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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

110th Congress under Democrats: Not business as usual

First we had Nancy Pelosi's bold 100 hours agenda, and a promise to get to work on the people's business right away in January instead of the traditional wait-until-after-the-State-of-the-Union approach. Then we had Harry Reid's promise that the Senate would stay open in January, too, and that Senators might be expected to work more than two days a week.

Now comes word that Democrats will not only finish the unfinished mess the Republicans are leaving behind, they will do it without any of those pesky earmarks:
House and Senate Democrats have decided to complete this year’s unfinished appropriations process with a joint resolution keeping the government funded until the new fiscal year starts in October, vowing to ban all earmarks from the measure.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), the incoming Appropriations Committee chairmen, issued a statement yesterday laying blame at the feet of departing GOP leaders for failing to pass nine of the 11 fiscal year 2007 appropriations bills, a criticism leveled by several Republicans in the waning days of the lame-duck session. [. . .]

Democrats had faced mounting pressure to forge a plan for completing the outstanding appropriations bills quickly, with several appropriators appearing inclined toward an omnibus that would combine versions of the spending bills already approved in committee. Yet members of the new majority acknowledged the difficult task of crafting an earmark-free omnibus that would avoid potential objections from conservatives and GOP appropriators. [. . .]

Byrd and Obey, in their statement, promised to work on a bipartisan basis to secure passage for the coming spending resolution. Earmarks in this year’s appropriations bills will be candidates for inclusion during the 2008 process, they said, “subject to new standards for transparency and accountability.”
Way to go, Obey!

This is the kind of move that establishes, in a major, major way to anyone watching and to anyone with their hands out hoping for special treatment, that the Democrats will not be pursuing business as usual. And it's the kind of move that's earning praise from both sides of the Cheddarsphere. Liberal Corey Liebmann is just one of the happy bloggers on my side; more surprising is conservative Jenna Pryor:
But when the party supposed to be the fiscally prudent party fails to do this for years, despite numerous pushes from the party faithful, and the Democrats manage to handle it (somewhat) almost immediately...it is more than a little disheartening.
Jenna has, basically, never known anything besides Republican rule in Washington; some of us are old enough to remember that Democrats used to get stuff done, like balance the budget and finish spending bills without having to shut down the federal government. Come on over to the light, Jenna.

In the meantime, despite the re-election of Democrat William "I always have $90,000 in my freezer!" Jefferson in Louisiana over the weekend, Democrats are showing some spine on ethics. Cheddarspherean DICTA points out that Nancy Pelosi has booted Jefferson from the influential Ways and Means Committee until he's either cleared or convicted. No "DeLay Rule" for us!

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