The Earmarxists Win a Round at Republican Retreat
A conservative initiative to get Republican agreement on a yearlong moratorium on earmarks was rejected by the House Republicans at their retreat at the Greenbrier Resort last weekend.
Led by Reps. Jeff Flake (R-Az), Mike Pence (R-In) and Jeb Hensarling (R-Tx), the conservative group nearly achieved a consensus. In a call Saturday afternoon, Mr. Flake told me that a substantial number of the members present (not all House Republicans were there) did raise their hands in support of the moratorium. In the end, the conservatives had to settle on a letter that called on Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats to join in a moratorium. Which, of course, they will never do.
But, as Flake added, the fight is a long way from over. The conservatives are considering another attempt to have all Republicans agree to the moratorium. Mr. Flake told me they were thinking of circulating a letter to all Republican members asking them to sign on to stop the earmarks cold. The other conservatives aren’t giving up, either.
Mr. Pence said, “If Democrats should refuse to accept this challenge, House Republicans must continue to lead on earmark reform by embracing an immediate moratorium on all earmark spending…Nothing short of a full moratorium, followed by public hearings and reform, will restore public confidence in Congressional appropriations."
Flake may still achieve a seat on the House Appropriations Committee, which would be an ideal platform to fight against earmarks. Even if he doesn’t get appointed to the Committee (Republicans will meet on the committee appointments this week) he can still bring the fight to the House floor.
Flake told me that in the past he’s taken on earmarks one by one. We may see him take them on in bunches, fighting in committee or House floor proceedings.
House Republicans are playing with fire. Earmarks are anathema to most conservatives and some of the most prolific earmarxists — including some of the most senior Republicans in Congress — may be indicted this year for corruption connected to earmarks.
If the Republicans aren’t serious about ending earmarks and the corruption that goes with them, why should voters give them back control of either house of Congress?
Democrats’ Want to Erase the Dots, Not Connect Them
As I wrote last week the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act fixes enacted in August expire this Friday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv) is still demanding another short-term extension of the August legislation in order to deal better with his fractured majority.
President Bush has threatened to veto any short term extension. Each side accuses the other of playing politics with FISA. But it’s clear — especially in light of Reid’s inability to get support from his own members in last week’s floor action — that the Dems aren’t serious about FISA.
Reid has two problems.
First he can’t get the Democrats to agree on the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in October. The huge gap between that bill and the amendments Democrats (and RINOs such as Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania) are offering is great enough that intelligence community believes the amendments will fatally hobble electronic intelligence-gathering.
Second, Reid knows the President will not agree to the House version. The House bill would hobble — perhaps fatally — all electronic intelligence gathering, even battlefield intelligence (which, in these days of satellite communication depends as much on NSA electronic eavesdropping as it does on in-theater methods).
The 9-11 Commission criticized the intelligence community for failing to “connect the dots” — sharing information and combining intelligence data to get a better product that might have enabled us to prevent the 9-11 attacks. House Democrats — with Reid and many of the Senate Dems in sympathy with them — seem more eager to erase the dots than enable our intelligence agencies to better connect them.
A Senate cloture vote is scheduled for 4:30 pm today. Even if it fails, the Senate will remain on the bill unless Reid pulls it off the floor.