Democratic Congress May Be Flurry Of Activity Early
The Bush White House can expect a lot of activity from the incoming Democratic Congress in January. First, Patrick Leahy promises that when he takes over the Senate Judiciary Committee, he will kick start numerous requests for information that Arlen Specter allowed to be routinely stonewalled by the administration. Leahy hopes that subpoenas will not be necessary, but rest assured he will not hesitate to issue them and quick. Leahy has a whole list of things he wants answers on, including the CIA’s interrogation methods and its treatment of detainees, voter fraud, and immigration.
Similarly, incoming Senate Intelligence Committee chair Jay Rockefeller, who has appeared to be invisible at times, himself now promises that he will pursue a “cleanup agenda” when he takes over. Among the things that Rockefeller will dig into first will be the long-stalled Phase Two inquiry on how the White House manipulated intelligence on Iraq’s WMDs. He, like Leahy, wants to investigate the CIA’s warrant less surveillance program and Bush’s direct authorization of the CIA’s secret rendition and overseas prison program. Note that the administration’s initial reaction to the Leahy requests was to indicate that the appropriate oversight body on the CIA should be the Intelligence Committee. This makes it imperative that Rockefeller get a spine, and for Nancy Pelosi to avoid a major mistake and name a House Intelligence Committee chair who isn’t compromised. Pelosi seems to be paralyzed with inaction due to her dislike for Jane Harman and the pressure she is getting from the Black Caucus for the appointment of the inappropriate Alcee Hastings. The Blue Dog Democrats want Harman, who unfortunately is now the target of a DOJ inquiry into whether or not she tried to assist AIPAC in a Justice investigation of convicted former Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin. Pelosi needs to move beyond both Harman and Hastings and appoint someone well-qualified and untainted like New Jersey representative Rush Holt.
There will be other pressure points for the administration. With another supplemental appropriation coming for $120-130 billion more for Iraq and Afghanistan, and with both the Democratic House and Senate ready to reinstall pay-as-you-go budget rules, at least half of the 41 incoming House Democrats would support the early termination of the upper income tax cuts that are set to expire in 2010. And the pharmaceutical industry is gearing up to fight any changes to their corporate welfare known as the Medicare Part D program, by hiring Democratic lobbyists including Pelosi’s former chief of staff in an effort to hold off unpleasant legislation. Neither they nor the White House should bother: the Democrats will pass changes to the program no matter what, fully expecting that the White House will veto them so that the party can bludgeon the GOP and John McCain in 2008 for being in the back pocket of the drug companies and the HMOs instead of caring about seniors and the deficit.
I can't wait for next year, and frankly for the chance to go after McCain and the rest of the GOP in 2008.