“Open debate” and “bipartisanship” you can believe in

The AP reports on how House Democrats are taking “extraordinary steps” to muzzle the GOP on various debates about spending:

WASHINGTON (AP) – In their zeal to protect their members from politically hazardous votes on issues such as gay marriage and gun control, Democrats running the House of Representatives are taking extraordinary steps to muzzle Republicans in this summer’s debates on spending bills.

On Thursday, for example, Republicans had hoped to force debates on abortion, school vouchers and medical marijuana, as well as gay marriage and gun control, as part of House consideration of the federal government’s contribution to the District of Columbia’s city budget.

No way, Democrats said.

At issue are 12 bills totaling more than $1.2 trillion in annual appropriations bills for funding most government programs—usually low-profile legislation that typically dominates the work of the House in June and July. For decades, those bills have come to the floor under an open process that allows any member to try to amend them. Often those amendments are an effort to change government policy by adding or subtracting money for carrying it out.

The tradition has often meant laborious debates. But it has allowed lawmakers with little seniority to have their say on doling out the one-third of the federal budget passed by Congress each year. It was a right the Democrats zealously defended when they were the minority party from 1995 through 2006.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., insists the clampdown is to prevent debates from dragging on and on. Republicans, however, have agreed to limit the amount of time debating the bills.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., acknowledged in a brief interview that one reason for restricting amendments is to save members of his party from having to cast politically painful votes.

This reminds me of the strategy employed by Democrats just as soon as they retook control of Congress after the 2006 election. Pelosi and Reid campaigned on “change” (hmm – where have we heard that word before?) and used buzzwords/phrases like “open debate” and “working together in the spirit of bipartisanship” but – of course – it didn’t happen. Right out of the gate, even the Washington Post noticed in January of 2007 how House Democrats were going to “largely sideline Republicans from the first burst of lawmaking.” IOW, before the “bipartisanship” was to begin they wanted to get some of their pet issues passed before “reaching across the aisle.

Since then we’ve seen more of the same, and especially since you-know-who was elected to the big chair. Bills “must” be shoved through the House and Senate without much – if any – debate, because they are “crucial to America’s future.” Senate Democrat hypocrisy was recently exposed by Senator Jim DeMint (SC) when he – get this – got Democrat Senator Kay Hagan (NC) to outright admit on the Senate floor to the Democrats’ double standards on offering amendments to bills. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer recently laughed at the idea that House members should read an entire bill before they vote on it.

I could go on, but the point has been made. This isn’t “change” you can believe in – unless you’re talking about a “change” in positions on the issue of open debate and bipartisanship and accountability. Add to that the number of unaccountable-to-no-one-but-the-President czars this administration has on its roster – including radicals like John Holdren and Carol Browner, as well as the Democrats’ obsession with “investigating” former Bush administration officials as a way of not only sticking it to an administration they despised but also to keep people distracted from the full scope of the their Congressional agenda, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

America isn’t being “saved” or “rescued” by Democrats, nor does it serve the interest of the American people when the opposition is prevented from debating bills because it makes the majority too uncomfortable and doesn’t serve there “right here, right now” agenda. People need to remember this the next time they go to the ballot box after hearing months of campaign rhetoric from Democrats about how they’ve “changed how business is done in Washington.” They’ve “changed” it alright – but not for the better.

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