Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Democratic backpedaling?

Are the Democrats walking the ethics and inclusiveness walk? You decide.

After some internal discussion, House Democrats have decided to use procedural rules to prevent Republicans from offering alternatives to any of their "first 100 hours" legislation -- bills to raise the minimum wage, rewrite ethics rules and the like.

Some observers have argued, vitriolically, that Dems have already abandoned their pledge to include the GOP in the legislative process -- in stark contrast to Republican behavior in the previous Congress, where a "majority of the majority" rule limited what bills could reach the floor.

Democrats, for their part, insist they remain committed to including Republicans, but don't want to give the opposition an opportunity to derail or delay these initial bills. They say the bills themselves have been debated at length before, so substantial additional debate or modification is unnecessary.

While I understand the Democrats' dilemma -- torn between full inclusiveness and the need to act quickly -- I will not be happy if this sets any sort of precedent for the rest of the session. I'll give them a pass on this if they live up to their promises on everything else; but it's yet another reason to watch them closely to make sure that they do.

Separately, the House ethics panel has publicly rebuked John Conyers, incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, as part of a 2003 complaint that alleged he used congressional staff for personal errands and campaign work.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said Conyers will retain his chairmanship. Did she lie when she said she was going to clean up the House?

That depends on whether you think a three-year-old complaint should apply, and whether the admitted transgression rises to the level necessary to compel a resignation. Considering all Conyers has admitted to is not communicating clearly with his staff, that's hard to argue.

For me, the fact that the complaint is from 2003 is the major factor here. Democrats never said they would retroactively punish members, nor would that be good policy or good politics in a chamber where every member has some stains on their soul. The test for Democrats is how they behave from here on out, not how they behaved before.

But it does point up the need for an ethics panel with teeth, and (as I've begun to say so often I sound like a broken record), the need to watch the Dems closely and hold them to their promises.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry---but it sounds like you're copping out to me. How come a 3-year old complaint didn't bother Demcorats when it came to Tom Delay or Mark Foley? The time period didn't seem to matter then.

I see that the excuses are already starting. Even before the Dem leadership takes over. I sure hope that you will afford any Republican with a 3-year or older complaint the same kind of "well it's 3 years old, so doesn't really matter" because we will start today.

JP5

1/02/2007 5:55 PM  
Blogger Not Your Mama said...

So you'd put "using staff for personal errands" in the same light as cybersex with a minor?

Wow, that's some truly incredible moral reasoning there.

I'd need to know a lot more about what these personal errands entailed but assuming they did not involve sending aides out to recruit attractive teens for possible sexual encounters common sense would indicate these are not of equal weight.

What's next then...death penalty for jaywalkers?

1/03/2007 5:48 AM  

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