November 13, 2006

Has Nancy Pelosi Changed Her Mind About Ears?

Hatched by Dafydd

Incoming Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco, 95%), who led the failed Democratic resistance against the Republican House rule requiring full disclosure of members of Congress who sponsor earmarks (which includes Nancy Pelosi), now wants us to believe that she is poised on the brink of an about-face... now that the Democrats can get credit for what the Republicans already passed over Democrats' objection.

Incoming Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) now preens, fluffing up his feathers as another crusader against congressional pork.

But is there any reason to take seriously either of the two Democratic leaders who have captured Congress? Has either shown any previous interest in reforming congressional corruption, which is expressed most effectively in the form of "earmarks?"

Yesterday, in the Missing Earpiece, I noted that Mrs. Pelosi never seems to have met an ear she didn't like. The Los Angeles Times agrees:

[Nevada Sen. Harry] Reid is not the only powerful member known to use the practice. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a former appropriations panel member, has used earmarks prodigiously....

Last week, when Reid's status rose as Democrats took control of the Senate after the midterm election, the senator promised, like Pelosi, to make earmark reform a top priority when party members caucused.

Hm. Recall that the Democrats in the House voted 147 to 45 against the Republican rules change that identified all earmarks and their congressional sponsors. From Big Lizards' earlier post:

Whenever a new session of Congress begins, the majority typically incorporates the previous rules by voice vote; but it isn't required to do so. In this case, there is reason to doubt the zeal of Mrs. P. and her partisans for this particular program... given that she and the rest of the Democratic leadership, along with most of the Democrats, voted resoundingly against it by more than 3-1 when the Republicans forced it through.

(I link to Captain's Quarters in the previous post; Captain Ed, along with the rest of PorkBusters, has been one of the blogospheric leaders in the fight against pork.)

And recall also that the various changes that Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats proposed did not include any specific repudiation or ban on earmarks, or even a committment to maintain the Republican rule that makes them transparent (after the 2007 budget). Again, from the earlier post on this blog:

Now, I want to be totally fair about this. One of the planks of Mrs. Pelosi's program could perhaps be stretched to cover this most invidious legal bribery. It's the last one:

"And subject government contracts to public disclosure and aggressive competition."

But I'm dubious. Why not just use the word "earmarks," which everybody already knows...?

If the Democrats had meant to curtail earmarks, they would have mentioned them by name, rather than use such nebulous circumlocutions as "government contracts." Heck, they don't even say "all government contracts!"

All right; how about the Senate Democrats? Will they be the vanguard of reforming the culture of corruption in Congress? Doubtful, perhaps:

In earlier years, Reid has boldly claimed credit for getting earmarks for his constituents. Last year, he boasted of securing $300 million in earmarks in the transportation bill.

When pressed about his position on earmarks in an interview on public television in January, Reid acknowledged abuses, but added: "There's nothing basically wrong with earmarks. They've been going on since we were a country."

Actually, earmarks have skyrocketed in recent years, from 1,439 in 1995 to 15,268 last year, according to a Senate estimate.

That is, Reid insists there is "nothing basically wrong" with powerful senators and representives forcing Arizona and New Mexico and Vermont to pony up for a bridge that only benefits Alaska... and another one that only benefits Nevada -- and actually puts money directly into Harry Reid's own pocket:

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vows to make reform of congressional earmarks a priority of his tenure, arguing that members need to be more transparent when they load pet projects for their districts into federal spending bills.

But last year's huge $286-billion federal transportation bill included a little-noticed slice of pork pushed by Reid that provided benefits not only for the casino town of Laughlin, Nev., but also, possibly, for the senator himself.

Reid called funding for construction of a bridge over the Colorado River, among other projects, "incredibly good news for Nevada" in a news release after passage of the 2005 transportation bill. He didn't mention, though, that just across the river in Arizona, he owns 160 acres of land several miles from proposed bridge sites and that the bridge could add value to his real estate investment.

I suspect the rules change in the House will remain: if the same number of Democrats vote for it in January 2007, when it can be spun as a Democratic rule, as did in September 2006, when it was a Republican rule, that means 45 Democratic Ayes. Last time, 199 Republicans and Independent Bernie Sanders (I-VT, 100% Dem) voted for the earmark-transparency rule (and 24 Republicans voted against it).

Reformers need 218 votes in the incoming Congress to maintain this rule... assuming it isn't denied a vote via some bizarre manipulation of the process. If all those who voted in favor of the vote last time (Republican and Democrat) do so again, then subtracting those who were defeated (or who didn't run for reelection), and assuming that every Republican successor to a Republican who supported the rule will also support the rule, we have the following:

  1. 199 Republicans minus 28 defeated by Democrats leaves 171 votes supporting the rule;
  2. 1 Independent replaced by a Democrat still leaves 171 Ayes;
  3. 45 Democrats who voted Aye -- this is the only number I'm not sure of; how many of these Democrats retired and were replaced by Democrats who would oppose the rule? I have no reasonable way to find out.

But assuming number 3 remained steady, then that would give us 216 votes. So if only two extra Democrats support the bill now -- or if the new Republican Minority Leader can armtwist a couple of GOP Nays into Ayes -- the earmark-transparency rule will remain.

But the acid test will be how many Democrats vote to keep it. Words are a whisper, but deeds are a shout: unless Mrs. P. can bring an overwhelming majority of her caucus to support earmark reform in 2007 -- to match the overwhelming majority of Democrats who opposed it in 2006 -- she will have a very hard time claiming credit for it, and any future reference to the "Republican culture of corruption" will provoke howls of laughter.

This is a surprisingly good article from the newspaper that Patterico rightly calls the "L.A. Dog Trainer." The entire first part goes into some detail about Reid's boondoggle bridge, and how he introduced an earmark that likely will quite directly enrich himself.

But it certainly raises a very serious question whether either Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi is really the fittest person to lead a grand crusade against pork... or to sling around terms like "the Republican culture of corruption."

Too bad the L.A.Times didn't publish this piece a month ago. But I suppose it was merely the press of more important news (the Abramoff scandals, Tom DeLay) that pushed this example of blatant Democratic corruption all the way to November 13th, six days after the mid-term election.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 13, 2006, at the time of 7:53 PM

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» Earmarks? No No... Phonemarks! from Big Lizards
In a stunning piece -- stunning that it appeared in the Washington Post, I mean, not stunning in what it reports -- John Solomon and Jeff Birnbaum ("the Mustache" from Brit Hume's Special Report roundtable) confirm what we've been seeing... [Read More]

Tracked on May 25, 2007 8:43 PM

» The Power of the Big Idea: O'Billery Reduced to "Me Too!" from Big Lizards
Previous posts in our series about Congress, the Democrats, the Republicans, and earmarks: The Missing Earpiece Has Nancy Pelosi Changed Her Mind About Ears? The Democrats Are All Ears Earmarks? No No... Phonemarks! They're All Ears... Again If Barack ... [Read More]

Tracked on March 10, 2008 7:40 PM

» Traders to the Cause - Republicans Are All Ears from Big Lizards
In 2006, incoming Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) infamously promised that the Democrats would run "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history." When President Barack H. Obama ran for president two years... [Read More]

Tracked on March 12, 2010 3:22 PM

» So Comfortable in Corruption, They Needn't Even Dissemble from Big Lizards
The brazenness of Democrats is sometimes breathtaking: Defense contractors who openly discussed a suspected pay-to-play scheme in e-mails released by congressional ethics investigators had ties to a powerful lobbying firm and won millions of dollars in... [Read More]

Tracked on June 22, 2010 3:10 PM


The following hissed in response by: Terrye

Well you know if the Democrats use the earmarks I am sure that the same people who beat the Republicans over the head with it will do the same for them.

One thing about that Coburn guy from Oklahoma, he might work with a Democrat like Obama for an anti pork bill..but I do not see him letting the Democrats get away with much, not without him making some noise anyway.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 14, 2006 3:16 AM

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