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Republican Abuse of Power: With This Congress, Democracy is dead
by bellaciao
Thursday Mar 10th, 2005 10:43 PM
Even Newt Gingrinch says they have gone too far.

"The House has become a place where trivial issues are debated passionately and important issues not at all."
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Broken Promises: The Death of Deliberative Democracy
A Congressional Report (pdf) on the Unprecedented Erosion of the Democratic Process in the 108th Congress.

Compiled by the House Rules Committee Minority Office
The Honorable Louise M. Slaughter, Ranking Member

Cliff notes by Ben Frank

How Modern Congress works: Lobbyists write the bill and Republicans force it through Congress before anyone has even had a chance to read it. The textbook cases of corruption include: Million dollar job offers, Hooters subsidies, and bribery on the floor of Congress- that’s the US government.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In the 108th Congress, House Republicans became the most arrogant, unethical and corrupt majority in modern Congressional history.

When they took control of the House after the 1994 elections, Republicans vowed they would be different than previous Congresses. They promised they would manage the House in a way that fostered what they called "deliberative democracy," which they defined as "the full and free airing of conflicting opinions through hearings, debates, and amendments for the purpose of developing and improving legislation deserving of the respect and support of the people."

This report documents how, ten years after their "revolution," House Republicans have completely abandoned this standard of deliberative democracy they set for themselves. Furthermore, they have abandoned any other principle of procedural fairness or democratic accountability.

In the opinion of many non-partisan observers of Congress, the 108th Congress not only matched the worst abuses of earlier Congresses; it set a whole new benchmark.

For Example:

When the House debated the Medicare prescription drug bill, perhaps the most important legislation it considered in the 108th Congress, Members brought 59 amendments to the Rules Committee.... [They] allowed only one Democratic [Amendment] the Republican leadership was confident it could defeat.

In other words, on this bill, a bill that changed the fundamental structure of the federal government’s largest health care program, the majority did everything it could to prevent the House from taking "clear positions" on "clear issues" related to Medicare reform.

We were very disappointed, but not surprised, to learn later that the bill would give the pharmaceutical companies billions of taxpayer dollars at the expense of America’s seniors, and that Rep. Billy Tauzin, one of the authors of the Medicare bill, had negotiated a $2 million a year job for himself heading the drug industry lobby during the period the conference was producing its report.

The representatives the American people elected to write their laws had less input into this legislation than the drug industry and other special interests that stood to benefit from it.

At the end of this secret process, the Republican leadership rushed the final product to the House floor and forced Members to vote on it before they knew its contents.

It is safe to say that the Medicare prescription drug program would have been significantly different had Members been able to debate and amend the bill in a manner consistent with an open, democratic process.


This report examines in detail how, over the past two years, the Republican leadership ignored the House Rules and the basic standards of legislative fairness and regular order with an impunity that is unprecedented in the history of the House of Representatives. This report shows that:

Despite their vows to open up the rules process and restore deliberative democracy to the House chamber, House Republicans took unprecedented steps in the 108th Congress to make the House floor a "democracy-free zone." They used closed and highly restrictive rules to prevent Members from offering amendments that would have provoked real debate and forced Members to go on the record on real issues. The end result of this policy was that special interests, not U.S. Representatives, wrote the major bills in the 108th Congress.

Even Newt Gingrinch says they have gone too far.

· House Republicans waste time. Two-thirds of their time is spent on bills that name post offices and congratulate sports teams. This allowed less time for the substantive legislation the House considers. Rep. McGovern:

"The House has become a place where trivial issues are debated passionately and important issues not at all."


· "Emergency" meetings and late-night sessions discouraged Members and the press from participating in the legislative process. These were driven by Republican Members of the Rules Committee.

· House Republicans repeatedly embarrassed the House by granting blanket waivers to conference reports and rushing them through the House before Members could read them. The 108th Congress was repeatedly ridiculed for the special-interest provisions Republican leaders stuck into conference bills, such as the infamous "Hooters" subsidy and the provision allowing Congressional staffers to snoop on American citizens’ tax returns.


I interupt Ms. Slaughter here to state that this is enough! Our Congress is clearly corrupt and have Bills that were passed via dirty tricks, bribery and blackmail should be repealed, asking for future improvement is not good enough.

Consider the Medicare bill- Republicans said it would cost $400 Billion when they pushed it through Congress last December, Now the Washington Post tells us it may Cost $1.2 Trillion.

They rammed this through in the middle of the night, holding the vote open until they had "convinced" enough members to switch sides. There was even a charge of bribery on the floor of Congress when Rep. Nick Smith said a Republican Leader offered $100,000 for his vote.

Rep. Slaughter tells us, "the Medicare prescription drug program would have been significantly different had Members been able to debate." Now we see the flaws, and we see that they rammed this through without debate, even using ’arm-twisting’ and bribery to get it passed, yet we’re stuck with it? Why?

Why isn’t Congress repealing this bill now estimated to cost $1.2 Trillion as the Drug companies scam the system a la Enron and Halliburton.

Wake up America, ethics are toast. It’s a free for all as the corporations are using these politicians to loot our nation.

The Democrats best effort is to shake their fists and tell us "too bad, the Republicans have the majority, there is nothing we can do about it." Could this be motivation for election fraud? Just like Bush lied to start war and he’s not being investigated- why? Election fraud.


What sets the 108th Congress apart from its predecessors is that stifling deliberation and quashing dissent in the House of Representatives became the standard operating procedure. Heavy-handed maneuvers that a few years ago would have inspired outrage among fair-minded Democratic or Republican Members, became commonplace.

If they couldn’t ignore the rules, they would change them

We watched as non-controversial suspension bills, rather than debate on major legislation, occupied more and more of our already abbreviated weekly schedule.

We watched as the Rules Committee routinely ignored regular committee order, opting instead for doing business under "emergency" procedures in the wee hours of the night or early in the morning.

We watched as the Rules Committee excluded larger and larger numbers of House Members with amendments from floor debates.

We watched as Republican leaders shut down the conference process so completely that the only people who knew the contents of conference reports when they came to the House floor were the special interest lobbyists who had written them.

Outside experts appear to share our assessment. When asked to compare the heavy-handed control of the majority in the 108th Congress to past Congresses, Brookings Institution congressional scholar Thomas Mann, commented: "It’s worse... It’s been carried to a new extreme." In July, 2003, Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute commented:

"If Democrats, when they were in the House majority, jammed through plenty of bills without Republican participation and turned off moderate Members of the minority, their highhandedness was nothing compared to what House Republicans are doing now."


A year further into the 108th Congress, Ornstein’s critique of the Republicans’ management of the House had grown even harsher. He wrote: "It is the middle-finger approach to governing, driven by a mind-set that has brought us the most rancorous and partisan atmosphere I have seen in the House in nearly 35 years."

In short, the current Republican leadership has become the arrogant and corrupt majority they despised and condemned in their minority days. In the 108th Congress, Republicans abandoned any of the moral high ground they still claimed to have from their campaign to reform the way Congress did business in the early 1990s. As our former colleague Joe Scarborough wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal:

"Ten years ago, Republican congressional candidates like me were running as Washington outsiders promising to balance the budget and pay off the federal debt. We campaigned against the Imperial Congress and promised Americans that if we got elected, we would be different. We lied."


Is this lubricated legislation in our best interests? Of course not.

Simply put- this congress is a miserable failure. Can they be trusted with reforming the vote system? Of course not. Considering the suffering in Iraq, the looming climate change catastrophe, and Bush’s "War on the Poor" Budget, why should we wait til 2006 for another phony election?