January 9, 2007

Dems Come Out Swinging! And Missing!

Hatched by Dafydd

Back in November, just after the election, we noted in Les Cent Jours -- Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) now says it will actually be les cent heures -- that the Democrats only had three issues on which there was unanimity within the party:

  1. Raising the minimum wage;
  2. Increasing stem-cell research funding;
  3. And "fully implementing" the 9/11 Commission recommendations.

They moved forward on all three fronts yesterday, but especially on the third:

House Democrats moved Tuesday to implement some of the unfulfilled recommendations of the 9/11 commission as the first in a string of bills over the next two weeks aimed at asserting their new control over Congress....

"Here's a chance for Congress to stop dragging its feet," said Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the new Democratic chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "It's been three years since the 9/11 Commission issued its report. Now is the time to put words into action."

(Rep. Thompsom, 95%, accidentally neglected to note that Bush and the GOP "put words into action" on virtually every major recommendation in the last Congress; these two or three pieces the Democrats have their teeth into are just the leftover dregs.)

All right; we also commented on this exact point before... and there is one of these "dregs," one leftover recommendation from the 9/11 Commission report that is absolutely critical... but which Democrats are no more willing to implement than were the Republicans. And that is how Congress funds the intelligence agencies:

While many recommendations of the 9-11 Commission were controversial, there is virtually no controversy among intelligence officers over this aspect: appropriations for intelligence agencies should be made by committees or subcommittees that are exclusively devoted to intelligence, not a wart on the behind of the Department of Defense. That means appropriations should either by handled by the Intelligence committees themselves (best) or at least by dedicated Intelligence subcommittees of the Appropriations committees (adequate).

We then returned to the topic a few days later (we're obsessed with intelligence!), quoting from the Washington Post about the Democratic decision not to implement this vital recommendation... and from a Reuters story about what the Democrats actually did decide to do:

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.

All right, that was then's thener... but what about now's nower? How, in the end, did the Democrats decide to address this commission recommendation?

  • Did they actually transfer budgetary authority for intelligence-agency appropriations to the existing intelligence committees?
  • Did they transfer budgetary authority to some new terrorist-specific Appropriations subcommittee, not leaving it to languish with Pelosi-pal, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 75%), and the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee?
  • Or did they leave it with Murtha (and his counterpart on the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, whoever that will be) -- just adding an additional toothless committee to "monitor" whether the intelligence agencies actually spend the money the way the Democrats want them to do? (In other words, do nothing.)

You be the judge. From today's AP story:

The House also planned to vote on a separate measure creating a new House committee that would closely monitor the budget and actions of the U.S. intelligence community. Congressional jurisdiction over intelligence is currently spread among several committees.

I think we have our answer: it's "currently spread among several committees," and it will continue to be spread from now unto the epoch of our children's children's children.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports controversy even within the Democratic Party over the "implementation" bill... specifically over the fact that the Democrats have more or less mandated the invention of future technology by a date certain:

The bill requires that within three years, all cargo on passenger jets be inspected for explosives, as checked baggage is now. The House bill also requires that within five years all ship cargo containers headed to the United States be scanned overseas for components of a nuclear bomb.

Homeland Security Department officials say there is no proven technology for such comprehensive cargo screening, at least at a reasonable cost or without causing worldwide bottlenecks in trade.

That is, the only way to fulfill such a mandate today would be for customs officials to individually hand-inspect each and every piece of cargo on every last cargo ship headed for the United States -- except for ships carrying cars, which are unaccountably exempted from the Democratic bill (how much has Toyota been contributing to political campaigns recently?) International commerce would ebb to a trickle, and the American economy would be devastated in a way that even the 9/11 attacks themselves never accomplished.

The authors of the bill, however, say that the Department of Homeland Security is just lazy, failing to invent (or actually, force private companies to invent) technology on schedule; they just need a Democratic boot to the head:

Mr. Lieberman and Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii, the new chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, want the security department to complete its tests on new technology before mandating inspection of all cargo.

But Mr. Thompson, the chief author of the House bill, and Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said the timetables were essential to push the department to move faster.

“We need firm deadlines to end the administration’s foot-dragging,” Mr. Schumer said Monday. [Having coordinated his trite-expression quotient with "Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson".]

Yes, the DHS has just been dragging its feet. They could invent the technology next Thursday after lunch, if they really wanted it.

Brother. What next -- a congressional mandate for antigravity devices by 2008?

However, I must admit that Big Lizards made one wrong prediction: it looks like there isn't any unanimity on "fully implementing the 9/11 Commission's recommendations" among Democrats, either!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 9, 2007, at the time of 4:22 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Big D

I've always wondered if Democrats are simply demagogues, content to aim purely ceremonial kicks at the heads of executive branch servants actually trying to accomplish worthy goals, or are they self-deluded fools, who actually believe that blows to their servants backs can turn wine into water, or conjure unicorn tongues on toast for breakfast. Me thinks the later.

Of course, both could be true. But nah. Mostly deluded.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 9, 2007 5:50 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

Too bad they torpedoed Dubai Ports. DP actually checked cargo at the point of origin. But noooo, both parties decided that the only reason Bush went along with that deal was because he wanted to sell our ports to terrorists. So I too go with the self deluded fools choice in Big D's post above. They are just plain stupid sometimes.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 10, 2007 2:36 AM

The following hissed in response by: LarryD

Toyota has been assembling cars in the US, for the US market, for well over a decade now.

It's more likely that the "US" auto makers got that provision. Daimler-Chrysler, perhaps?

The above hissed in response by: LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 10, 2007 10:53 AM

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