters were surprised and articulated their gratefulness to the church, others have not been so respectful. Gayle Ruzicka, president of a conservative interest group in Utah and host of a talk radio show, has since called the anti-discrimination ordinance “very discriminatory,” because it “discriminate[s] against people who have personal religious beliefs.” I’m sure Ruzicka’s opinion of Mormons being persecuted and eventually expelled from the state of Missouri in 1833 simply because of their faith is similar: the residents of Missouri were the real ones being discriminated against. And, of course, if Mormons were kicked out of their apartment or fired simply for being Mormon today, Ruzicka would not find that to be discriminatory either. In fact, according to her logic regarding discrimination, she would probably side with the persecutors. They are the victims after all.

There are talks among state legislators of attempting to overturning the ordinance, but it’s iffy so far and probably lacks the support needed to pass. Even Chris Buttars, a legislator who has compared gays to radical Muslims, has said he has no problem with the Salt Lake ordinance. Even he agrees that “a person ought to be able to have a roof over their head and have a job.” It seems to me that if this ordinance is good enough for Salt Lake City, it should also be good enough for the entire state, given that roughly 80 percent of gay Utahns live outside of the capital city.

Nonetheless, the passage of the statute is momentous, especially in the state of Utah. There have been talks between gay rights advocates and LDS leaders for months now, which ultimately resulted in a small but meaningful change. The Church showed the ability to compromise and willingness to engage with the gay community (albeit on a small scale), and that is commendable. That is more than we can say for many fundamentalist or orthodox religions.

No, the LDS Church did not come out in support of gay marriage. They have not expressed support for civil unions, nor have they fully committed to supporting the Common Ground Initiative, which would extend the same protections that are now law in Salt Lake (as well as other rights) across the state of Utah. But they did send an official representative to back a non-discrimination proposal in their own backyard, and an Apostle of the church has since said these rights could be modeled anywhere with a process of goodwill. Call it expediency or call it compassion, but the narrative has certainly changed.

Randal Serr is a liberal political columnist for Rhombus. He is currently pursuing a graduate degree in public policy at the University of Utah.

SPORTS: The Unity of the RSL Community

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Sports

Salt Lakes newest heroes.

Salt Lake's newest heroes.

Since its founding in 2005, Real Salt Lake has had a lot of ups and downs. The first couple years the team had virtually no confidence in themselves, even fully expecting to lose their games. Prior to all that, there was a lot of criticism in the community over how to fund the building of a new stadium for the team and whether or not soccer was worth the finances involved. Some argued that it would help the economy of the Salt Lake area, which may or may not be true. But the often overlooked benefit of having a professional soccer team in Sandy is the unique way it brings the community together.

I must confess, I was not a Real Salt Lake fan or even a soccer fan in general until roughly six months ago. My reasoning was pretty much the same as any other opponent of the sport: it is low-scoring and lacks action. All that changed the first time I went to an RSL game — and the more I experience it, the more I like it.

One of the first things that intrigued me was the supporter sections. I could see how passionate they were about their club. They chant, play their drums, throw confetti, wave their flags and heckle the other team from start to finish literally willing the club to victory. There are five supporter groups throughout the system that are largely self-organized: Section 26, the Loyalists, the FCB, the RCB, and La Barra Real. All of these groups are encouraged by the Real Salt Lake organization to continue their passionate support through discounted season tickets. These groups alone have raised the bar for enthusiasm and continue to grow. While all of these groups are impressive, the group that stands out most is La Barra Real.

La Barra Real consists largely of first and second generation Americans. They are mostly Latinos from countries such as Mexico, Argentina, El Salvador and Colombia. There are also people from Spain, as well as a decent number of Anglos. Their group is made up of people ranging from three to sixty years of age. People of various backgrounds come together to energize the team and the crowd alike. Every so often, the better part of those in attendance join in on the grassroots chants. The leader of La Barra, Luis Castro, explains, “The only thing we ask is that you enjoy the game, and sing, and jump with us. You don’t have to speak Spanish. Just have fun. We welcome anyone.”

I can personally attest to that statement. During halftime of the last game I attended, I heard the chants make their way closer and closer until they were behind my section. I went up to see what was going on and found La Barra and others banging their drums, jumping around and chanting to pump up the loyal fans and newcomers. There was a crowd forming around them clapping and chanting as well. You could tell that people were hesitant to get into the mosh pit, myself included. After a minute of observing, one of the La Barra members apparently could see my desire to be a part of it all. He approached me and invited me in. Before I knew it, I was jumping around and chanting right along with them. The group came together in the center and starting circling in one big embrace. I did my part and tried to make a couple of 12-year-olds, who were just joining the fun, feel welcome.

Not everybody feels so comfortable joining in on the chants though, so the supporter groups sometimes have to get creative. One group changed the words of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” to “If You Want Real to Score, Clap Your Hands,” getting even soccer moms to join in on the clapping part. Real Salt Lake brings together the community in a way that other sports do not.

That’s not the only thing to like about Real Salt Lake. Their coach has been quoted as saying he does not sleep when they lose or, if he does get any sleep, wakes up in a cold sweat. Unlike the exorbitant salaries of other mainstay sports athletes in the U.S., the players’ salaries range from $20,000 to $160,000. The club’s top scorer, Robbie Findley, had as many goals in the regular season as did last year’s Major League Soccer MVP — and Findley’s only in his second year.

The team has overcome many obstacles and made the playoffs for the first time in the existence of the franchise last year. This year, they are back in the playoffs again against all odds. You know the cliche: success breeds success, and the fans and their passion have just as much to do with that as the team does. We have a special opportunity here in the Salt Lake area. We have a chance to be a part of a club taking root in the community while it is still young.

Randal Serr is a liberal political columnist for Rhombus. He is also dedicated Real Salt Lake fan.

POLITICS: Political Hacks, Even in the Case of Rape

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

Randal Serr

Randal Serr

KBR, a company controlled by defense contractor Halliburton, has become well-known over the past few weeks. The reputation it has gained is not a positive one, though. On July 28, 2005, one of their employees by the name of Jamie Leigh Jones was drugged and gang raped while on assignment in Iraq.

Jones began working for KBR as an administrative assistant in Iraq after signing a contract, unaware of the fine print that required her to arbitrate any future dispute with the company. (Arbitration is a form of resolution outside the court of law that does not bring the case to the attention of the public.) KBR housed her with 400 other men and just a few women. During this time she told KBR two times that she was being sexually harassed, but to no avail. Four days later, she was raped and later had to have reconstructive surgery because of the incident.

Jones and an Army physician gathered evidence of the crime in a rape kit (containing items such as blood samples, clothing, photos, etc.) After gathering the evidence in the kit, it was given to KBR security forces and mysteriously disappeared. Following the incident, she was confined to a container by KBR and Jones has testified she was sometimes denied food, drink, and medical treatment during this period. She was eventually allowed to use a phone and call her father; He immediately got in touch with Republican Rep. Ted Poe of Texas, who acted promptly and responsibly. Jones was soon removed from KBR’s control. It is undeniable that KBR had extensive knowledge of and was heavily involved in the incident.

Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) has since presented an amendment to Congress to prevent corporations from using arbitration in such cases of assault and battery, infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, and negligent hiring, retention and supervision. These requirements are consistent with the precedet set by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court in Jones’ case.

Yet there have been some concerns expressed regarding this amendment. For example, some have worried about vague language in the bill. That’s a legitimate concern since vague wording can lead to unforeseen problems in the future — but that’s not what the Republican senators were arguing in their debate. These opposing senators argued instead that the government “should not be writing or rewriting private contracts” and that “we should probably be looking for ways to utilize mediation or arbitration more in these kind of disputes.”  Others argued that the amendment was nothing more than a political grudge against Halliburton. I don’t believe the opposing senators are okay with Jones’ rape, but who are they representing here? It’s not the rape victim, that’s for sure.

Other critics argue that since the companies’ contract clauses allow rape victims to sue the rapists themselves rather than the companies, there was no need for the amendment. If that were the case, then Jamie Leigh Jones would not have had to wait four years to get her day in court. Jones herself stated in a hearing, “I have been fighting arbitration for four years. I have been waiting my day in front of a trial by jury for four years.” It’s hard to believe there’s no need for Franken’s amendment, considering KBR has since appealed the case in hopes that a higher court will rule differently after the Fifth Circuit’s original ruling showed clear evidence that KBR was deeply involved in the sexual assault, along with the individuals.

Jones’ case is not an isolated one. Since the ruling of the Fifth Circuit Court in Texas and the amendment was presented to Congress, other women have come forth with their own similarly horrifying experiences, explaining they were not able to get justice due to arbitration clauses. The ruling has already set precedence for other victims to be able to come forward and receive justice.

The amendment passed with 58 senators in favor and 30 (all Republican) against, but I have yet to hear a sound argument as to why this amendment should have been voted down. It seems to me that the majority of those in opposition are more concerned with loyalty to a particular party or obstructing the legislative initiatives of their political opponents than with integrity or justice.

Randall Serr is a liberal political columnist for Rhombus. He is currently pursuing a graduate degree in public policy at the University of Utah.