"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Sunday, November 28, 2004
In scuttling major intelligence legislation that he, the president and most lawmakers supported, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert last week enunciated a policy in which Congress will pass bills only if most House Republicans back them, regardless of how many Democrats favor them.
Hastert's position, which is drawing fire from Democrats and some outside groups, is the latest step in a decade-long process of limiting Democrats' influence and running the House virtually as a one-party institution. Republicans earlier barred House Democrats from helping to draft major bills such as the 2003 Medicare revision and this year's intelligence package. Hastert (R-Ill.) now says such bills will reach the House floor, after negotiations with the Senate, only if "the majority of the majority" supports them.
Senators from both parties, leaders of the Sept. 11 commission and others have sharply criticized the policy. The long-debated intelligence bill would now be law, they say, if Hastert and his lieutenants had been humble enough to let a high-profile measure pass with most votes coming from the minority party.
That is what Democrats did in 1993, when most House Democrats opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement. President Bill Clinton backed NAFTA, and leaders of the Democratic-controlled House allowed it to come to a vote. The trade pact passed because of heavy GOP support, with 102 Democrats voting for it and 156 voting against. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, the House GOP leader at the time, declared: "This is a vote for history, larger than politics . . . larger than personal ego."
Such bipartisan spirit in the Capitol now seems a faint echo. Citing the increased marginalization of Democrats as House bills are drafted and brought to the floor, Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.) said, "It's a set of rules and practices which the Republicans have taken to new extremes."
I guess some things are just more important than fixing the problems of our intelligence industry, and pissing on Democrats is one of those things. Realize what this means - Democrats in the House are now officially irrelevant. They can show up if they want to, stay home if they would prefer, vote, don't vote, whatever. It just doesn't matter. The Republicans are going to marginalize the opposition party as a matter of policy, and that policy trumps all other priorities. Defense of the nation is important, but not nearly as important as making donkeys eat dust.
The worst part is that, some day, Democrats will regain the majority. And when they do, they are very likely going to retaliate in kind for the way the Republicans have acted. It won't be pretty, and it won't be good for the country, but it's gonna happen. I just hope that when the inevitable Republican whining begins, someone is around to remind the pachyderms what they did to escalate this stupid conflict.