After railing for months against Congressional corruption under Republican rule, Democrats on Capitol Hill are divided on how far their proposed ethics overhaul should go.So let me get this straight: Now that the Democrats are in control, Congress doesn't need ethics oversight because they're not like the Republicans. Oh, okay.
Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate, mindful that voters in the midterm election cited corruption as a major concern, say they are moving quickly to finalize a package of changes for consideration as soon as the new Congress convenes in January.
Their initial proposals, laid out earlier this year, would prohibit members from accepting meals, gifts or travel from lobbyists, require lobbyists to disclose all contacts with lawmakers and bar former lawmakers-turned-lobbyists from entering the floor of the chambers or Congressional gymnasiums.
None of the measures would overhaul campaign financing or create an independent ethics watchdog to enforce the rules. Nor would they significantly restrict earmarks, the pet projects lawmakers can anonymously insert into spending bills, which have figured in several recent corruption scandals and attracted criticism from members in both parties. The proposals would require disclosure of the sponsors of some earmarks, but not all.
Senator Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat tapped by party leaders last year to spearhead ethics proposals, said he was pushing for changes with more teeth. “The dynamic is different now,” Mr. Obama said Friday. “We control both chambers now, so it is difficult for us to have an excuse for not doing anything.”
He is pushing to create an independent Congressional ethics commission and advocates broader campaign-finance changes as well. “We need to make sure that those of us who are elected are not dependent on a narrow spectrum of individuals to finance our campaigns,” he said.
...Democratic lawmakers argued that the real ethical problem was the Republicans, not the current ethics rules, and that the election had alleviated the need for additional regulations. “There is an understanding on our side that the Republicans paid a price for a lot of the abuses that evolved,” said Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, alluding to earmarks. Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, said the scandals of the current Congress were “about the K Street Project for the Republicans,” referring to the party’s initiative to put more Republicans in influential lobbying posts and build closer ties to them.
“That was incestuous from the beginning. We never had anything like that,” Mr. Harkin said of Democrats. “That is what soured the whole thing.”
First of all, saying that you don't need rules and oversight because you're the good guys is a Republican trademark, and look what that's gotten us: Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, warrantless wiretapping, the abolition of habeas corpus, etc., etc.
Second of all, aren't there still Republicans in Congress, still up to their corrupt pre-election shenanigans? Are we to believe that they'll voluntarily clean up their act now that the Democrats are in power? Or that their corruption simply doesn't matter if they're in the minority?
The Democrats know all this, and are being willfully obtuse because they're just as addicted to lobbyist money as the Republicans. They may not be as overtly corrupt (at least I hope they're not), but they figure, Why take chances? And they certainly don't want to enact anything that might aid their future challengers (i.e., campaign finance or earmark reform).
This is all very disheartening. I want the Democrats to draw a very clear distinction between the Republican approach to corruption ("If it feels good, do it."), and the Democratic approach (which should be "Zero tolerance, we work for the people of the United States," not "We'll make some of it illegal, but we won't look too hard for it."). Hopefully Obama and his allies can talk some sense into these idiots. Hell, even Rahm is advocating a crackdown on earmarks.