Thursday, November 30, 2006

Democrats Breaking Campaign Promises

The decision of the House Democratic leadership to go back on a key campaign promise is just run-of-the-mill hypocrisy - common enough in Washington. It's pretty certain that they recognized all along that just because a commission issues recommendations, doesn't necessarily mean they ought to be adopted in full:

It was a solemn pledge, repeated by Democratic leaders and candidates over and over: If elected to the majority in Congress, Democrats would implement all of the recommendations of the bipartisan commission that examined the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But with control of Congress now secured, Democratic leaders have decided for now against implementing the one measure that would affect them most directly: a wholesale reorganization of Congress to improve oversight and funding of the nation's intelligence agencies. Instead, Democratic leaders may create a panel to look at the issue and produce recommendations, according to congressional aides and lawmakers.

Because plans for implementing the commission's recommendations are still fluid, Democratic officials would not speak for the record. But aides on the House and Senate appropriations, armed services and intelligence committees confirmed this week that a reorganization of Congress would not be part of the package of homeland-security changes up for passage in the "first 100 hours" of the Democratic Congress.

"I don't think that suggestion is going anywhere," said Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee and a close ally of the incoming subcommittee chairman, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.). "That is not going to be their party position."

The Democrats gave us the first inkling that they wouldn't carry through on this promise just two days after the election. That was right around the time I warned House Democrats that changing the institution is harder than it looks, and any changes must come quickly.

Beyond what it means for national security - a topic I will leave to those who know more about it than I - this is a clear warning sign for Democratic reform efforts. Changing the institution is hard. It requires commitment from the leadership and many in the Congress. If the Democrats cannot reform committee jurisdictions to improve oversight, cannot enact term limits for committee chairmen, and go around calling ethics reform 'crap,' it's a sure sign that there are plenty of folks who prefer business as usual.

This is no surprise. There are more than 80 House Democrats who waited 12 years from the last majority to this one. There's a reason they stayed around. They liked things the way they were back then, and they are trying to turn back the clock.

I bet there will soon be a challenge to the ethics reform proposals that Pelosi has promised. And her demonstrated weakness as a leader will make it harder to corral those who head off the reservation.

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