Thursday, March 20, 2008

In Which I Eat Crow

Please pass the mustard.

From the day that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told us that impeachment was "off the table" I have been ragging on her backside and on the 110th Congress, and, I submit, for good reason. We're still funding that illegal and misbegotten war in Iraq; President Bush has successfully vetoed several important bills, including those on stem cell research and health insurance for children; and there is still no guarantee that a reasonable check on the administration's domestic spying will be rammed down the White House gullet.

However, (she said, swallowing hard), Speaker Pelosi managed to push through an extremely important ethics reform bill, one that even her own party was hardly thrilled with. In an op-ed piece published yesterday in The Sacramento Bee, Washington Post writer Marie Cocco points out just how hard Speaker Pelosi had to work to get the new, independent and bipartisan ethics panel through the House.

Elections do matter. Some people who win office really do keep campaign promises. And legislation the public wants - but which the politicians, by and large, don't - actually can be enacted, even if the kicking and screaming can practically be heard coming from behind those infamously closed doors.

This is what the House of Representatives has proved by at last creating an outside panel to hear complaints of ethical wrongdoing by its members. ...

Word of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's successful struggle - and it was a struggle - to push through a new rule requiring the outside panel of ethical arbiters was buried under a torrent of campaign news and the bitter exchange of accusation over the House's refusal to go along with giving blanket immunity to telecommunications companies who were involved in the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program. Nonetheless, its significance is political and substantive.

Political, because ethics reform was a central Democratic campaign pledge in the 2006 elections; the rallying cry against the Republican "culture of corruption" helped the party win control of the chamber. Once in power, however, Pelosi's call for an outside ethics panel faced heated opposition from Republicans and from many Democrats who are comfortable, indeed, with the back-scratching ethical compromises that have long been part of Capitol Hill culture.

But vociferous demands from the new members who won their seats on ethics platforms - and must defend them in November - were coupled with Pelosi's sheer will: "You're going to do this, whether you like it or not," she told members behind closed doors, according to a staffer. The result of months of massaging the proposal was a 229-182 vote last week to establish the outside panel. Most Republicans - 159 - voted against the plan; 23 Democrats joined them in opposition.

The days of flashing cash on the floor of the House are over. So are the days when an ethics panel member can be removed by his own party for daring to investigate a house power (as was the case when the Tom DeLay scandal was finally coming to light). Democrats running in 2006 promised an end to that kind of corruption, and Nancy Pelosi delivered.

For that we all should be grateful. Thank you, Speaker Pelosi: you did well.

Now, Madame Speaker, how about flexing some of that muscle on the other issues which matter so much to this nation at this critical juncture? We can't wait for another 8 months.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Nancy.
Now, I must run to see the 23 that voted against. Yes, more muscle is needed and the rest of the promises should come to light.
Good piece here.


4:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Diane (and Nancy). We should give praise where it's due. (Did you send Nancy flowers?)


4:20 AM  
Blogger eRobin said...

They also passed a minimum wage bill - had to give up a lot in tax breaks and war funding but that's compromise nowadays.

5:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could even learn to like crow if she keeps this up. What kind of wine should you serve with crow? Technically it's white meat, so white wine I guess - but I imagine that it's a bit gamey and would probably stand up to red.

- dan mcenroe

7:03 AM  
Blogger Frederick said...

A step in the right direction.

7:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which is why a politician, especially a politician, must be judged on the sum of his or her actions. A pol can do something we consider bad, stupid, wrong, but that not may be enough to throw that pol under the bus (favorite expression just now), particularly if that pol on whole does great things.

If we keep up pressure on their bad acts, and praise their good ones, we may have some influence.

Same goes for, oh, ministers and regular people.

Given all that goes into legislation and accomplishing anything in the political arena, the whole picture must be looked at.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention (and props to Avedon for linking to it!). It's a good thing.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Nell said...

The roll call vote is here.

Truly, it's remarkable how little attention this got at the time, so thanks for this. (And thanks to Atrios, without whose link I would never have known of this.)

8:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fascinating, John Dingell is one of the naysayers.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Sandy Hereld said...

> John Dingell is one of the naysayers.

It's great to look at the roll call vote, but I prefer to look at the interpreted version; often in votes like this, some of the Dems voting "no" are saying, "this @#$@## bill doesn't go far enough", not, "oh noes, ethics!" and it's hard to tell them apart without some help.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No Diane, you don't need to consider that you were wrong about Speaker Pelosi. Without the constant annoyance and pressure which she gets from the left, she may have done nothing. No Diane, you are RESPONSIBLE for the legislation, so congrats!

4:54 PM  

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