Why Shouldn't Senate Democrats Boycott The Committees?
Earlier today, the USA Today claimed that Arlen “Single Bullet” Specter had caved in to Dick Cheney and agreed to postpone any testimony by telecommunication CEOs to the Judiciary Committee on their assistance in NSA spying programs in exchange for a meaningless commitment from Cheney that the Administration would “consider” Specter’s proposal for FISA court oversight of these NSA programs. Now we are hearing that Specter in fact fired off a letter yesterday to Cheney yesterday complaining that Shooter was going around him and lobbying committee Republicans to abandon Specter’s probe and attempts to subpoena those executives to testify.
Can both stories be correct? Did Specter cut a deal with Cheney yesterday to postpone the subpoenas of the CEOs, only to fire off a letter blasting Cheney for going around him to undermine his oversight?
For all intents and purposes, whether it is Specter’s Judiciary Committee, Pat Roberts’ Intelligence Committee, or John Warner’s Armed Services Committee, the Senate GOP leadership has allowed the White House to run Congress. None of these committee chairs exercises any oversight or congressional prerogatives, and has become an extension of the administration. Democrats now are relegated to losing votes and being run over at these committees, shut out of the process and watching repeatedly as nothing of consequence is done by a supposedly co-equal branch of government.
So what would the net result be of these committees going away? What would be different if Democrats for the remainder of the session simply boycotted or abstained on all votes at these committees to demonstrate how irrelevant the GOP has made Congress? Sure, these committees could steamroller issues and budget votes through without Democratic participation, but that is happening now under a false veneer of consultation with Congress, when in fact the GOP committee chairs are doing nothing but taking dictation.
Why not cut to the chase, and force all business directly onto the floor for debate and allow Reid to pick and choose when he wants to shut down the floor with a closed session or a filibuster to show this Congress for what it is: a rubber stamp that has allowed itself to become irrelevant? Wouldn't this shine a bright light on the joke that Congress has become, and remind voters of the need for co-equal branches of government the next two years?