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Cochise
07-25-2007, 06:37 PM
http://www.suntimes.com/news/novak/479371,CST-EDT-NOVAK23.article


Reid presses stealth attack on ethics legislation

July 23, 2007
BY ROBERT NOVAK novakevans@aol.com

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid picked up his ball and went home following his staged all-night session last week, he saved from possible embarrassment one of the least regular members of his Democratic caucus: Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Reform Republican Sen. Tom Coburn had ready a defense authorization bill amendment to remove Nelson's earmark funding a Nebraska-based company whose officials include Nelson's son. Such an effort became impossible when Reid pulled down the bill.

That Reid's action would have this effect was mere coincidence. He knew that Sen. Carl Levin's amendment to the defense bill mandating a troop withdrawal from Iraq would fall short of the 60 senators needed to cut off debate, and planned from the start to pull the bill after the all-night debate, designed to satisfy anti-war zealots, was completed. But Reid also is working behind the scenes with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to undermine transparency of earmarks and prevent open debate on spending proposals such as Nelson's.

These antics fit the continuing decline of the Senate, including an unwritten rules change requiring 60 votes (out of 100) to pass any meaningful bill. When I arrived on Capitol Hill 50 years ago, Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson (like Reid today) confronted a slim Democratic Senate majority and a Republican president but was not burdened with the 60-vote rule. While Johnson used chicanery, Reid resorts to brute force that shatters the Senate's facade of civilized discourse. Reid is plotting to strip anti-earmark transparency from the final version of ethics legislation passed by the Senate and House, with tacit support from Republican senators and the GOP leadership.

At stake is the fate of Coburn's "Reid Amendment" previously passed by the Senate -- so called because it would bar earmarks benefitting a senator's family members such as Reid's four lobbyist sons and son-in-law. Nelson's current $7.5 million earmark for software helps 21st Century Systems Inc. (21 CSI), which employs the senator's son, Patrick Nelson, as its marketing director. 21 CSI gets 80 percent of its funds from federal grants, mostly from earmarks. With nine offices scattered among states that are represented by appropriators in Congress, the company has in recent years spent $1.1 million to lobby Congress and $160,000 in congressional campaign contributions. "As of April," the Omaha World-Herald reported, "only one piece of [21 CSI] software has been used -- to help guard a single Marine camp in Iraq -- and it was no longer in use."

In requesting the 21 CSI earmark, Nelson did not disclose his son's employment there. "There's no requirement that he disclose that," a Nelson spokesman said. "But frankly, in this case, we didn't disclose it because it's so public." An April 24 letter from Armed Services Committee Chairman Levin, giving all senators instructions on how to request earmarks, makes no mention of the "Reid Amendment" passed by the Senate three months earlier but requires only certification that no senator's spouse will benefit from an earmark. Inclusion of Nelson's son, however, would be required if and when the ethics bill provision passes.

When the defense authorization bill came up last week, Coburn prepared amendments to eliminate the Nelson earmark and the most notorious earmark now pending in Congress: Rep. John Murtha's proposed $23 million for the National Drug Intelligence Center in his Pennsylvania district. Reid's game plan to satisfy anti-war activists with an all-night debate averted debate for now on these two earmarks.

Reid, the soft-spoken trial lawyer from Searchlight, Nev., in his tumultuous 6 months as majority leader, has tended to suppress free expression in the self-proclaimed World's Greatest Deliberative Body. Last week, he cut off an attempt to respond to him by Sen. Arlen Specter, the veteran moderate Republican, in an abrupt way that I had not witnessed in a half century of Senate-watching. Neither had Specter. When Specter finally got the Senate floor, he declared: "Nothing is done here until the majority leader decides to exercise his power to keep the Senate in all night on a meaningless, insulting session. ... Last night's performance made us the laughingstock of the world." It may get worse if plans to eviscerate ethics legislation are pursued.

Hydrae
07-25-2007, 07:37 PM
Can anyone tell me why it is that the bills they put through Congress have so many things in each one? This is where our pork crap comes from. Why do they not make each issue it's own bill and keep things clean and above board?

I know there is a lot of things like this that happen and I am dumb enough not to understand all the workings of these things. But this just aggrevates the heck out of me. The President doesn't need a line item veto, they need to make each issue it's own item in the first place, IMO.

Thanks for the replies, I seriously do not understand.

mlyonsd
07-25-2007, 07:41 PM
Can anyone tell me why it is that the bills they put through Congress have so many things in each one? This is where our pork crap comes from. Why do they not make each issue it's own bill and keep things clean and above board?

I know there is a lot of things like this that happen and I am dumb enough not to understand all the workings of these things. But this just aggrevates the heck out of me. The President doesn't need a line item veto, they need to make each issue it's own item in the first place, IMO.

Thanks for the replies, I seriously do not understand.

Easy. Because neither party has the guts to really regulate how things are funded because they all realize their re-election depends on how much pork they have provided to their consituents.

Hydrae
07-25-2007, 07:42 PM
Easy. Because neither party has the guts to really regulate how things are funded because they all realize their re-election depends on how much pork they have provided to their consituents.


Well, yes there is that without a doubt. I was thinking there may be a real, legit reason why this continues session after session.

Trying to give Washington some slack even though I doubt they deserve it.

mlyonsd
07-25-2007, 07:49 PM
Well, yes there is that without a doubt. I was thinking there may be a real, legit reason why this continues session after session.

Trying to give Washington some slack even though I doubt they deserve it.

Take the reps back in the 90's. One of the reasons they took over congress is because they ran on the idea of term limits for congressmen. Then once they had the power they decided it was a bad idea.

Unfortunately it is like thinking the fox will guard the chicken house just because he says he will. Once you're in you're in unless you F'up and didn't deliver to your consituents.

Ultra Peanut
07-25-2007, 08:47 PM
http://imgred.com/http://z.about.com/d/politicalhumor/1/0/H/e/novak_douchebag_of_liberty.jpg

patteeu
07-25-2007, 10:30 PM
Can anyone tell me why it is that the bills they put through Congress have so many things in each one? This is where our pork crap comes from. Why do they not make each issue it's own bill and keep things clean and above board?

I know there is a lot of things like this that happen and I am dumb enough not to understand all the workings of these things. But this just aggrevates the heck out of me. The President doesn't need a line item veto, they need to make each issue it's own item in the first place, IMO.

Thanks for the replies, I seriously do not understand.

I think mlyonsd's answer is the best one, but it would be really hard to define what constitutes a single issue even if they wanted to try to limit each bill to only one.

Cochise
07-26-2007, 09:58 AM
I think mlyonsd's answer is the best one, but it would be really hard to define what constitutes a single issue even if they wanted to try to limit each bill to only one.

That's true, IMO.

I'm surprised no one cares about the protection of earmarks here, since they were considered so appalling in recent DC history.

patteeu
07-26-2007, 10:19 AM
That's true, IMO.

I'm surprised no one cares about the protection of earmarks here, since they were considered so appalling in recent DC history.

Yes, apparently earmarks have lost their odor.

Cochise
07-26-2007, 11:27 AM
Yes, apparently earmarks have lost their odor.

I guess so, I mean look at this, right in the first paragraph:


Reform Republican Sen. Tom Coburn had ready a defense authorization bill amendment to remove (Senator Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska)'s earmark funding a Nebraska-based company whose officials include Nelson's son. Such an effort became impossible when Reid pulled down the bill.


Come on, isn't this the sort of pork we were supposed to see run out of Washington starting in January?

Taco John
07-26-2007, 11:42 AM
That's true, IMO.

I'm surprised no one cares about the protection of earmarks here, since they were considered so appalling in recent DC history.



What are you talking about? You didn't complain for six years about them. Now it's become a big ironic deal to you.

Cochise
07-26-2007, 11:48 AM
What are you talking about? You didn't complain for six years about them. Now it's become a big ironic deal to you.

It's ironic because the party doing all the complaining about them is the one involved here. It's not really very complicated.

Taco John
07-26-2007, 11:54 AM
Oh, pardon me... I had been under the impression that the irony was that the party who claims to be in favor of conservative fiscal restraint had earmarks for bridges to nowhere in Alaska, and had increased our national debt to historical highs, and that only now, after they've been booted from office, Republican voters are complaning about fiscal issues.

I guess my irony meter is broken.

RaiderH8r
07-26-2007, 12:24 PM
Oh, pardon me... I had been under the impression that the irony was that the party who claims to be in favor of conservative fiscal restraint had earmarks for bridges to nowhere in Alaska, and had increased our national debt to historical highs, and that only now, after they've been booted from office, Republican voters are complaning about fiscal issues.

I guess my irony meter is broken.
The "booting" from office came as a result of a campaign of promises of transparency, inclusion, and bipartisanship; ending the "culture of corruption" as Nancy's band of merry morons so eloquently put it. They made the promise and now they're being asked to keep it. Bummer when that happens.

To answer Hydrae's question, the reason this goes on is because constituents lap it up like anti-freeze in a petting zoo. Just is, the government teet is large and supple. It's difficult to turn one's back on the ample opportunity to get one's hand on what is perceived by many to be easy money. Big checks, little accountability, and no pesky banks to deal with.

Taco John
07-26-2007, 12:45 PM
The "booting" from office came as a result of a campaign of promises of transparency, inclusion, and bipartisanship; ending the "culture of corruption" as Nancy's band of merry morons so eloquently put it. They made the promise and now they're being asked to keep it. Bummer when that happens.

ROFL You seriously think THAT'S why the Democrats got put in office? Hahaha! I don't believe that you honestly believe that the American people voted in the Democrats expecting a whole lot of fiscal restraint on their part. The only reason that the Democrats got elected was because they were the only viable alternative to Republicans.

Hydrae
07-26-2007, 02:13 PM
To answer Hydrae's question, the reason this goes on is because constituents lap it up like anti-freeze in a petting zoo. Just is, the government teet is large and supple. It's difficult to turn one's back on the ample opportunity to get one's hand on what is perceived by many to be easy money. Big checks, little accountability, and no pesky banks to deal with.



Damn, I thought those in leadership were supposed to be doing what is in our collective best interest. Some days I hate humanity, other days it is just those who claim to be humans in Washington.

Hydrae
07-26-2007, 02:15 PM
ROFL You seriously think THAT'S why the Democrats got put in office? Hahaha! I don't believe that you honestly believe that the American people voted in the Democrats expecting a whole lot of fiscal restraint on their part. The only reason that the Democrats got elected was because they were the only viable alternative to Republicans.


:sulk:

Tis a sad state of affairs, ain't it?

Cochise
07-26-2007, 05:22 PM
The "booting" from office came as a result of a campaign of promises of transparency, inclusion, and bipartisanship; ending the "culture of corruption" as Nancy's band of merry morons so eloquently put it. They made the promise and now they're being asked to keep it. Bummer when that happens.

Yes, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of "swamp-draining" going on in Earmark Marsh at the moment.

banyon
07-26-2007, 05:39 PM
This crap pretty much irritates me too. The Democratic Party needs alot more reps like Feingold and a lot less like Pelosi and Reid.

it's why I am part of the +80% (along with their failure to act on Iraq) that disapproves of the job they are doing.

RaiderH8r
07-27-2007, 09:09 AM
ROFL You seriously think THAT'S why the Democrats got put in office? Hahaha! I don't believe that you honestly believe that the American people voted in the Democrats expecting a whole lot of fiscal restraint on their part. The only reason that the Democrats got elected was because they were the only viable alternative to Republicans.
I know why they were put in office, I'm just pointing out that they made defeating the DC "culture of corruption" a centerpiece of their national and local election strategy. The centerpiece of their ethics reform rules was earmark reform. Bottom line, despite whatever you may think got them into office, their premise and promise was to eradicate the abuses of power they alleged the Republicans of...and they have, and continue to, fail. Which might explain why their collective approval ratings are plummeting.

Underlying that promise, and contributing to their success, may have been that they were "the only viable alternative to Republicans" and the D's may have a much tougher go of it in '08 because of the continued failings of the D Congress to accomplish much of anything substantial and certainly not delivering on any of the campaign promises of '06.

RaiderH8r
07-27-2007, 09:17 AM
This crap pretty much irritates me too. The Democratic Party needs alot more reps like Feingold and a lot less like Pelosi and Reid.

it's why I am part of the +80% (along with their failure to act on Iraq) that disapproves of the job they are doing.
Reid is in a difficult spot, Pelosi as well but not quite as bad. Throughout history Majority Leader, especially in the Senate, has presented considerable obstacles to those that occupy the post. On the one hand they have to represent their constituent interests and on the other, the interests of the Caucus that elected them to that post. The difficulty comes in walking the tight rope between the two when their interests conflict. Do you go with your constituents and anger your Caucus prompting revolt, or vice versa and risk losing your seat? It's rarely, if ever, one issue that will get your Caucus or constituents to abandon you, but rather a collective of decisions. History is riddled with Sen. Majority Leaders who went on to lose elections because, at the base of it, they couldn't walk this tight rope well enough over long periods of time. As I said, a collection of decisions and politicos have long memories and google. Tom Daschle was the most recent casualty of this dynamic.

Ultimately I think the liberal base feels somewhat betrayed by Reid, and to a lesser extent Pelosi, because they believe Reid and Pelosi have abandoned the liberal base and moderated. Feingold, for example, only has to serve his constituents and his base so he's viewed more favorably. Good, bad, whatever, it just is.

If you're truly interested in the workings of the Senate give "Master of the Senate" a read.

Cochise
07-27-2007, 09:29 AM
Apparently, they weren't put in place to prevent Ben Nelson from earmarking a pile of money for his son's company, or Rangel from earmarking his name onto the side of a building.

Or a while back, some Republican senator (can't remember who) tried to remove an 8-figure earmark headed right for Murtha's district, and Murtha shouted at him that he was never going to get an earmark himself, ever again. It's against rules to trade these things like currency but it's still happening, despite the all-out assault on the "culture of corruption" that we were promised was coming.

Culture of hypocrisy is more like it.