Saturday, January 06, 2007

New Congress' New Year's Resolutions

The newly-empowered Democratic majority in the House of Representatives had promised to deliver in their first 100 hours (a gesture one-upping the "first 100 days" of the 1992 Republican Contract With America), with ethics reform at the top of Speaker Pelosi's agenda. Well on one significant measure, they have indeed delivered. New rules enacted on Friday require all "earmarks" to be published on the Internet, and for Congressmembers to certify that they have no personal benefit from the earmark. ("Earmarks" are the legislative maneuver by which pet projects like $234 million bridges to nowhere are inserted into spending bills with no real scrutiny or review.) They say sunshine is the best disinfectant.

Congressional veterans expressed some surprise that the Democrats actually had the cojones to do this (especially since Democratic leaders, including Pelosi, have benefited from earmarks as much as Republicans). So it's encouraging to see the new session starting out with some bracing integrity. The boldness and integrity of the move was underscored by candid comments from some notable conservatives. Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) is reported to have urged his colleagues to support the new ethics rules, noting that the change was something the Republicans themselves had proposed. "They had the guts to do what we didn't," said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). And Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), the Jeremiah of fiscal conservatism in a heedless Senate, said "I salute the House for attacking this problem."

Good start!

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