Lawmaker News

Process Matters

One of the things I learned when I worked for Bob Michel and his legendary floor adviser Bill Pitts is that the legislative process matters.

It matters not only because a good legislative process begets good legislation. It also matters because the legislative process is what separates democracy from tyranny.

The rules of the House have been established for over 200 years to carefully balance the rights of the minority with the needs of the majority to expedite legislation.

Running on Common Ground — And Liking It

Want a better way to start your day? Want to bridge the divides that too often break us apart in Washington?

Yesterday, a host of Washingtonians — White House staffers, diplomats, journalists, philanthropists, businesses, military personnel, members of Congress — together with our capital city's mayor took to the banks of the Anacostia River to run, jog or walk three miles before work. All for an important cause.

Participants in the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) Capital Challenge signed up as teams. California Rep. Jane Harman (D) headed the "Harmaniacs." Mayor Adrian Fenty captained the Fleet Feet team, Alan Holmer from the Treasury Department headed up the Jacksons and Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) helmed Team Ensign.

Democratic David Copperfields

Poof! It disappeared without a trace. Then a wave of a wand. It reappeared in their opponents' hand. This week the Democrats lost — no, gave away — the single largest domestic political issue of this year, the mortgage and housing crisis.

Senators returned from their two-week break, where they heard an earful about the economic situation. They also saw the Fed bail out Bear Stearns. Now they were ready to deal on the housing bill the Senate had stifled just a few weeks before. Democrats were in the driver's seat.

What unfolded next was stunning. The bill began taking the shape of Republican legislation as Georgia's Sen. Johnny Isakson got a significant tax credit added. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) appeared at a press conference shoulder-to-shoulder to announce they had worked out a way for the bill to proceed. The Republicans garnered headlines of bipartisan cooperation.

Despicable Acts: Al Wynn's Troubling Exit Strategy

The incredible Albert Wynn saga keeps getting worse and worse. I refer, of course, to the Maryland Democrat’s despicable decision to leave the House in the middle of the session simply because he got his feelings hurt after losing his primary race to up-and-comer Donna Edwards.

For some more background, and because every Washington reporter worth his or her salt these days must have a serious Self Promotion Gear (SPG), I refer you to a column I wrote Tuesday for The Hill’s print edition, entitled “Good riddance, Mr. Wynn.”

That shameless self-promotion aside, I must tell you that Wynn wants the early out in June simply because he is selfish and wants to get with the big-bucks K Street plan early. In short: Start the clock ticking on the one-year member ban on lobbying his colleagues.

2008 — Year of the Prostitute?

I thought that headline might get your attention. I’m just amazed at the number of high-profile political scandals that have arisen lately dealing with high-priced call-girls (and in some cases, not-so-high-priced ones).

Just when I thought it was safe to go back into the bathroom stall and settle into my wide stance, I hear that Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s (D-Mich.) husband was paying $150 for a hooker to turn tricks in a Michigan hotel. Heck, I think the room was more expensive than the call-girl … a Residence Inn? I can just see the look on Eliot Spitzer’s face based on the thousands he paid for the same “treatment.” What about the current New York governor, David Paterson? I think his first official declaration was that he had engaged in extramarital affairs “numerous times.” So much for a State of the State address.

A True Profile in Courage

“In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience — the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men — each man must decide for himself the course he will follow.”
— John F. Kennedy

J. Dennis Hastert, the longest-serving Republican Speaker in the history of the House, followed his conscience when he rushed in to defend the House as an institution against an out-of-control Justice Department.

The man he was defending, Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), was not of his party. Most people assumed he was guilty, because he was found with $90,000 of cold cash in the freezer of his house. Jefferson’s own party leadership, fearing political retribution, did little to defend him.

My Friend Howard Metzenbaum

I know it's a cliché, but Howard Metzenbaum, Shirley, his four daughters and his son-in-law were almost like family to me during the formative years of my young adulthood in Cleveland, then Washington. Our closeness survived the sometimes tough confrontations between a reporter and a senator.

The public figure could be a royal pain, to be honest, at the same time the private man was being warm and supportive. So, of course, I will miss him and join the extended Metzenbaum clan in mourning his departure.

Pelosi Admits to Breaking House Rules — Sorta

Well, she didn't come right out and say it, but she came pretty darn close. But, in the spirit of March Madness, I will let you make the call.

During a news conference in the Capitol this morning, I had the opportunity to ask House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) about that little matter from the other night when the Democrats broke their own ethics rules on a procedural vote so they could clear the path and pass … er … another ethics bill. Got that? Can't make this stuff up, folks.

Maybe I should start at the beginning.
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The Great Abdication: The House Outsources Itself Via Creation of New Ethics Office

When Members of Congress depart for their spring vacation, they ought to grab whatever they think they might need for the rest of the year and just stay away — permanently.

With Tuesday night's passage of a bill that creates an outside Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), the House has not only abdicated its responsibilities, but has gone one step further and outsourced its own self-policing duties in violation of the Constitution.

Done in plain view for all to see, the irresponsible decision to create an outside panel kills two weeping eagles with one shotgun blast.

It allows Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to appear as if she has kept her campaign promise to "drain the swamp" and fix the "broken" ethics process, and it helps the Democrats further cozy up to most of the "good-government" groups that have been pushing the idea for years.

Organized Fakery

"It is 3 a.m. The phone rings in room 871 of the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Something is happening. Who will answer that call? What will she be wearing?"

Mark that down as a political commercial you will never see, except maybe on “Saturday Night Live.”

And for that matter, you can take Eliot Spitzer off of everyone's short list for vice president. He is now about as likely for the Democrats as Larry Craig is for the Republicans.

Actually, both of them could help create that viable third party we have been waiting for for so long. It could finally offer that alternative to the S.O.P., the Same Old Parties.