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November 21, 2006
The Play The GOP Left In The Locker Room

The Democrats intend on making a show out of a series of reforms in the opening days of their new Congressional majorities. Rather than offer a comprehensive packages of reform initiatives, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will break them out into separate House rules -- which will allow them to dominate the reform agenda for days and weeks:

Despite divisions among Democrats over how far to go in revising ethics rules, House leaders plan a major rollout of an ethics reform bill early next year to demonstrate concern about an issue that helped defeat the Republicans in the midterm elections.

But they will do it with a twist: Instead of forwarding one big bill, Democrats will put together an ethics package on the House floor piece by piece, allowing incoming freshmen to take charge of high-profile issues and lengthening the time spent on the debate. The approach will ensure that each proposal -- including banning gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists as well as imposing new controls on the budget deficit -- is debated on its own and receives its own vote. That should garner far more media attention for the bill's components before a final vote on the entire package. ...

The approach may be the first indication of how the Democrats plan to use their ability to control the House agenda as the majority power, setting the terms of debate while lifting the strict rules that Republicans used to curtail dissent.

And Democrats hope to show that they are attentive to issues of corruption that, according to exit polling, proved to be of major concern to voters on Nov. 7. House and Senate GOP leaders pledged early this year to pass major lobbying reforms in the aftermath of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal but never delivered on their promise.

We've talked about Pelosi's ability to shoot herself in the foot, amply demonstrated by her support of John Murtha in the leadership elections and the decision to elevate disgraced former federal judge Alcee Hastings to the chair of the Intelligence committee. However, this plan shows that Pelosi and her fellow Democrats will not get everything wrong in this session. The plan to hold extended debate on these initiatives, one at a time, is nothing short of brilliant -- and it will serve as a constant reminder of the opportunity that the GOP let slip away.

In the days following the revelation of the Jack Abramoff corruption scandals, voters pressed Congress for action on lobbyist influence and corruption. Republicans said they supported reform, but did little to pass legislation to address it. Either they felt that the problem wouldn't find enough resonance with voters, or they really didn't want to end some of the lobbyist perqs that came with being in Congress. Either way, they proved themselves tone-deaf and let a golden moment slip by that would have reinforced their connection to the 1994 "revolution".

The Democrats do not want to let the same opportunity pass, and they have strategized for maximum publicity in the opening weeks. They will assign different components of their bill to freshman Representatives, especially those in conservative districts, as a means to shore up their prospects for re-election in 2008. Disagreement on various initiatives will not slow the overall reform process, and in fact will serve to heighten awareness in the media. Certainly, the Democrats risk exposing some of their anti-reform members, but the overall effect will be to show the Democrats as the party of reform.

The Republicans can watch this spectacle from the sidelines. They should also realize that they had plenty of opportunity to do exactly what Pelosi and Reid have planned, but left that particular play in the locker room. The GOP may have a long time for regrets on that decision.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 21, 2006 9:10 AM

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The Play The GOP Left In The Locker RoomEd Morrissey The Democrats intend on making a show out of a series of reforms in the opening days of their new Congressional majorities. Rather than offer a comprehensive packages of reform [Read More]

Tracked on November 21, 2006 1:11 PM

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We see that Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi’s isn’t as bad politically as her initial loss in the Majority Race indicated. Democrats plan to chop up their ethics reforms into small chunks to maximize media attention: Instead of forwarding one bi... [Read More]

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