Good morning, and welcome to the start of the 111th Congress. Your intrepid blogger remains on his voter-mandated vacation as he writes this, and it is not for a lack of trying.
As we move forward to the ceremonial opening of Congress, we must ask ourselves if Speaker Nancy Pelosi will beckon children to gather about her as she is anointed like she did at the start of the 110th Congress. Or, will she beckon the special-interest group which will be at the heart of every Democrat this session: the union bosses?
The news reports today detail how Madame Speaker has, with the likely tacit approval of the incoming president, decided to embrace her own versions of "Hope" and "Change": changing the rules of the House of Representatives back to the pre-Newt days in the hope of quashing all dissent and opposition in order to protect her caucus from politically tricky votes, and installing committee chairman for life - going back on the reforms Republicans brought forth in 1994.
House Democrats are poised to approve new rules that will significantly increase their authority while taking the bullets out of the few legislative weapons Republicans have in the lower chamber.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has approved the changes from the last Congress, when House GOP members frustrated their Democratic counterparts by winning over two dozen amendment battles on the floor.
Pelosi’s move has set up a divisive mood on the first day of the 111th Congress, which Republicans say runs counter to the tone set by President-elect Obama.
Republican leaders intend to fight the rules changes, which would curtail their ability to delay legislation by forcing Democrats to take politically difficult votes.
“This is not the kind of openness and transparency that President-elect Obama promised,” the GOP leaders wrote Monday in a letter to Pelosi.
Republican leadership aides say the changes will make it easier for the Speaker to run the House and protect vulnerable House Democrats.
As I write, Rep. John Larson (the new Rahm) is speaking on C-SPAN about working together with Republicans to improve the country (which is easy, I guess, when you write the rules in such a way that the only "working together" comes from voting with the Democrats). Per CQ:
Democratic leaders are taking a hard look at preventing the minority party from scoring easy political points with motions to recommit a bill to committee with instructions to make contentious language changes and then report it back to the House “promptly.” In the outgoing Congress, “promptly’’ has meant an indefinite hold, because committees were not willing to adopt poison-pill amendments sponsored by the minority.
Most motions to recommit require instead that an amended bill be returned to the floor “forthwith,” which means within minutes.
GOP aides complain that the possible limit motions to recommit would take away the minority’s ability to attack tax increases in must-pass bills. That’s because the pay-as-you-go budget rule, which is likely to be renewed, does not allow amendments or motions to recommit forthwith that would remove any of the offsets it requires in legislation.
The pay-as-you-go rule requires that all new entitlement spending or new tax cuts be offset with equivalent spending cuts or tax increases elsewhere.
So, to sum up. Speaker Pelosi will strip term-limits from committee chairman - giving them virtually unbridled power to dominate the minority party - while stripping the minority of the power to recommit a motion back to a committee. That sounds an awful lot like one-party consolidation to me.
Members of the GOP Conference have, correctly, asked about the transparency which was promised by The One to deliver us from every evil. While we know their remarks was rhetorical, it begs the question from all Americans on whether the Pelosi Congress will allow their newly-unfettered committee chairman to write whatever they want in the cloak room, march it to the House floor, pass it without an opportunity for robust debate, and send it to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue for Barack Obama's rubber stamp.
Hardly the type of change that is worthy of the new hope as expressed by the followers of The One.
As an Arkansan, I can't help but to think of the fact that John McCain won my state by a large margin, even carrying the Democrat-represented congressional districts by double-digits. This fact is important as we begin a new Congress, for there are three Arkansas Democrats who are poised to vote for the Pelosi power play - depite the fact that two of them are, notionally, conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats.
Being from Little Rock, I already know Rep. Vic Snyder will vote with the Speaker without hesitation, as he is the most liberal member of the delegation. However, Blue Dogs Marion Berry and Mike Ross should be expected to at least hesitate on this new rules package before eventually succumbing to the power of Pelosi.
I propose making our Arkansas representatives understand that those of us back home believe in fairness, and that playing partisan politics is not why we sent them to Congress. I urge you to contact the Democrat members of the Arkansas House delegation, to let them know that the Pelosi power play is not the type of governing our country needs at this time, and is a step back to the days of a closed Congress that was unaccountable to the American people.
Here are the deets:
- Rep. Marion Berry: 202-225-4076 or 800-866-2701
- Rep. Vic Snyder: 202-225-2506 or 501-324-5941
- Rep. Mike Ross: 800-223-2220
If you are a Republican, and live under a Democrat (especially a Blue Dog) congressman, I urge you to make contact with them before noon (ET) today and let them know that you will not stand for this.
Call them today!