Dispatches from the Creation Wars

New Majority, Scripts are Exchanged

Now that Democrats are in charge of the House and Republicans are facing two years as a legislative minority, the two parties had to meet in the middle of the capitol and exchange their scripts. In 2004, when Democrats were the minority, Nancy Pelosi was pushing for a “minority bill of rights” that would prevent the majority from running roughshod over them and use House rules to ram through their agenda; Dennis Hastert, who then occupied Pelosi’s position as Speaker, rejected the idea as absurd. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, Republicans are demanding – guess what – a minority bill of rights. No response from Pelosi yet; wanna take a bet on whether she still thinks this is what “the American people expect and deserve”? If the Democrats go along with this, I’ll send William Dembski a bottle of single malt scotch.

Comments

  1. #1 stogoe
    January 3, 2007

    There’s no reason to those wretched gasbags the same protections the Democratic minority wanted. Some, yes, but until they prove they can play nice, it should be a very short leash.

  2. #2 Andrea
    January 3, 2007

    Why to Dembski? Send the scotch to Pelosi!

    I actually predict a modified form of the bill, not too different from the original Pelosi proposal (which was more restrictive than this), will in fact be accepted and passed by the Dems under Democratic sponsors, possibly contingent on some sort of long-term pledge that the rules will not be unilaterally changed again in the future.

    This will happen however after the new majority pushes through some critical bills after taking power, as promised before the elections.

    I will take a scotch bet on this, too.

  3. #3 stogoe
    January 3, 2007

    Note that, while I don’t think the dogs deserve to be let back into the house so soon after having shat on everything within ass-reach, our Democratic congresscritters are too willing to forget the shitting and thus will play nice and put in minority protections of some form.

  4. #4 Jeff Hebert
    January 3, 2007

    I suspect you’re probably right, at least in the short term. However, there’s been at least one promising sign that not all of the harsh lessons learned under Republican rule will be carried forward once the Democrats are in charge (from The Hill):

    And, because they feel they lost the 2003 Medicare prescription drug benefit vote because GOP leaders held it open for three hours, during which they flipped opponents into the “yes” column, Democrats will include a provision in the rules to prevent any sort of repetition, said aides to incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

    Democrats also will eliminate the practices of changing conference reports after members have signed them and excluding elected members from conference committees.

    It remains to be seen how much other reform gets passed after review by the Ethics Committee, but at least this is a decent start.

  5. #5 Seraph
    January 3, 2007

    If the Democrats are smart, they will. Nobody stays on top forever. The Republicans did everything in their power – and with two branches under their control and the third at least sympathetic, they had a lot – to change that (didn’t somebody actually use the words “permanent majority”?), and they failed. Hopefully, the Democrats will remember that.

  6. #6 Ed Brayton
    January 3, 2007

    Andrea wrote:

    This will happen however after the new majority pushes through some critical bills after taking power, as promised before the elections.

    So “the American people expect and deserve” such a bill to prevent the majority from being able to ram through everything on their agenda without the minority having a real chance to make their voice heard, but they only “expect and deserve” it after we ram through all the important stuff first? That’s hardly a principled position, even if it happens (any more than it’s a principled position for the Republicans to now claim that such a bill is important after rejecting it previously). This is subverting the principle they declared themselves for political expediency on one side, and suddenly forgetting about political expedience and discovering the principle they rejected on the other. The declaration of principle (“the american people expect and deserve” this) only matters insofar as it can be made to serve one’s interests. Which means it isn’t a principle at all, on either part.

    Even if you’re right, why modify it? If we deserve the bill Pelosi suggested in 2004, why should it be modified or weakened in any way? Again, because political interests trump principle, for both parties.

  7. #7 Seraph
    January 3, 2007

    And can I just say that, although I know I shouldn’t be, I am absolutely stunned by the shamelessness of the Republicans’ hypocrisy. Whatever Pelosi’s response (I hope it’s “yes”, see above, but even if it’s “no”, it’s more likely to sound like “We’ll get to that later” than “that’s absurd”), the Republicans were the ones to say “it’s good enough for me, but not for thee” first.

  8. #8 Seraph
    January 3, 2007

    Ed, I know that your general take on the parties is “a plague o’ both your houses”, but you’re jumping the gun with it right now. Only the Republicans have demonstrated their hypocrisy so far. The Democrats may yet prove that they can think past next week’s road-construction bill.

    I know it’s not *likely*, but anything can happen.

  9. #9 Michael Ralston
    January 3, 2007

    I’d still rather see that bill pass than not, even if it passes after things get ramrodded through first; it’ll still be there the next time sides flip, or if the Dems start getting as overbearing as the Reps, or any such thing.

    I’d also like to see a Read The Bills act, but I place a much lower probability on that happening.

  10. #10 Tulle
    January 3, 2007

    Ed, is it legal to use both “principle” and “political” in the same sentence?? I’m not sure but I don’t think it is.

  11. #11 Ed Brayton
    January 3, 2007

    Seraph-

    Of course it can happen; I’m predicting it won’t. We shall see whether the prediction turns out to be true.

  12. #12 daenku32
    January 3, 2007

    Me thinks you will be out of a bottle of whiskey.

    Of course this is an attempt at ‘gotcha’ legislation. The most interesting part in it are though the Republican’s reasoning. Besides ‘gotcha Pelosi’, it also only talks about the need for it because Democrats are in power. Republicans haven’t added any non-partisan language to it. If I really wanted to defend Democrats, should they not choose to enact it, would be to say that Republicans only intent the Rights to be in effect during Democrat tenure. As soon as Republicans take over, the Rights would be removed or simply forgotten.

  13. #13 Andrea
    January 3, 2007

    So “the American people expect and deserve” such a bill to prevent the majority from being able to ram through everything on their agenda without the minority having a real chance to make their voice heard, but they only “expect and deserve” it after we ram through all the important stuff first? That’s hardly a principled position, even if it happens (any more than it’s a principled position for the Republicans to now claim that such a bill is important after rejecting it previously).
    Well, apart from the fact the there is nothing “unprincipled” (inasmuch the term can be applied to politics) in giving the GOP a taste of its own medicine for a little while, the most obvious reason is that the Democrats have made certain pledges to voters about the legislation they would immediately pass upon take-over based on the picture as it stood right before the elections, and voters have voted for them in expectation they would fulfill those promises, and not change the picture. Indeed, I am sure there are many Democratic voters (possibly even the majority) who’d gladly stick it to the Republicans now that they can. In the long term, though, I am quite sure the incoming Democratic leadership is more far-sighted and fair than the GOP leadership of the past 12 years.
    Even if you’re right, why modify it? If we deserve the bill Pelosi suggested in 2004, why should it be modified or weakened in any way? Again, because political interests trump principle, for both parties.
    Actually, because as far as I understand it this is not identical to Pelosi’s proposal, in that it gives significant more power to individual congressmen/women to introduce amendments, and hence hijack legislation and/or add poison pills to it. What – you thought the Republicans were being straight with this?

  14. #14 Ed Brayton
    January 3, 2007

    daenku wrote:

    Of course this is an attempt at ‘gotcha’ legislation. The most interesting part in it are though the Republican’s reasoning. Besides ‘gotcha Pelosi’, it also only talks about the need for it because Democrats are in power.

    Of course it’s “gotcha” legislation. And of course the Republicans’ pretense for wanting it is hypocritical and based only on their interests. I believe I said so more than once. But if Pelosi actually meant what she said, she’ll push the minority bill of rights through. I’m predicting she won’t, or if she does it will be a dramatically different bill than the one she was presenting in 2004, much weaker. We shall see.

  15. #15 Jeff Hebert
    January 3, 2007

    The New York Times had an interesting article a while ago reporting that the incoming Democratic leadership had already stated that it would rescind some of the limitations placed on the minority party when the Republicans were in power:

    After chafing for years under what they saw as flagrant Republican abuse of Congressional power and procedures, the incoming majority has promised to restore House and Senate practices to those more closely resembling the textbook version of how a bill becomes law: daylight debate, serious amendments and minority party participation.

    And how do the Republicans plan on repaying that collegiality?

    But Republicans are hoping Democrats stick to their guns and allow the minority a stronger voice on legislation. The opposition leadership said it would take the opportunity to put forward initiatives that could be potentially troublesome for newly elected Democrats in Republican-leaning districts who within months will have to defend their hard-won seats … Republicans see the ability to force tough votes — which they avoided in the majority by stifling Democratic alternatives — as having two potential benefits: It can put vulnerable Democrats on record with positions that might not be popular at home, or it can fracture the untested Democratic majority. … Democratic leaders said that in the spirit of a new beginning, they have every intention of allowing Republicans the kind of legislative opportunities that Republicans regularly denied Democrats. “Democracy is a risk,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the incoming majority leader. “And democracy is about alternatives.”

    We’ll see what happens with the “Bill of Rights” specifically — I really, really hope it passes — but this is evidence that at least some of the more egregious practices of the past decade won’t be continued.

  16. #16 Ed Brayton
    January 3, 2007

    Andrea wrote:

    Well, apart from the fact the there is nothing “unprincipled” (inasmuch the term can be applied to politics) in giving the GOP a taste of its own medicine for a little while, the most obvious reason is that the Democrats have made certain pledges to voters about the legislation they would immediately pass upon take-over based on the picture as it stood right before the elections, and voters have voted for them in expectation they would fulfill those promises, and not change the picture. Indeed, I am sure there are many Democratic voters (possibly even the majority) who’d gladly stick it to the Republicans now that they can.

    Why do you suppose the Democrats can use the argument that the voters elected them to the majority so they could get their agenda passed, but not the Republicans? Doesn’t your argument give a perfect excuse to the Republicans for rejecting the minority bill of rights in 2004? After all, they made campaign promises too, and the people put them in the majority in Congress. So can’t they make the same claim, that they had an electoral mandate and shouldn’t have to let a minority bill of rights interfere with their ability to pass it?

    And of course it is unprincipled to announce that the American people “deserve” to have this balanced process in place for passing legislation that gives the minority more of a say in how legislation is passed, but they only deserve it after we pass all the legislation we want to pass first. That’s the very definition of unprincipled.

    Actually, because as far as I understand it this is not identical to Pelosi’s proposal, in that it gives significant more power to individual congressmen/women to introduce amendments, and hence hijack legislation and/or add poison pills to it. What – you thought the Republicans were being straight with this?

    Actually, the only difference at all that I’ve seen is that the Republican version calls for a “full amendment process” where “all members” have the right to offer amendments, whereas the Pelosi version called for “both sides” to be able to offer amendments. Since both sides have control over what those on their side of the aisle offer and don’t offer, this is a distinction without a difference. But even if that was not the case, so what? Of course the Republicans are trying to gain political advantage through this, and of course that’s their only goal; not only did I not deny that, I said so explicitly. But all I think Pelosi is ethically required to do is to pass the bill she originally proposed. If she does that, I will be proven wrong; if she doesn’t, I will be proven right. We shall see.

  17. #17 Dave S.
    January 3, 2007

    Andrea –

    I think either Mrs. Pelosi believes in minority party rights as she has stated or she doesn’t. It’s not what I’d call acting on principle to accept such a position so long as its convenient. They may have promised certain legislative changes, but didn’t they also promise accountability? Maybe I’m mistaken there. As far as I can tell, both parties only believe in such things when they are the ones in the minority. We’ll she how the Dems respond…and we’ll see if the Rep proposal really is the same as hers.

  18. #18 Andrea
    January 3, 2007

    Pelosi’s original proposed bill:
    —————
    Here, the People Rule

    A Minority Bill of Rights for the House of Representatives

    June 23, 2004

    “All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle: that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”

    –Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801.

    The Constitution begins with the simple but revolutionary phrase “We the people,” which announced to the world that here, the people rule. To speak for the people, the Constitution gives the greatest responsibility to the House of Representatives: Members are to be elected every two years, and no Member may be appointed to office.

    Today in the House of Representatives, however, the voices of nearly half of the people have been silenced, and the marketplace of ideas has been effectively closed. Too often, incivility and the heavy hand of the majority have substituted for thoughtful debate.

    Respectful of both the wishes of the Founders, and the expectations of the American people, we offer the following principles for restoring democracy in the “People’s House,” guaranteeing that the voices of the people are heard.

    I. Bipartisan Administration of the House

    There should be regular consultations among the elected leaders of both parties to discuss scheduling, administration and operations of the House.

    - The House should have a predictable, professional, family-friendly schedule that allows the legislative process to proceed in a manner that ensures timely and deliberate dispensation of the work of the Congress.

    - Similar, regular meetings between Chairs and Ranking Members of committees, and staffs should be held.

    - The minority should control at least one-third of committee budgets and office space.

    II. Regular Order for Legislation

    The legislative process in the House should return to a more regular democratic order at every level.

    - Bills should be developed following full hearings, open subcommittee and committee markups, with appropriate referrals to other committees. Members should have at least 24 hours to examine a bill prior to consideration at the subcommittee level.

    - Bills should generally come to the floor under a procedure that allows open, full, and fair debate consisting of a full amendment process that grants the minority the right to offer its alternatives, including a substitute.

    - Members should have at least 24 hours to examine bill and conference report text prior to floor consideration. Rules governing floor debate must be reported before 10 p.m. for a bill to be considered the following day.

    - Floor votes should be completed within 15 minutes, with the customary 2-minute extension to accommodate Members’ ability to get to the House Chamber to cast their vote. No vote shall be held open in order to manipulate the outcome.

    - House-Senate conference committees should hold regular meetings (at least weekly) of all conference committee Members. All duly-appointed conferees shall be informed of the schedule of conference committee activities in a timely manner, and given ample opportunity for input and debate as decisions are made toward final bill language.

    - The Suspension Calendar should be restricted to non-controversial legislation, with minority-authored legislation scheduled in relation to the party ratio in the House.
    —–

    I can’t find the full GOP version (assuming it already exists), but the excerpts from the letter they sent around would change “generally” to “only”, and “the minority” to “all members”. Those are not trivial changes.

  19. #19 Dave S.
    January 3, 2007

    Note: As Ed mentions above, the Rep version does seem to have some differences. Whether these differences add up to a distinction, whether Pelosi rejects that and pushes her original bill, or whether she will do neither of the above will be interesting to see.

  20. #20 Dave S.
    January 3, 2007

    Thanks for posting the original Andrea.

    Hmmm….I wonder what she means by “generally”? What would the rule be regarding exceptions?

  21. #21 Andrea
    January 3, 2007

    Why do you suppose the Democrats can use the argument that the voters elected them to the majority so they could get their agenda passed, but not the Republicans? Doesn’t your argument give a perfect excuse to the Republicans for rejecting the minority bill of rights in 2004?
    Not at all, because the GOP majority was systematically bending and abusing the rules in all sorts of ways when they were in power, not enforcing them as they generally had been for a long time. In other words, the Republicans got elected with certain traditional rules in place, and as they could not get enough of their legislation passed under those rules, they changed them (or ignored them) as they went along. Then they rejected Pelosi’s proposal to formalize any rules that would protect the minority’s rights. As such, both parties entered the last elections with a certain status quo, under which the Democrats frankly are perfectly entitled, formally and ethically, to pass their legislation until the next election. Simple as that.

    Nevertheless, I think the Democrats will do the right thing and try to implement rule changes.

  22. #22 pough
    January 3, 2007

    The bigger issue is why Dembski gets the scotch. To my (Scottish-descent) mind, that’s a far bigger crime. Please, for the love of Bruce, revise the recipient!

  23. #23 DuWayne
    January 3, 2007

    Andrea -

    If the changes you note, are the only ones, I support them wholeheartedly. While I too, find it repugnant that the repubs suggest it now, after ignoring it the last six years, I think those changes are damned good ones. Honestly, I think that every member should be allowed to present alternatives – whether in the majority, minority or independent. But as my fight is to see an end to republicratic rule and preferably political parties altogether, my political goals may be far different from yours.

  24. #24 Barry
    January 3, 2007

    The fact that the GOP is not submitting Pelosi’s old bill is suspicious, since they could do that and make a big point about it. Submitting something ‘similar’ is not necessary, and suggests (to me) that the GOP put some loopholes in it.

  25. #25 Mike Kaspari
    January 3, 2007

    Its when the party in power has been there for a while that the corruption really sets in. In 94, Gingrich actually instituted some pretty decent reforms and the Dems went along happily, given some of the goings on after 40 years of House rule by the Dems. Then as the Repubs started getting comfortable, those reforms disappeared.

    So that said, we are likely to see some compromise, even with the bad taste of hypocrisy from the GOP, which, face it, can do corruption like nobody’s bidness.

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  26. #26 Ed Brayton
    January 3, 2007

    Andrea wrote:

    Not at all, because the GOP majority was systematically bending and abusing the rules in all sorts of ways when they were in power, not enforcing them as they generally had been for a long time.

    This is non-responsive. Your original argument was that, despite the principled rhetoric about how the American people deserve this minority bill of rights to be in place to ensure that both sides have an equal say in how legislation is passed, it’s okay for the Democrats to not put such a bill in place until after they’ve passed the legislation they promised to the voters. But you didn’t answer my question: why doesn’t that same argument defend the Republicans when they were in the majority? After all, they made campaign promises too, and they were elected in the majority to fulfill those promises.

    Of course the majority exploited and bent the rules to push their agenda through. Do you think the Democrats, when they had control of the house for nearly 40 years, didn’t do the same exact thing? Party bosses like Tip O’Neill and Jim Wright didn’t get to their positions because they were nice guys, but because they were experts at manipulating the house rules to the political advantage of their party (same is true of Dennis Hastert, of course, and Newt Gingrich before him). That bending of the rules only underscores the need for a minority bill of rights (which I agree with). But if that need can be put off on the basis of campaign promises because the people elected them to get those things passed, then why didn’t that also excuse the Republicans when they were in the majority?

  27. #27 Ed Brayton
    January 3, 2007

    Whether the Republicans want a different version or not is irrelevant to my argument. All I demand – all that non-hypocrisy demands – is that the Democrats now pass the same legislation they were proposing in 2004. And had I known about it in 2004, I would have demanded that the Republicans pass it as well, as I’m for almost any legislation that makes it more difficult for Congress to pass legislation (and the more it’s promised to voters, the more heinous it’s likely to be, frankly).

  28. #28 Andrea
    January 3, 2007

    This is non-responsive. Your original argument was that, despite the principled rhetoric about how the American people deserve this minority bill of rights to be in place to ensure that both sides have an equal say in how legislation is passed, it’s okay for the Democrats to not put such a bill in place until after they’ve passed the legislation they promised to the voters. But you didn’t answer my question: why doesn’t that same argument defend the Republicans when they were in the majority? After all, they made campaign promises too, and they were elected in the majority to fulfill those promises.
    I sure did answer. The Republican majority was elected while certain accepted procedural rules were in place. Since by those rules they could not ram all their legislation through the minority, they changed/abused/bent/ignored those rules as needed. To cement this attitude, they made it explicit that they would not even consider rules to protect the minority. Hence, when the Democrat majority got elected in November, no such rules were in place.
    In other words, voters elected the Republican majority in a context in which there was an expectation that certain rules would be in place to protect the congressional minority and balance the majority’s power. Especially since they captured the WH and could therefore hold essentially unchecked legislative power, the Republicans have systematically violated those rules, explicitly rejecting them on principle by turning down the Pelosi proposal. On the other hand, voters in 2006 elected Democrats in a context in which the rules clearly would not apply, because the Republicans had implicitly and explicitly gotten rid of them. The difference is pretty obvious to me, I am surprised you do not see it.
    Anything the Democrats do from now on to temper their own majority power is a demonstration of principle. And I am quite sure they will pass something very close, if not identical, to the Pelosi proposal. Again, I’ll take that single-malt bet.
    Do you think the Democrats, when they had control of the house for nearly 40 years, didn’t do the same exact thing?
    Even many Republicans admit the procedural abuse by the majority in the past 6-8 years was unprecedented. Occasionally, of course every party will play hardball with legislation. But the systematic scope of the denial of any minority input and humiliation of their prerogatives was entirely new.
    Honestly, I think that every member should be allowed to present alternatives – whether in the majority, minority or independent. But as my fight is to see an end to republicratic rule and preferably political parties altogether, my political goals may be far different from yours.
    The issue as i understand it is not much alternatives, but amendments. If any member with a bone to pick about a bill were allowed to add a poison pill to it, the legislative process would grind to a halt. Of course, that may seem superficially to please libertarians, and I am sure the GOP would want noting better for the next two years, but in fact giving every representative effective veto power would be rather stupid, wouldn’t it?

  29. #29 Steve Reuland
    January 3, 2007

    You have to be aware of the circumstances back in 2004 to understand why a Minority Bill of Rights sounded like a good idea back then. Note that the Democrats did not come up with the idea in 1994 when they first lost the House — it took ten years of being shat upon and a Republican party that openly talked about instituting one-party rule to bring this up. The Republicans pulled plenty of shenanigans starting in 1994, but it reached a level of abuse and absurdity never before seen with DeLay and Hastert after Bush took office and the Republicans controlled the entire Federal government. This article lays out how the 109th Congress deliberately excluded the minority from simply participating in public meetings which they had a right to participate in:

    Thomas is also notorious for excluding Democrats from the conference hearings needed to iron out the differences between House and Senate versions of a bill. According to the rules, conferences have to include at least one public, open meeting. But in the Bush years, Republicans have managed the conference issue with some of the most mind-blowingly juvenile behavior seen in any parliament west of the Russian Duma after happy hour. GOP chairmen routinely call a meeting, bring the press in for a photo op and then promptly shut the proceedings down. “Take a picture, wait five minutes, gavel it out — all for show” is how one Democratic staffer described the process. Then, amazingly, the Republicans sneak off to hold the real conference, forcing the Democrats to turn amateur detective and go searching the Capitol grounds for the meeting. “More often than not, we’re trying to figure out where the conference is,” says one House aide.

    There’s nothing inconsistent in saying that a Minority Bill of Rights was needed back then but is unneeded today. While there may have been nothing in Pelosi’s previous proposal that would be objectionable, and thus no reason why she shouldn’t accept it today, there’s no particular reason why she should listen to Republican whining about how poorly they’re being treated when they haven’t even started the session yet. Call it a non-priority.

  30. #30 Jeff Hebert
    January 3, 2007

    Good comments Steve, thanks. I’d agree — as long as the abuses stop, then the formal passing of the bill can wait a bit. I still think it’s an important bill to pass because as long as it’s simply “tradition”, someone’s going to find a way to ignore it. But if the actual abusive practices are largely stopped anyway, then this bill should take a back seat to more important legislation.

    As long as they do get to it relatively soon AND until then voluntarily stop the Republican-engineered abuses that prompted its drafting in the first place, I don’t think it should have the top priority either. If Democrats continue the distortions and abuses of the Republican House, then by all means they should be branded as hypocrites.

  31. #31 Andrea
    January 3, 2007

    I’d just like to add something.

    In Italy we have a name for the attitude that all parties and politicians are equally corrupt and incompetent: “qualunquismo”, which takes its name from a small populist/conservative magazine and later fringe party in post-WWII Italy which was supposed to stand for the rights of the “everyday man” (“uomo qualunque”). It’s not even libertarianism, but just a grumpy, sterile distrust for anything political.

    Considering the role of the past Congressional majority in rubber-stamping some of the most sweeping limitations of civil liberties in US history and in refusing to investigate or even to question the administration’s civil and human rights violations both here and elsewhere, I am frankly a bit surprised that a libertarian would put the outgoing and incoming majorities on the same plain and predict they would just “exchange scripts”. This has been the most un-libertarian government in decades, and the chances that something like this will repeat with Democrats in Congress (regardless of who sits in the White House) are virtually nil, as far as I can see.

  32. #32 Coin
    January 3, 2007

    I think that the Democrats should at some point implement something like a minority bill of rights just because it is the right thing to do. America’s democratic system is not meant to be a rotating dictatorship, and the difference between a 50-50 senate split with the tie going to the Democrats and a 50-49 senate split with the tie going to the Democrats should not be the enormous difference that it is, regardless of which party is in power.

    As far as just consistency from the Democrats goes, though, I think it would be reasonably sufficient to just see whether the Democrats run Congress in the unilateral way the Republicans have for the last few years, or whether they take the time to treat the minority party as living breathing human beings. If the Democrats pass something like a minority bill of rights, neat. But I think all they need to avoid a hypocrisy charge is to use their majority ethically enough to make a minority bill of rights less than necessary– and I don’t think they need to pass a long-forgotten bill from mid-2004 just to make a point when there are other important things to do. Like pass a budget.

    Incidentally, another amusing script reversal: Now that the congress might be likely to spend money on things George W. Bush doesn’t like, Bush suddenly now thinks balanced budgets are a good idea.

  33. #33 XPM
    January 3, 2007

    I still think it’s an important bill to pass because as long as it’s simply “tradition”, someone’s going to find a way to ignore it.

    In other discussions of this topic I have seen it stated that procedural rules made by one Congress cannot be made binding on the next; and therefore, if the tables were to be turned again , a future Republican majority could simply sweep away by fiat whatever safeguards are put in place now. Is this the case? (If so it would seem to be a rather glaring flaw in the system.)

  34. #34 Coin
    January 3, 2007

    Er, typo:

    and the difference between a 50-50 senate split with the tie going to the Republicans and a 50-49 senate split with the tie going to the Democrats should not be the enormous difference that it is

    Was what I meant to say, though you probably got what I meant. (I was feebly trying to describe the difference between the Senate with Tim Johnson too sick to come in to work vs. Tim Johnson dead and replaced with a Republican. In one case tiebreaker goes to the Republicans, in the other it effectively goes to the Democrats, and under the Congressional system that’s developed in the last ten years that single tiebreaker on the majority leadership vote makes the difference between absolute control for the Rs vs absolute control for the Ds.)

  35. #35 Ed Brayton
    January 3, 2007

    Come on, do you guys really think that the Democrats didn’t use the same procedural tricks and distortions when they had control of the House for nearly 40 years? Sometimes this partisan naivete is just stunning to me, especially coming from otherwise skeptical people. Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert didn’t invent the rules of the House, nor did their machinations (which were certainly real, I do not deny that at all) reach any new level of partisanship. This has been going on by both parties from the very start. If you think Democratic leaders like Lyndon Johnson (yes, I know that was in the Senate) and Tip O’Neill were not every bit as ruthless as DeLay and Hastert in manipulating the rules to force through their agenda, you’re living in a fantasy world. And as someone noted above, it tends to happen to both parties once they’ve had control of a chamber for a few years. They start to get a sense of entitlement and get much worse. If Pelosi passes the same bill she proposed in 2004, then I will happily post an apology and a retraction. But it’s not gonna happen. At most, they will pass a watered down version designed to preserve as much of a political advantage as they can while still pretending they were being principled.

  36. #36 Coin
    January 3, 2007

    Come on, do you guys really think that the Democrats didn’t use the same procedural tricks and distortions when they had control of the House for nearly 40 years?

    Yes, that’s correct. They used different procedural tricks and distortions.

    Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert didn’t invent the rules of the House, nor did their machinations (which were certainly real, I do not deny that at all) reach any new level of partisanship.

    They set the rules of the house under their tenure; that is, as far as I can tell, the job of the majority leader/speaker. Meanwhile the idea that “their machinations reached a new level of partisanship” is in fact the entire argument you are currently trying to refute, and you can’t refute that just by tossing off an “oh, all politicians are evil, everybody knows that!”.

    No one is claiming the pre-1994 Democrats were saintly or even particularly good people, the idea is that the last ten years have seen specific new developments in the practice of one-party control which have been beyond precedent even in recent history. There is a difference between “Bad” and “Worse”.

  37. #37 XPM
    January 3, 2007

    From Wikipedia:

    The United States Constitution provides that each “House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings,”[1] therefore each Congress of the United States, upon convening, approves its own governing rules of procedure. This clause has been interpreted by the courts to mean that a new Congress is not bound by the rules of proceedings of the previous Congress.

    One obvious proposal would be a Constitutional amendment that would proclaim rules of procedure to be continuous between Congresses, and amendable only by a supermajority.

    However, it is far from obvious to me that that even this could have reigned in a majority with such a brazen contempt for the rules as the outgoing one.

  38. #38 Jeff Hebert
    January 3, 2007

    In other discussions of this topic I have seen it stated that procedural rules made by one Congress cannot be made binding on the next; and therefore, if the tables were to be turned again , a future Republican majority could simply sweep away by fiat whatever safeguards are put in place now. Is this the case? (If so it would seem to be a rather glaring flaw in the system.)

    I think that’s why they’re proposing it as an actual bill, which would have the force of law instead of procedural rules. I think for that reason it’s an excellent idea. I think the days of genial comity, when you could rely on the other side to behave in a largely rational and reasonable manner, are long past for either side. Getting the traditions and rules spelled out as binding laws is the only way to enforce it going forward and avoiding the swings of fate.

    Come on, do you guys really think that the Democrats didn’t use the same procedural tricks and distortions when they had control of the House for nearly 40 years? Sometimes this partisan naivete is just stunning to me, especially coming from otherwise skeptical people.

    Do I think the same tricks were used? No, I do not, because as a matter of record they were not. Do I think other tricks and distortions were used? Yes, I do, because as a matter of record they were. I believe the changes in rules made over the last 12 years of Republican rule, both in the House and Senate, are of a particularly egregious nature that is harmful to the rational working of the legislature. It is my opinion that the tricks and abuses have reached a sufficiently gross level that they need to be regulated by an actual statute.

    Having said that, if we can get back at least to just the manipulative level we “enjoyed” prior to Republican takeover, that’s sufficient to let more urgent business get done first, provided that the Minority Bill of Rights is on the agenda — and gets passed — in this session at some point.

    As you found our “partisan naivety” stunning, some of us, your loyal readers, occasionally find that sometimes your zeal for poxing both houses gets in the way of your being fair and objective. There are degrees of abuse, in any enterprise, and it’s not “partisan” to point out when abuses go from tolerable to intolerable. Saying that all tricks are the same is another flavor of naive.

    It’s entirely possible that you are right and the lure of power will intoxicate the Democrats and all of this will be allowed to fall by the wayside. It’s certainly happened before, and you’re absolutely correct that prior Democratic-run legislatures were not exactly convivial meetings of the Society of Quakers. I do still retain enough faith in human nature to at least hope that they’ll do the right thing now that the abuses have achieved a level of grossness that actually impedes the health of the nation, yes.

    If I am indeed being too naive, I’ll happily come back at the end of this session and call them hypocrites. Until then, I am willing to look at the evidence of the procedural changes Democrats have already made and give them the benefit of the doubt for the first few months. If they continue the abuses of the last 12 years, then they should rightly be denounced as hypocrites with no principles.

    The difference between us is that you assume the worst in human nature, and I’m willing to take a flyer that they’ll do the right thing before the session ends. I’m at least willing to wait to see what they actually do first.

  39. #39 Coin
    January 3, 2007

    As an irrelivant aside, I would like to take this moment to note that the new chairperson of the House Rules Committee, the person who will be overseeing ethics reforms as well as any potential “minority rights” related reforms later, is named “Louise Slaughter”.

    “Louise Slaughter”. That is awesome. I hope this person becomes very significant as the congress progresses, so that we see more sentences in news articles like this:

    Slaughter was expected to outline the House ethics plans for reporters on Wednesday.

  40. #40 Steve Reuland
    January 3, 2007

    Ed writes:

    Sometimes this partisan naivete is just stunning to me, especially coming from otherwise skeptical people.

    Sometimes you have to be a partisan to recognize partisanship. Case in point, the naivete of you failing to understand that all of this is just political theater on the part of the Republicans. This is a classic case of being what’s called a “victim bully” — a person who loudly and repeatedly accuses an adversary of having committed wrongdoings against him, even though such accusations are clearly irrational. In this case, given that this is the first day of the 110th Congress, accusations of Democratic strong-arming couldn’t possibly have any merit. The obvious point of such accusations is not to redress any wrongdoing, but to put the Dems on the defensive. The roll that the Minority Bill of Rights plays in all of this is to provoke a reaction out of Pelosi that will help validate these Republican complaints in the public mind.

    The only proper thing for Pelosi to do is to tell them to fuck off. Heck, laugh at them and call them pussies. Whatever you do, don’t cave in to such ridiculous accusations. If the Republicans have a genuine desire to see the minority party protected from potential abuses, they can bring it up in a manner that bespeaks seriousness, not as a partisan attack.

  41. #41 Poly
    January 3, 2007

    Ed:

    When did you join the ranks of the conservative cry-babies and their Stepford press lackeys?

    Or perhaps you are reading from a script yourself. The one that says, “I’m just too sophisticated to think that things can be any different”; the woe-is-me, why-can’t-we-all-just-get along, all-politicians-are-the-same script. This is the one we are hearing unrelentingly in recent days from the Mainstream media and the wise-old-men-of-Washington.

    The problem with the script is that the current policy – take-no-prisoners, right-wing-only, theocratic-leaning – did not occur imperceptibly over the course of “few years”, as you imply. Nor is it just business as usual. It was consciously part and parcel of the Rove strategy and the Contract with America. The policy that this now-powerless crew has been pushing openly and consistently since they achieved a bare majority.

    A question: Where were you – and all the so-wise men – when the right-wingers that now want their say were systematically demolishing the possibility of any minority input in legislation? You were unaware of any such thing? You think it’s just part of the same-old-same-old? Then I can only suggest you go back inside whatever bubble you have been living in for the past twelve years.

    As the Mighty Wurlitzer has been blasting out since 1994 – and only louder since 2000 – elections have consequences. They create a mandate.

    Indeed they do. And what this last election really did was to create a mandate for change.

    Wait, I hear some more boo-hoo-hoo-ing from you:

    All I demand – all that non-hypocrisy demands – is that the Democrats now pass the same legislation they were proposing in 2004.

    The problem, Ed, is that this appeal to fairness, non-hypocrisy, and civil polity won’t work. Not with this crew of egregiously unfair, uncivil bunch of hypocrites. Fairness is as fairness does. If they want to show fairness, they can start with their own policies, which you will note have not changed one iota since the election.

    Finally, the country didn’t elect a bunch of bi-partisans in the last election, it elected an opposition to all these policies. If necessary, a partisan opposition. But hopefully, an effective opposition

    You – and the other cry-babies – will just have to live with it and spare us these crocodile tears.

  42. #42 XPM
    January 3, 2007

    I think that’s why they’re proposing it as an actual bill, which would have the force of law instead of procedural rules.

    Would such a bill be subject to Constitutional challenge on the grounds that the 110th Congress lacks the authority to set the rules of procedure for future Congresses?

  43. #43 Ed Brayton
    January 3, 2007

    Steve Reuland wrote:

    Sometimes you have to be a partisan to recognize partisanship. Case in point, the naivete of you failing to understand that all of this is just political theater on the part of the Republicans.

    No, that’s where you’re ignoring my clear words. I fully and completely recognize that the Republicans are advancing this now solely for partisan political purposes. I don’t believe for a moment that the Republicans really believe anything they’re saying about the need for a minority bill of rights or about the fairness of the system. I just don’t believe that the Democrats really believed what they were saying about it either; thus, my prediction that they will not do the same thing that they said was so important to keep the system fair two years ago. The Republicans claim that it’s so important now because they played fair and the Democrats didn’t when they were in charge; the Democrats say the same thing about the Republicans. The reality is that both parties manipulate the rules for maximum political advantage when they have the power to do so, and the longer they have that power the better they are at it. It’s not an either/or. Both parties defend their inconsistency by trying to change the subject to the bad behavior of the other party; they’re both right that the other party always abuses their power when they have it, but they’re both wrong to think that it excuses their own bad behavior.

    The only proper thing for Pelosi to do is to tell them to fuck off. Heck, laugh at them and call them pussies. Whatever you do, don’t cave in to such ridiculous accusations. If the Republicans have a genuine desire to see the minority party protected from potential abuses, they can bring it up in a manner that bespeaks seriousness, not as a partisan attack.

    No, that’s where you’re wrong. That’s a hypocritical partisan reaction to what I agree is a hypocritical partisan accusation. The proper thing to do, as opposed to the partisan political thing to do, is to show that you actually believed what you said in 2004, that the minority – whether it’s you or the other party – ought to have those basic protections against abuse by the majority. If it was true in 2004 (and I believe it was) then it’s true in 2007. If that’s not done, then it only shows that the Democrats are as disingenuous in their allegedly principled statements as the Republicans (and we fully agree that there is not a shred of principle to be found in the reaction from the Republicans, either then or now).

  44. #44 Ed Brayton
    January 3, 2007

    Poly wrote:

    When did you join the ranks of the conservative cry-babies and their Stepford press lackeys?

    Thanks for letting me know right up front that you have no credibility whatsoever. This is idiotic rhetoric.

    Or perhaps you are reading from a script yourself. The one that says, “I’m just too sophisticated to think that things can be any different”; the woe-is-me, why-can’t-we-all-just-get along, all-politicians-are-the-same script. This is the one we are hearing unrelentingly in recent days from the Mainstream media and the wise-old-men-of-Washington.

    Do you really think you can refute an argument by pointing out that someone else makes the same argument? Great, so other people have said something similar. Now tell me why I’m wrong.

    A question: Where were you – and all the so-wise men – when the right-wingers that now want their say were systematically demolishing the possibility of any minority input in legislation?

    I was right here, hammering the Republican party’s corruption, dishonesty and hypocrisy. Perhaps you should go back and read what I’ve written about the Republicans for the last 3 years, you might just have a clue. You might also see an almost word for word reaction from Republicans at the time, accusing me of being terribly biased against them. Frankly, I think that’s pretty funny. It’s how partisans react because they simply cannot think outside of the simple dichotomy of “us good” and “them bad.”

    You were unaware of any such thing? You think it’s just part of the same-old-same-old? Then I can only suggest you go back inside whatever bubble you have been living in for the past twelve years.

    For the past 14 years, the Republicans have had control of the House. Prior to that, the Democrats had control of it for a few years. Prior to 1980, the Democrats had control of it for decades. And if you really think that the Democrats didn’t manipulate the rules for maximum political advantage when they were in charge, you’re living in a fantasy world. Congress wasn’t created 12 years ago, you know. Democrats have been just as corrupt as Republicans when they’ve had the power to be. The corruption of Ted Stevens in getting pork for Alaska was easily matched by Robert Byrd in getting pork for West Virginia when he was the head of the finance committee for decades. Jim Wright and Tip O’Neill were every bit as ruthless and partisan as Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert when they were in charge of the House. Lyndon Johnson was so corrupt as the head of the Senate that a well known list of what he charged to get a bill to the floor circulated around Washington. Kennedy’s family sent suitcases full of cash to the mafia to secure votes in Illinois and West Virginia. This goes back a long, long time and both parties are hip deep in corruption. What amuses me to no end is that the partisans of both parties have convinced themselves that their party wouldn’t dare do such things and the other party can’t help but do it.

    As the Mighty Wurlitzer has been blasting out since 1994 – and only louder since 2000 – elections have consequences. They create a mandate.

    Indeed they do. And what this last election really did was to create a mandate for change.

    Then let’s have change. Let’s have a party act on actual principle rather than for their own political advantage. It isn’t gonna happen, of course, and that is the point of my post. And in 2 or 4 or 6 years, when the Republicans are elected back to the majority and they’re whining and crying about how unfairly they were treated by the Democrats, and the Democrats then, suddenly finding themselves in the minority, start screaming for a minority bill of rights, I’ll be there pointing out the utter hypocrisy of both parties again. Only then, it will be the Republicans saying, “Where have you been for the last 6 years while Democrats have been manipulating the rules in their favor? The public voted for a mandate for us and we have no obligation to treat them better thant hey treated us.” As I keep saying, the parties and their followers just meet in the middle of town and exchange scripts, each saying the exact same thing they were condemning as idiotic a few months earlier.

  45. #45 Steve Reuland
    January 3, 2007

    The proper thing to do, as opposed to the partisan political thing to do, is to show that you actually believed what you said in 2004, that the minority – whether it’s you or the other party – ought to have those basic protections against abuse by the majority.

    Ed, I think you are trying to take what is in its very essence a matter of partisan politics and trying to wrest some sort of high-minded philosophical position out of it.

    The Republicans are not doing this because they’re actually afraid that the Democrats will mistreat them, but rather because the accusation itself serves as an attack on the Dem’s integrity. The merits of a Minority Bill of Rights isn’t even an issue. The issue is that the Republicans are playing victim bully. The absolute worst thing one can do in this situation is to tacitly agree with the accusers by giving them what they want. That just guarantees more of the same. (If you want a familiar example, remember Larry Caldwell and his frivolous lawsuit against the NCSE?) The proper thing to do is to dismiss faulty and irrational accusations as being faulty and irrational.

    A Minority Bill of Rights is a good idea in principle. The Democrats should pass one, but they should do so on their own terms and preferably with strong bipartisan support. But they absolutely should not pay any heed to this particular bit of chicanery. Pelosi agreed to having a Minority Bill of Rights back in 2004, but she didn’t agree to having cry-baby Republicans dictate her agenda.

  46. #46 Ed Brayton
    January 3, 2007

    Steve Reuland wrote:

    Ed, I think you are trying to take what is in its very essence a matter of partisan politics and trying to wrest some sort of high-minded philosophical position out of it.

    That’s exactly my point, Steve. Partisan politics has nothing to do with principle and everything to do with gaining maximum political advantage. Period. For both parties. That’s exactly what I am arguing. And that’s why no one should take either party seriously when they try to justify what they’re doing by reference to principle. When Pelosi spoke in grandiose terms about what “the American people deserve”, she was talking out her ass (just like the Republicans are now). None of them give a damn what the American people deserve or about what is the right thing to do; they care only about what is in their best interests.

    The Republicans are not doing this because they’re actually afraid that the Democrats will mistreat them, but rather because the accusation itself serves as an attack on the Dem’s integrity. The merits of a Minority Bill of Rights isn’t even an issue. The issue is that the Republicans are playing victim bully.

    And the Democrats were doing the same thing when they called for a minority bill of rights, playing victim bully. And now that they’re in power, they have no intention of actually living up to those grand principles they invoked to justify it then, just like the Republicans couldn’t possibly care any less about principles, either when rejecting the idea or promoting it.

    The absolute worst thing one can do in this situation is to tacitly agree with the accusers by giving them what they want. That just guarantees more of the same. (If you want a familiar example, remember Larry Caldwell and his frivolous lawsuit against the NCSE?) The proper thing to do is to dismiss faulty and irrational accusations as being faulty and irrational.

    No, this is where you’re wrong. What guarantees more of the same is doing more of the same. If you’re going to complain that your opponents are unprincipled and hypocritical, the one sure way to be certain that unprincipled and hypocritical behavior is going to continue is by engaging in it yourself. There is a difference between dismissing faulty and irrational behavior (which is what I’m doing) and pointing to that behavior on the other side as justification for exhibiting the same behavior yourself (which is what the partisans on both sides are doing).

    A Minority Bill of Rights is a good idea in principle. The Democrats should pass one, but they should do so on their own terms and preferably with strong bipartisan support. But they absolutely should not pay any heed to this particular bit of chicanery. Pelosi agreed to having a Minority Bill of Rights back in 2004, but she didn’t agree to having cry-baby Republicans dictate her agenda.

    Maybe if she actually stuck to the principles she invoked in 2004, she’d give the people a reason to keep voting for her (and by the same token, maybe if the Republicans had actually meant what they said about reforming Congress, ridding Washington of corruption and fiscal responsibility, they would have given us a reason to keep them in office; they didn’t, of course, and thus they were voted out). If she stood up now and said, “I told you that the American people deserve a minority bill of rights in 2004 and I still believe it today. So even though we’re in the majority now and even though it might be to our political advantage to do the same thing to the Republicans that they did to us, I’m going to follow through on what I said and stick to my principles. I’m going to make sure that when we take a stand, we actually follow through on it, not because it’s politically expedient but because it’s the right thing to do”, it would not only elevate her standing in the eyes of the public, it might even actually do something to end business as usual in Washington. But she’s not gonna do that, just as the Republicans weren’t about to do that when they had power. Because neither party gives a damn about doing what’s right; they only care about doing what’s best for them in the short term, and principle be damned.

  47. #47 kehrsam
    January 3, 2007

    Just based upon the floor statement quoted by andrea, there is nothing in the Pelosi proposal that was not part of the system when I worked in the House from 1987-90. Some things were, in fact, better, such as Committee staff being 60-40 rather than 2-1. Yes, there was jiggering of various rules to favor democrats at the time, but nothing like the DeLay power grab.

    Under DeLay and Co., there was little or no opportunity to amend bills even at the Committee level; bills were often “reported” out of Committee even though they had not been fully drafted; the Rule for consideration of a bill allowed at most one substitute bill (this happened very occasionally under Jim Wright, I concede); and Conference Committees never met, the preferred final legislation being drafted either by the White House or the relevant lobbyists. This is not the description of a functioning democracy.

    In answer to the question about what is meant by “Bills should generally come to the floor under a procedure that allows open, full, and fair debate consisting of a full amendment process that grants the minority the right to offer its alternatives, including a substitute.”

    The practical working of the House requires a maximum of 2-3 days to debate even the most complex bill. As a result, it is often impossible to consider more than a few amendments to appropriations or other complex legislation. The minority SHOULD always get the opportunity to offer a sunstitute bill, however.

    I used to room with one of Louise Slaughter’s staffers, and she should do an excellent job as Chair of the Rules Committee. A little known fact is Ms. Slaughter has an excellent singing voice, performing once with the Congressional Chorus when I was a member of that group.

  48. #48 Steve Reuland
    January 3, 2007

    And the Democrats were doing the same thing when they called for a minority bill of rights, playing victim bully.

    Oh nonsense. As you’ve previously admitted, the Democrats had ample reasons for complaining about the treatment they received back in 2004. Sometimes when someone claims they’ve been victimized, they really have been victimized. The Taibi article laid this out clearly.

    That is not however the case with the present situation, given that the Republicans began complaining about their mistreatment before they had even relinquished power. That is why there is no equivalence between today’s Republican complaint and Pelosi’s complaint in 2004. One was genuine and the other is bullshit.

    Maybe if she actually stuck to the principles she invoked in 2004, she’d give the people a reason to keep voting for her…

    I believe that Nancy Pelosi knows better than most what keeps people voting for her, and as I’ve tried to argue, kowtowing to this nonsense would not be to her advantage. She doesn’t have to be evil or unprincipled for that, she just has to know how to play the game. If this were anything other than a game, maybe principle would have something to do with it.

  49. #49 DuWayne
    January 3, 2007

    kehrsam -

    Congressional Chorus? There’s a congressional chorus?

    I mean I know there is a loud and annoying congressional chorus of sorts, but I had no idea that they have a choir too.

  50. #50 kehrsam
    January 3, 2007

    Congressional Chorus? There’s a congressional chorus?

    I was a founding member back in 1987. I assume they are still around, but really don’t know. Funny story. The group was founded at Christmas 1987, just to go around the office buildings singing carols and the like. Then they decided to get serious and practice twice a week and all.

    One of the women in my office was interested, and wanted to join, but she and her roommate were afraid to wander around Capitol Hill at night without an escort (rehearsels were in the Methodist Building, beside the Supreme Court. I had never sang before, but Karen and Margot were both gorgeous, and I was seriously romantically challenged. So I volunteered to be the escort. Been singing ever since.

  51. #51 Ed Brayton
    January 3, 2007

    Steve-

    The letter from the Republicans argues that mistreatment by the Democrats back when they had control is a reason for the need for the bill now; they don’t claim mistreatment by Pelosi now because Pelosi isn’t actually in charge yet. And they were right, they were mistreated back when the Democrats had the power to do so, because both parties engage in such a power grab each time they can. Then they howl when they’re on the receiving end of it. It’s hardly unreasonable to point out that both sides suddenly discover the need for fair treatment, and argue for it on the basis of principle, when they’re out of power and then conveniently forget about it when in power.

  52. #52 themann1086
    January 3, 2007

    Ed Ed Ed… Pelosi has already promised to push forward this bill even though she’s now in the majority. Your ignorance is embarrassing you. Just stop.

  53. #53 Ed Brayton
    January 3, 2007

    We shall see what happens. Talk is cheap. I still predict that if anything is passed, it will be watered down from what Pelosi wanted in 2004. If I’m wrong, I will post an apology and a retraction. Time will tell.

  54. #54 James
    January 3, 2007

    So, let me get this straight – committe membership is determined by the winning side at each election, each bill takes 2-3 days max to go through the house, and did i read it correctly when Michael Ralston said that the members don’t even need to read the bills before voting?

    For a bill to pass in New Zealand it has to be read out and voted on three times and the committee review (with membership strictly based on the number of seats each party has) has full public consultation.

    Now I think about it, this explains a lot about your country.

  55. #55 Lettuce
    January 3, 2007

    Well I’m (surprise) a Democrat and my memory isn’t short.

    I recall what the GOP did with their massive twelve vote majority, I expect (in fact I’m confident) that the Democrats will be much fairer with their slender thirty-three vote majority.

    Indeed, if you see the Democrats, after the first hundred hours, requiring votes on bills they haven’t let the GOP read. I’ll eat my baseball cap and send you pictures.

    That said, my general attitude towards the GOP is “screw them.”

    I have no more concern for them than I have for any other con artist.

  56. #56 Ed Brayton
    January 4, 2007

    James-

    Our legislative system is a huge boondoggle. We regularly have 3000 page long bills pass that no one has actually bothered to read. I mean no one who has to vote on it has actually read the entire thing. It’s a disaster.

  57. #57 James
    January 4, 2007

    Wow. That’s … really not good.

  58. #58 Deuc
    January 4, 2007

    It might be a good idea to have a flip through the 147 page House Committee on Rules report, although from the ranking Democratic member, entitled “Congressional Report Broken Promises: The Death of Deliberative Democracy A Congressional Report on the Unprecedented Erosion of the Democratic Process in the 108th Congress.” Which can be obtained here. (pdf)

    But assuming you can’t be bothered (like me) let me point out two references made in the report’s introduction, and thereby a quicker refutation of the claim that the actions of the Republicans have been no more egregious. They both involve matters partly of opinion/commentary, but the source of the opinion would have more expertise than the average lay person.

    From the Washington Post:
    “It is true, as Republicans say, that they are not the first to distort the legislative process. Opposition politicians have been cut out of conferences. Thick bills full of arcane language have passed Congress without much examination. Certainly pork has been added to make bills more palatable. Yet just as certainly it’s all gotten worse. An occasional illness has become a chronic disease. Tactics once considered egregious have become ordinary.

    The Boston Globe:
    “But longtime Congress-watchers say they have never seen the legislative process so closed to input from minority-party members, the public, and lobbyists whose agenda is unsympathetic to GOP leadership goals.”

    I would hope no one has forgetten the apparent willingness of Republican Senators to break the rules of the Senate in a brazen manner by employing the so-called Nuclear option.

  59. #59 coturnix
    January 4, 2007

    There is a name for it – and you know it because you use it in your posts on a regular basis, though you have succumbed to it yourself in this one – and that is Compulsive Centrist Disorder: the high-fallutin’, high-minded, hollier-than-though attitude that refuses to recognize that one part yis operating like a normal political party while the pther party is uniformaly composed of criminally insane thugs.

  60. #60 Andrea
    January 4, 2007

    We shall see what happens. Talk is cheap.
    Precisely. That’s why before reflexively talking about “exchanging scripts”, you should look at the facts.

  61. #61 Steve Reuland
    January 4, 2007

    According to this article in The Hill, the Democrats are moving ahead on the reforms they talked about in 2004, including making sure that the minority party is allowed to join in on conference committees (one of the worst Republican abuses of the last two sessions).

    So they were able to laugh off the Republican pants-wetting fest, yet still make good on their promise of reform. That is exactly as it should be. Not that this will make Ed think any more highly of them.

  62. #62 Ed Brayton
    January 4, 2007

    Steve-

    I’ll have a full post up about that article tomorrow. There are some good things in it, which I will gladly applaud, but it actually confirms my criticisms.

  63. #63 Poly
    January 4, 2007

    Ed:

    Do you really think you can refute an argument by pointing out that someone else makes the same argument? Great, so other people have said something similar. Now tell me why I’m wrong.

    Oh, we are going to get to that refutation in due course, Ed.

    But first, I wanted to address your accusation of ‘script-reading’. I think if you’re going to accuse someone else of merely sticking to the same-old script, you ought to first be looking at your own actions here.

    And if you want to make a credible claim that you aren’t merely following a script – although initial appearances would indicate that you are – maybe you ought to consider that those you are accusing of the same thing aren’t doing it, either. Maybe – just maybe – they have valid reasons for what they are doing.

    I was right here, hammering the Republican party’s corruption, dishonesty and hypocrisy. Perhaps you should go back and read what I’ve written about the Republicans for the last 3 years, you might just have a clue.

    OK – so before we get to that refutation, we now have to address your credentials on this issue.

    And, actually, Ed, you haven’t been hammering on this particular issue.

    Now I’ll admit that what might seem to be arcane legislative procedural rules are not everyone’s cup of tea. You certainly had a lot of other topics to write about regarding the right-wing, and you did so. So I wouldn’t hold it against you for not having noticed this one in particular.

    However, I do fault you for making any kind of big deal about this issue now, as these authoritarian policies have been in effect for twelve years.

    Congress wasn’t created 12 years ago, you know. Democrats have been just as corrupt as Republicans when they’ve had the power to be. The corruption of Ted Stevens in getting pork for Alaska was easily matched by Robert Byrd in getting pork for West Virginia when he was the head of the finance committee for decades. [long litany of 'everybody-is-all-the-same' deleted]

    Won’t wash. Ed. Although I don’t expect you to be a student of American legislative history, I do expect you to not talk about what you don’t know.

    And now on to the refutation of your underlying argument.

    Actually, I was going to refer you to that same “Broken Promises” report that someone else has already quoted from. So I can only second his suggestion that you read it.

    Do read it, please, and you will see that these polices are not merely the same-old, same-old. They were an unprecedented naked grab for legislative power. And guess what? They were successful – at least in the short term.

    Now those policies have be reversed because of the new majority – in due time and with due deliberation – in as bipartisan a fashion as is practicable.

    A first step might be for the previous majority party to admit, up front and in public, that their own policies for the past twelve years have been uncivil, unfair, and authoritarian. You’ll take note that this hasn’t happened – nor do I think it will.

    Nevertheless, the new majority will, I am sure, plow ahead with these changes as their mandate required.

    But there are other more pressing issues from that mandate – issues that must be attended to immediately – issues which the outgoing crew has studiously avoided or facilitated. We’ve got a little-bitty war going on, for one. A war that the previous majority party is responsible for and has to answer for.

  64. #64 themann1086
    January 4, 2007

    Talk IS cheap… but you could have at the very least pointed out that Pelosi is on record in support of passing this bill since the November elections. Congress was sworn in today. We’ll see by February if this gets passed.