Lawmaker News

Down, Down, Down

According to the Washington Post, ratings for congressional Democrats are going down, down, down. Apparently, their base is unhappy with them because they haven’t done what they said they would do on Iraq: End the war.

But the poll numbers also show that less than 20 percent of the American people think we should pull out right now. So the Democrats lose either way. If they pass legislation to pull out now, they risk losing the people. And when they don’t, they lose their base. Not a good position to be in.

Democrats have a host of other problems. The indictment of Bill Jefferson and the new majority’s inability to make real progress on ethics reform (this is hardly the most ethical Congress in history, as promised by Speaker Pelosi) means they are beginning to lose the independents.  

The Jefferson Double Standard

Representative William Jefferson has allegedly been accused of 11 bribery and fraud schemes involving his business interests in at least seven West African countries, including telecommunications deals in Nigeria and Ghana, oil concessions in Equatorial Guinea, waste-recycling systems in Nigeria and the Nigerian sugar plant for which he sought Export-Import Bank financing. He made corrupt trades in his congressional office where he served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, to enrich himself and his family.

When Tom DeLay’s ethics were in question the Democrats triggered a round of attacks. However, whatever DeLay was guilty of, he bowed out gracefully. Jefferson, by contrast, is maintaining his innocence and has no intention of stepping down. As this federal indictment is the first in which a U.S. official is charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars bribery of foreign officials, Jefferson should take responsibility for these outrageous criminal behaviors. This not a party issue. Wrong is wrong and right is right no matter the party affiliation. However, I am a bit curious as to where the watchdog groups are in this matter.

Resign immediately, Congressman Jefferson, and stop this wasteful, selfish and continued abuse of taxpayers’ dollars.

Thundering Horsemen Close in on GOP

David Hill, director of Hill Research Consultants, a Texas-based firm that has polled for GOP candidates and causes since 1988, has a column posted on The Hill entitled "Overblown GOP apocalypse" in which he asserts the GOP isn't so bad off as the conservative bloggers and pundits would have you believe. Cases in point, he writes, are Florida and California.

"Consider Florida, where the newly elected Republican governor is already so popular that Floridians may forget about Jeb Bush. And the state legislature is dominated by the GOP. ... At the other end of the country, in California, you see a Republican Party that's bouncing back under the leadership of a suddenly stronger and more popular governor."

I've lived and worked in California (formerly as the communications director for the California Republican Party), and I can tell you things in the Golden State aren't all that rosy for the GOP. Consider that they lost Richard Pombo's congressional seat in a district where Republicans hold a registration advantage of 43%-37%. (In every other district, both congressional and legislative, in the state where Republicans hold at least 40% registration, they control the seat.) 

The Swamp is Clogged

Has Jack been taken to Nancy's woodshed yet? Have they had the talk about how many more times she can stand to see images from that ABSCAM video the National Republican Congressional Committee is now so fond of?

The new majority, the one that promised to "drain the swamp" and be the most ethical in history, voted yesterday to protect both one of its own and the earmark system politicians depend on but have to pretend to hate. Democrats voted en masse (although ethics committee members voted present) to stop the GOP from censuring Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Pa.) for his threat to block the appropriations of a member who had tried to eliminate one of his earmarks, a violation of ethics rules.

There is, of course, a long tradition of lawmakers yelling at and threatening each other on the House floor. But two things are notable here: 1) Murtha is a very close friend of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the one she unsuccessfully stuck her neck out for in an attempt to topple the majority leader last November and 2) Democrats are trying to become the party of ethics reform, something easier promised than delivered, as Pelosi is quickly learning.


My former boss, Rep. Denny Hastert (R-Ill.), is a wise man and a good political leader. One of his sayings he had when he was House Speaker was “Don’t set up too many mousetraps around the house.” After all, if you aren’t careful, you might trap yourself.

That is exactly what the new Democratic majority did this week. It caught one of its own, Rep. John Murtha (Pa.), in a clear violation of one its own rules that it trumpeted so loudly at the beginning of the year. The earmark rule might be stupid, as Murtha and his colleagues clearly think. The Democratic ethics reform package might be complete “crap,” as Murtha put it last year.

But the Democrats can’t call themselves the most ethical majority in history, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) likes to put it, and then create rules only to ignore them with reckless abandon. It’s kind of like passing a seatbelt law and then refusing to wear the seatbelt.

Trouble in Democratic Paradise

So now that the House Democrats have had about six months to figure out how to be in the majority, what do they do? Change the rules.

The test for germaneness has stood in the House for 185 years. But because the new majority has lost vote after vote (11 in all) on motions to recommit, they are seeking to change the test to make it harder for the minority to win.

This may seem like procedural mumbo-jumbo. But the rules of the House not only dictate how the laws of the land are made, they also indicate how secure the House majority is.

A majority leadership’s approach to the rules of the House quite often shows how well it is doing, how in touch it is with the people, how cohesive it is as a team, etc.

Great Theater, But Little Progress

The new congressional majority is making great headlines beating up members of the executive branch, but making little progress on important priorities of the nation.

House Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has subpoenaed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rise over nuclear yellow cake, sparking a possible executive branch-legislative branch showdown. This fight will dominate the headlines. But what new ground will this hearing break? After all, Rice already testified on this issue in her confirmation for the post she currently occupies.

Following the grilling of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales last week over the firing of U.S. attorneys who everyone agrees the president has the right to fire, you can see a trend here.

Newt en Español

Newt Gingrich and Spanish. Oh, boy! You really should not go there, Newt.

In his attack on bilingual education he spoke of “the language of living in the ghetto.” Then he kind of, sort of, apologized. After listening to him, you really do know what “ghetto Spanish” sounds like.

But here is the irony about Newt and his attack.

Gingrich apologizes in a bilingual TV announcement, on a bilingual website containing a Spanish translation of his biography … and still insists on condemning a bilingual approach to helping kids learn English.

So you do think we should be English-only, huh? Or maybe you do want that Hispanic vote after all, Newt! Where do you stand?

Speaker Pelosi Is 100% Right About Syria

With the administration of the most failed and catastrophic national-security policy in history in full-throated attack demeaning the Speaker, and mainstream media as usual parroting the attack with minimal response for the first 24 hours, it is time to make this case: The Speaker is absolutely right and it is important to consider exactly why.

First, let's be clear about exactly what the Speaker did. She put pressure on Syria to do exactly what the president claims he wants Syria to do. She put pressure on Syria to do exactly what Israel wants Syria to do.

If there is any message received by Syria from this trip, it is that the Speaker and Democrats join the president in demanding Syria provide security guarantees to Israel, stop any support for terrorist groups, and stop any action that helps those in Iraq killing Americans.

For Pelosi, a Familiar Dilemma

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is facing the same problems in rounding up a House Democratic majority for a vote on the war as Bill Clinton had in finding support for his economic-stimulus package in 1993. A notoriously fractious bunch, Democrats in the House are almost impossible to discipline. But they can be bribed. Just as Clinton paid them off with all manner of pork, so Pelosi is being forced to add sweeteners, in the form of local projects, to bring all the congressmen she needs to pass her anti-war amendment on board.

The problem is that the pork then acquires a life of its own, and will besmirch the record of Pelosi just as it did that of Clinton. The fact is that when you are depending upon a majority of House Democrats, you are no longer their leader, but instead their hostage, and they are no longer your followers, but become your jailers.