Reprising the topic, yet again...
The new Democratic Congressional majority may face obstinate presidential vetoes. So, before considering bills and legislation, let’s talk about things that the U.S. House of Representatives could do, all alone, to set a new tone in America.
In previous postings we discussed some clever jiu jitsu moves that could BOTH do a lot to establish trust with the voters AND set valuable precedents for the future... while deeply damaging this generation of GOP leaders by starkly contrasting and illustrating their deep turpitude.
Continuing along such lines, here are suggestions # 5 & 6.
5 -- Adjust House Rules To Limit "Pork" - the earmarking of tax dollars that benefit special interests or specific districts.
Yes, this is already on the declared agenda. (Reducing the sheer number of earmarks from 15,000 down to 1,000, the number allocated last time the Dems ran Congress, would help a lot. But we can do even better.)
And yes, I have my own ideas how it could be done. No, you’ll never eliminate the practice entirely. But how about let’s --
-- require that all future earmarks, of any kind, must come from a single pool, no larger than one tenth of a percent of the discretionary budget. Get our representatives adversarial with each other over this, instead of slyly cooperative.
-- Moreover, future earmarks must be placed in clearly labeled and severable portions of a bill, at least two weeks before the bill is voted upon.
-- Earmarks may not be inserted into conference reports.
-- Further, establish a lawful system of “challenges” under which any company or person out there may publicly demand a show-cause as to why they cannot compete to deliver a service similar to the one that had been earmarked... or else challenge the reasons for bypassing normal contract rules. With burden of proof on the recipient of the earmark.
This brings up yet another crime of the Neocon Era. The near-utter demolition of standards for soliciting bids and awarding government contracts. Especially with “war” as an excuse. This should have been a major scandal of the campaign! Far more stringent limits must be placed on no-bid, crony, or noncompetitive contracts. Conflict of interest rules must be strengthened, closing the “urgent” way that a small community of kleptocrats managed to turn the federal contracting process into their own, personal potlatch, rewarding loyalty with multi billion dollar gift fests.
(And this came from hypocrites who dared to call themselves believers in a free market! Adam Smith would curse their eyes.)
-- Carrying this further, why not create an office that is tasked to translate and describe all legislation in easily understandable language, for public posting at least three days before any bill is voted upon, clearly tracking changes or insertions, so that the public (and even members of Congress) may know what is at stake? This office - independent of member pressure - may recommend division of any bill that inserts or combines unrelated or "stealth" provisions.
6 -- Punish K Street. All right, there has to be a limit to highmindedness. Is it forgivable to also want a little outright partisan vengeance? Especially where it is MOST deserved? ANd where it would do the least collateral harm?
I have tried to keep things elevated, so far. But is it all right if one -- just one -- of these suggestions carries a taste for blood?
I choose one that the House Democrats can accomplish all alone, if necessary.
A retribution that the People will not only understand, but cheer!
Under the previous Congressional leadership, a scandalous attitude of outright whoredom led to inviting lobbyists right into Congress and letting them write whole swathes of actual legislation. Moreover, extremist GOP bosses let it be known that they would do no business with firms that had even a few Democrats or independents working on staff! In effect, they required that K Street purge all moderates, as a price of even being allowed into Congressional offices.
This behavior was so outrageous and blatantly corrupt that there simply is no “mature and judicious” response. There must be comeuppance and it must be very intense... a warning never to do this kind of thing, ever again.
Participants in this crooked process must at minimum be banished. (If not prosecuted.) Their lobbying firms must be rendered useless and valueless. Permanently and without a scintilla of mercy.
Sure, many of the same players will be back, the following week, using proxies. There must be followup reforms, like limiting the “revolving door” of rich consultancies for retired officials. Still, I leave it up to Beltway experts exactly HOW to accomplish this... and how to ensure that representatives are not lured back into temptation, yet again, when “normality” creeps back.
All I can say is that I will look with favor on genuine ruthlessness in this one area. I expect most Americans will.
Note that so far we have concentrated on things that the House of Representatives can accomplish even if they face obstinate presidential vetoes.
Next time: some actual bills and laws that may be worth considering, if we can get even more ambitious.