Democrats are wielding a heavy hand on the House Rules Committee, committing many of the procedural sins for which they condemned Republicans during their 12 years in power. So far this year, Democrats have frequently prevented Republicans from offering amendments, limited debate in the committee and, just last week, maneuvered around chamber rules to protect a $23 million project for Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.).
In an apparent violation of House rules, Murtha yesterday threatened a House Republican who objected to the project: “I hope you don’t have any earmarks in the defense appropriations bills because they are gone and you will not get any earmarks now and forever.”
Indeed, the spirit of ethics reform seems to be ebbing. The New York Times reports:
House Democrats wavered Thursday in their vow to tighten Congressional ethics rules as their leaders scrapped a campaign pledge to double the current one-year ban on lobbying by departing lawmakers and senior staff members. Democratic leaders in the House faced a rank-and-file revolt over the measure, which would significantly cramp the ability of lawmakers to cash in on their government service for million-dollar paychecks on K Street as soon as they leave office.
And what of the spirit of transparency? From another story in Politico.com on the lobby bill:
Before a Democratic caucus meeting, a Politico reporter asked House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois about the language of the bill's main provisions. After Emanuel demurred on the specifics, this reporter asked -- in the effort for openness and disclosure -- if a journalist could sit in to hear debate on the language. "Why don't you go f--- yourself?" Emanuel replied, as he entered a men's room in the Capitol basement.After twelve years of hardball, Republicans do not have the moral high ground on congressional reform or comity. (Some have pointed out that the Vice President used similar language with Senator Pat Leahy.) But no one can seriously maintain that they are uniquely responsible for the atmosphere on Capitol Hill. Congressional Democrats played rough before the 1994 election, and they are rapidly reverting to form.