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January 23, 2007
GOP Gets Reform Religion ... A Bit Late

The Republicans in Congress have begun to press for more radical reform of the legislative branch, pushing for broader measures than the Democratic majority wants to pass. This includes a wider range of qualifying crimes for which to revoke Congressional pensions, a subject that came up when it was revealed that Randy "Duke" Cunningham would still receive his lucrative retirement despite imprisonment:

The House yesterday started considering a bill by Rep. Nancy Boyda, Kansas Democrat, that denies federal pensions to members of Congress convicted of bribery, perjury and conspiracy offenses related to the lawmaker's office. A vote could come as soon as today.

Separate bills by Mr. Terry and Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, Illinois Republican, would have withheld the pension from lawmakers convicted of a longer list of felonies, including some unrelated to abuse of office -- ranging from white-collar embezzlement crimes to political crimes such as securing campaign contributions by intimidation.

The Democratic bill had a shorter list of pension-losing crimes because the leadership promised "this bill can be passed and enacted into law as soon as possible," said Shanan Guinn, spokeswoman for Mrs. Boyda.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats fought to defeat a Republican measure that would authorize the president to remove earmarks -- and send them back to Congress for a second look and another vote. Earmarks, or pork, are provisions in a bill to fund specific projects, often used by members of Congress to pay for pet projects in their home districts or states. Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said through a spokesman that earmark reform was just a ruse to pass a "line-item veto."

"It would be used to attack Social Security, Medicare and other items for those with the greatest need," spokesman Jim Manley said.

Wow -- Republicans get tough on corrupt public officials and push through a line-item veto. Gee, what could they have accomplished if they had the Congressional majorities?

Oh, wait ...

These measures should get enacted, and the Republicans are right in championing them. I'd even like to think that their passion for reform comes from learning the lesson of 2006, when voters gave them the boot after years of earmarks, sellouts, and scandals. However, it is difficult to credit this to a sincere change of heart rather than a desire to outflank the Democrats on reform as a tactic for the Congressional elections of 2008.

Nevertheless, the Republicans need to press for the mechanism of Presidential rejection of earmarks. If that is a line-item veto, it's good to remember that most governors have that power already, and the Republic has not failed as a result. If the Democrats are serious about pork reform, then this measure gives the executive branch the check it needs against legislative gluttony. Whether true converts or cynical manipulators, the Republicans have the right idea -- even if it came too late.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 23, 2007 5:27 AM

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