Monday, June 11, 2007

Let's Root for Demagoguery

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey says that although Members of Congress will have little opportunity to review earmarks, and no opportunity to fight them, they ought not 'demagogue' the issue. And if they do? Well, he might just decide that no one gets any candy:

House Appropriations Chairman David R. Obey, D-Wis., today outlined how earmarks will be disclosed before conference, and warned that if Republicans “demagogue” the issue there might be no earmarks in the fiscal 2008 bills.

And why are Democrats unable to carry through on their promise to open up the process? They've been too busy 'trying to end' the Iraq war:

“There have been 30,000 requests for projects,” a spokeswoman for Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said, adding that with the debate over the Iraq war and new ethics requirements, staff simply has been backed up.

In the first 6 months of this year, Congressional Democrats engaged in an extended effort to browbeat the President into withdrawing from Iraq; they claimed it was an effort to end the war. Never mind that an actual effort to end the war would have involved de-funding it; the Democrats were unwilling to take the political risk of doing that. No, they engaged in a seemingly endless amount of political theater, which apparently consumed a tremendous amount of staff time and resources, all of which ended with Democrats giving the President the clean bill he asked for -- after more than three months of demagoguery.

Republican critics of this retreat from campaign promises note (implicitly) that under their watch, these bills were porked up from the start of the process. Since the Democrats are waiting until the last minute to add thousands of pork-barrel projects, these bills now contain 'slush funds,' whose content will be spelled out later:

Republicans have accused Democrats of making the earmark process secret, calling the money reserved for earmarks in appropriations bills a “slush fund” and plan to use aggressive floor tactics this week to highlight what they perceive as a fundamental rule change...

“This bill provides $4.3 billion for unspecified projects,” Lewis said. “What that really means is that the bill before us recommends a $4.3 billion pot of money with zero direction from Congress on how the Corps [of Engineers] should allocate this money.”

If the GOP had been this vigilant about earmarks last year, they might not be on the outside looking in. It's nice at least, to see them starting to demonstrate the zeal of the convert.


Anonymous said...

As a former senate staffer, I would argue, at least in part, that this is sour grapes rather than any conversion.

jebus4me said...

i would have to agree with the previous sentiment. the repubs had 12 years if they wished to deal with this issue.

Roger said...

Does anyone think that earmarks will disappear should the R's regain control? Congress isnt going to change. Earmarks are what keeps the honorable members elected, and no one is going to touch that system.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with the sentiments above, I'm more interested right now in the Democrat hypocrisy angle. Is there any way to get an ethics investigation against Obey? Isn't this a threat? And, all of the reporting on this says that if "Republicans demagogue". Democrats are allowed to?

jebus4me said...

Scroll back on this site and you will find more than a few posts claiming various unethical dem actions, dems thwarting process, and various other low-politic claims that are, and always will be, a minority complaint. I call it low-politic because both sides do it to push an agenda or stay in power. Any hypocrisy argument is silly because the complaint is as hypocritical as the action. No it is not right, and if you can show me a political party who upon becoming the majority limit their own power in this way, I will vote for them in a minute, because it clearly would be best for America. Until then, I have to support a candidate and a party who make me feel slightly less ill compared to the alternative.

The Editor at IP said...

Jebus - Don't think your posts make a lot of sense. You say that the GOP had 12 years to fix a problem and did not -- so they can't complain.

Democrats had years to fix entitlements and didn't. They had a chance to nab Osama bin Laden and didn't. George Bush has been President for 7 years and education still isn't fixed. Does any of those facts invalidate criticism from anybody? Of course not.

With regard to earmarks and open debate, the Democrats have failed to carry through on their promises to enact reforms, and in some cases have been worse than the Republicans.

So your conclusion is that Republicans need to quit crying about it? That's simply silly.

The job of the party out of power is to criticize the defects of the majority and propose alternatives. Whether Republicans are better or worse than the Democrats who replaced them, it does the public a disservice to say that they ought not criticize. When the Democrats criticize Bush over his handling of Al Qaeda, do you say 'now, now, you had your shot.' Of course not.

And did you last year regard all the promises of Democrats to change how Washington does business as irrelevant and vacuous? If you did not, then you can't now say that criticisms of their failure to fulfill said promises are invalid. That is, either the promises and the criticisms were both worth taking seriously, or they were not.

If instead, you feel that all that matters is the substance of the policies pursued - rather than the process considerations - so be it. I submit that you can't be all that happy on that score either, since by any measure the Democratic majority has failed to produce.

The Editor at IP said...

I'd also note that if you disregard process considerations -- the promise to change how things are done in Washington -- then you are...


According to the LATimes, a majority of Americans are disappointed with Democrats' doing business the same old way:,0,7184922.story

jebus4me said...

You are right, the job of the weak party is to complain about the job of the more powerful one. This is because it, and blocking legislation, is really all you can do when you are not in power. What both sides know, and what I think repubs have been better at for the last decade, is that it is more important to have power than do what is right all the time. If you are not in control, you get nothing you want done, if you are, then maybe 30-40%.

My conclusion is not to stop complaining, I would have a better shot to ask that the world stop rotating. But rather, you only really need to listen to those who criticize consistently, for example, those who call a spade a spade regardless of who controls government. If you only complain about something when you are not in a position to exploit it, well, as the first posted said, "sour grapes".

The Editor at IP said...

And if the motivation of the critic is just 'sour grapes,' then the criticism is less legitimate?

It's worth remembering that the last time the GOP was out of power in Congress and took control, they adhered to the promises they made while they were in the wilderness. They shut the House bank, cut back significantly on Member and staff perks, as well as passed the policy initiatives they promised.

So in that instance at least, the party coming into power DID curb their own power and perks, as they had promised to do. And the system that you disdain -- with partisans promising change for 'disingenuous' or 'self-serving' reasons, DID produce the change that the public supported.

How are the Democrats doing in similar circumstance? So far they've already gone back on a number of such promises.

Why have they done so? Probably because as a party, they are more loving of the state, and the authority of the state. It is why (for example) significantly more Democrats chose to serve 12 years in the Minority, waiting for a return to power, than Republicans chose to stay in the majority, exercising power.

It is those 85 House Democrats -- who waited 12 years to have their chairmanships returned to them -- that are still running the show, and preventing the Democrats from delivering on their promises.