December 14, 2006

That Was Thener; This Is Even Nower

Hatched by Dafydd

This is an update to our previous post a couple of weeks ago, That Was Then, This Is Now. In that post, we linked to a Washington Post story about the Democrats rejecting the most important congressional reform of intelligence that the 9/11 Commission recommended. Oddly, however, I notice now that I forgot to quote from it! I can only plead premature senility and correct the oversight now:

It was a solemn pledge, repeated by Democratic leaders and candidates over and over: If elected to the majority in Congress, Democrats would implement all of the recommendations of the bipartisan commission that examined the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But with control of Congress now secured, Democratic leaders have decided for now against implementing the one measure that would affect them most directly: a wholesale reorganization of Congress to improve oversight and funding of the nation's intelligence agencies. Instead, Democratic leaders may create a panel to look at the issue and produce recommendations, according to congressional aides and lawmakers.

Well that Democratic panel has now produced its recommendations... and sure enough, the panel's only recommendation is -- to create another panel!

If you parse through the Clintonspeak, they're not accepting the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to remove control of the funding of intelligence agencies from the Appropriations committees and give it instead to the Intelligence committees:

[Rep. Nancy] Pelosi, D-Calif. [100%], also said that one of the first tasks of the Democratic-controlled House she will lead beginning in January will be approving the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, including taking steps to make intelligence decisions more transparent.

The Select Intelligence Oversight Panel proposed by Pelosi would be made up by members of the Appropriations Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence, and would work within the Appropriations Committee.

Simply put, if the panel works "within the Appropriations committee," then it's controlled by that committee -- and that means Appropriations will still control the budget that will be "overseen" by the panel that it also controls:

[The panel] would examine, through hearings, the president's intelligence budget, prepare the classified annex to the annual defense spending bill and conduct oversight of the use of appropriated funds by intelligence agencies.

In other words, it will not itself appropriate the funds or even (it appears) recommend to the Appropriations committees how much to appropriate or how to use those appropriations. And it goes without saying (though I'm going to say it anyway) that nowhere in this statement does Pelosi or anyone else say that Appropriations will lose budgetary control over the clandestine and intelligence agencies, as the 9/11 Commission recommended, nor that the House and Senate Permanent Select Committees on Intelligence will gain that budgetary authority.

In fact, they don't even pledge to create a new Appropriations subcommittee devoted to intelligence... the bare minimum recommendation of the commission, which they offered if Congress couldn't bring itself to strip Appropriations of the least little bit of control.

Rather than actually accept the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission -- which are very clear (see our previous post) -- the Democrats plan only to create a PR stunt instead: a "panel" that is controlled by the Appropriations committees and will simply ensure that the administration actually uses the money as Appropriations directs.

Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Wynn Las Vegas, 100%) believe they can get away with creating a committee to study the committee, rather than actually implement the recommended change.

But you know what I think? I believe that this time, they may not get away with it: if the Washington Post, of all liberal media outlets, is already publishing a major story chastising them for blowing off the Commission (after campaigning obsessively on "fully implementing" those same recommendations)... then the incoming Democratic 110th may find it's no longer immune from harsh criticism -- in any medium.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 14, 2006, at the time of 4:54 PM

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The following hissed in response by: LarryD

Ok, I have mixed feelings about this recommendation.

In terms of fiscal control, I want the Appropriations Committee to be the gatekeeper of all funds, we'll never get any restraint if spending authority is divided.

But that doesn't mean that the Appropriations Committee (or Congress generally) should even try to micromanage spending, they should just be determining overall spending levels.

The above hissed in response by: LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 15, 2006 8:04 AM

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