Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Democrats Move to Bring Back Cooperation in Congress

The Democrats are moving towards restoring rules that were eliminated by the Republican Congress from 1994 through 2006 in order to give the minority a voice in what goes on.
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.

Beyond the parliamentary issues, Democrats assuming control on Jan. 4 said they also wanted to revive collegiality and civility in an institution that has been poisoned by partisanship in recent years. In a gesture duly noted by Republicans, the incoming speaker of the House, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, offered Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who is remaining in Congress, the use of prime office space in the Capitol out of respect for his position.

Kos believes that this constitutes a "completely unneccessary act of kindness." He is completely wrong on this count for reasons that I will explain after giving a clearer explanation of what Kos meant.
But on collegiality -- If Pelosi and company are just blabbing about "cooperation" for PR purposes, that's fine. But it should be nothing more than rhetoric. We've already seen that Blunt and Company can't help themselves and even bother reciprocating the empty platitudes. They respond to them with insults and threats of political gamesmanship.

This is an era of hardball politics, and the GOP clearly has no intention to play nice. They aren't even going through the motions or pretending to be more collegial. So while our side can talk nice, their actions should reflect the current political reality.

What Kos is correct about is his contention that the Republicans seem to "have no intention to bother reciprocating." That doesnt change the fact that this is a very smart and good move by Pelosi and company. Regardless of whether Republicans will bother reciprocating, procedure in the House and Senate has been altered dramatically for the purpose of keeping the minority out of the process. That is not how democracy is supposed to work, let both sides come to the table, let both sides offer amendments, and at the end of the day let an honest and open vote determine whether we're going to pass X proposal into law. The oft observed end of bipartisonship and cooperation in American politics in recent years I believe is entirely the fault of the Republicans who have cynically destroyed any ability for the minority party to be involved in the policymaking process. It needs to be changed, and change requires at this time that Democrats be the better men. I dont care if it doesnt do anything for our agenda, Congress needs to return to its roots in this regard. Perhaps Kos, and any Democrats taking his side of this need to be reminded that 44% of the American public voted for Republicans this November. Does Kos really support acting like the Republicans and ignoring 44% of the voting American public entirely? I hope not. Let's take a look at what exactly has gone on in the last 12 years and what exactly is being proposed by Pelosi and Co here.
But to Congress watchers who grew increasingly outraged over Republican conduct of the House during the rule of Mr. Hastert and the majority leader Tom DeLay, the Democrats are definitely heading in the right direction.

“The House has been so egregiously run for a number of years that it was seen as contributing both directly and indirectly to the election results,” said Thomas Mann, a Congressional scholar at the Brookings Institution. “There really is a strong political incentive to try to do business differently.”

Democrats said explicitly that they would abandon some of the most disputed Republican practices. They point in particular to the vote on Medicare prescription drug legislation in 2003, when Republicans refused to shut off a House vote for three hours so they could twist arms and push the measure through just before sunrise. Democrats stipulate that votes should be completed within 15 minutes and not held open simply to manipulate the outcome.

Democrats are developing a proposal to guarantee that lawmakers have at least 24 hours to examine legislation. They have also called for “an end to the two-day work week” and the beginning of a “predictable, professional, family-friendly schedule that allows the legislative process to proceed in a manner that ensures timely and deliberative dispensation of the work of Congress.”

In the House and Senate, the leadership is vowing to conduct full and open conference committees that reconcile differing legislation passed by the two chambers and produce a final bill. In recent years, those sessions have all but disappeared, with senior Republicans hashing out final versions behind closed doors, occasionally adding provisions passed by neither the House nor the Senate. Some of the major legislation approved in the final hours of the past Congress was written in private by just a few lawmakers and aides and rushed to the floor.

Good work Pelosi, as for Kos, I agree with you most of the time, but you're on the wrong side of this bud.

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