The rule changes Speaker Nancy Pelosi is steamrolling through the House of Representatives contradict President-elect Barack Obama’s bipartisan promises, and also fly in the face of Pelosi’s own pledge to “insure the rights” of the minority party.
That’s the view of Wall Street Journal columnist and author John Fund, who documented Friday how Pelosi’s tune has changed in a bid to drown out the voices of Republican minority opposition in Congress.
The recent rule changes engineered by Pelosi, for example, end term limits for committee chairmanships. This is a major reversal of GOP reforms ushered in by the 1994 ”Contract With America.”
Term limits, Fund writes in a commentary titled “Pelosi Turns Back the Clock on House Reform,” helped “inject new ideas and merit into Congress.”
Pelosi’s rule changes partially restore the old Democratic, seniority-based system of chairmanships.
“Can this really be the ‘change’ that voters wanted last November?” Fund asks rhetorically. “Wags are already joking that Democrats are really delivering ‘senility you can believe in.’”
The rule changes passed Tuesday also severely restrict the legislative maneuver called a “motion to recommit” - a century-old maneuver that the minority party uses to send bills that reach the floor back to committees, where they can be endlessly debated.
GOP representatives used the tactic 50 times in the last session, mostly to stave off hidden tax hikes buried in larger bills.
Fund points out that Pelosi’s new rules sharply contradict positions she took before Democrats came to power. In 2004, Fund says, Pelosi rolled out a "Bill of Rights" to protect the interests of the party not in power.
"When we [Democrats] are shut out, they are shutting out the great diversity of America," Pelosi warned at the time. “We want a higher standard."
Just prior to becoming Speaker, Pelosi spoke of "bipartisanship" and her plans "to ensure the rights of the minority." Now that Democrats have consolidated their power, however, things are obviously different.
One of the ironies of Pelosi’s power grab, Fund points out, is that conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats are among the losers under the new rules because they often lack seniority.
Fund quotes Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, who observes: "All those nice pro-life, gun-owning young Democrats recruited to run by Rahm Emanuel will never have any real influence now. They were useful in getting Democrats a majority, but now they'll be in the back of the bus."
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