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9/19/2017 7:27:10 PM
Posted: 1/22/2006 8:17:32 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/22/2006 8:18:05 PM EDT by W_smith]
Jan. 21, 2006, 11:13PM

The congressional culture is sick. Only a complete overhaul will cure it.

CONGRESSIONAL Republicans are suddenly taking a strong interest in lobbying reform. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., are rallying behind a reform package that would include measures like increasing disclosure and doubling the length of time after leaving Congress before lawmakers and staff can lobby their colleagues.

These are commendable and desirable reforms. But to get to the root of what ails Washington's political culture, a more basic change is necessary.

The two of us have been immersed in Washington politics for more than 36 years. We have never seen the culture so sick or the legislative process so dysfunctional.

The plea deals of Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, the indictment of Tom Delay and his resignation as House majority leader, and the demise of Rep. Randy Cunningham notwithstanding, this is not simply a problem of a rogue lobbyist or a pack of them. Nor is it a matter of a handful of disconnected, corrupt lawmakers taking favors in return for official actions.

The problem starts not with lobbyists but inside Congress. Over the past five years, the rules and norms that govern congressional deliberation, debate and voting — what legislative aficionados call "the regular order" — have routinely been violated, especially in the House of Representatives, and in ways that mark a dramatic break from custom.

Roll call votes on the House floor, which are supposed to take 15 minutes, are frequently stretched to one, two or three hours. Rules forbidding any amendments to bills on the floor have proliferated, stifling dissent and quashing legitimate debate.

Omnibus bills, sometimes thousands of pages long, are brought to the floor with no notice, let alone the 72 hours the rules require. Conference committees exclude minority members and cut deals in private, sometimes even adding major provisions after the conference has closed. Majority leaders still pressure members who object to the chicanery to vote yea in the legislation's one up-or-down vote.

To be sure, bills have been passed under this regime, on party-line votes with slender majorities. But the results have not always been true to party objectives or conservative ideals. Democrats aren't the only ones undermined by a process whose methods, like the cynical use of earmarks for pet projects, serve to bloat government bureaucracies.

Some of the abuses are straightforward breaches of the rules. The majority Republicans bypass normal procedures and ignore objections that parliamentary rules have been violated. They then reframe substantive issues as procedural matters that demand party discipline.

Other abuses do not violate the rules, but they do transgress longstanding practice. For example, House rules don't set a maximum period of 15 minutes for most roll call votes. But since the advent of electronic voting in 1973, 15 minutes has been the norm.

In 1987, when the majority Democrats once — and only once — stretched a budget vote to 30 minutes because they found themselves unexpectedly down by one vote when time was supposed to expire, the minority Republicans loudly protested, with their whip, Dick Cheney, saying it was the worst abuse of power he had ever seen in Congress.

Now it is routine to bring up a bill and troll for enough votes to pass it, even when a clear majority of the House — 218 members — has voted nay.

What has all this got to do with corruption? If you can play fast and loose with the rules of the game in lawmaking, it becomes easier to consider playing fast and loose with everything else, including relations with lobbyists, acceptance of favors, the use of official resources and the discharge of governmental power.

We saw similar abuses leading to similar patterns of corruption during the Democrats' majority reign. But they were neither as widespread nor as audacious as those we have seen in the past few years.

The arrogance of power that was evident in Democratic lawmakers like Jack Brooks of Texas — the 21-term Democrat who was famed for twisting the rules to get pork for his district — is now evident in a much wider range of members and leaders, who all seem to share the attitude that because they are in charge, no one can hold them accountable.

Indeed, Hastert showed open contempt for the House ethics process last year when he fired the Republican chairman of the ethics committee and ousted two Republican members after they did their duty and reprimanded DeLay for three violations of standards.

Hastert then appointed two members to the committee who had given large sums to the DeLay legal defense fund — when the main matter pending before the committee involved DeLay.

The same attitude produced the K Street Project, in which the new Republican majority, led by DeLay, used its governmental power to demand that trade associations and lobbying groups fire Democratic lobbyists and hire designated Republicans, who could then be expected to show their gratitude by contributing generously to party candidates and committees. Jack Abramoff was one of the progenitors of that initiative.

What can be done? First, Hastert; Rep. David Dreier, the Rules Committee chairman; and the new House majority leader should declare that there will be a return to the regular order and to a reasonable deliberative process. And they must be prepared to follow through on that declaration.

But there are also rules reforms that would help. Two- or three-hour votes should become a thing of the past. Any major bill should be presented at least three days before it is considered, unless a supermajority votes to waive that rule.

Votes should be required on objections to excessive earmarking in bills, and members should be required to declare that they have no personal interest in the earmarks they promote.

Real debate and reasonable amendments must be allowed on most bills, and the integrity of conference committees needs to be re-established. Finally, if there is to be real and credible ethics oversight, that process, too, must be overhauled.

Quick and decisive congressional actions could minimize the damage done by the explosion of scandals related to Abramoff. But lobbying reform alone is a temporary solution. The real solution is for Congress to behave like the deliberative body it is supposed to be.
Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Mann is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. They are co-authors of the forthcoming "The Broken Branch."
Link Posted: 1/22/2006 8:20:38 PM EDT
The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research is a think tank founded in 1943 whose stated mission is to support the "foundations of freedom - limited government, private enterprise, vital cultural and political institutions, and a strong foreign policy and national defense." The Institute is an independent, nonprofit organization supported primarily by grants and contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals.

Like most think tanks that maintain non-profit status under the federal tax code, AEI is strictly nonpartisan and takes no institutional positions on pending legislation or other policy questions.

It has emerged as one of the leading architects of the current Bush administration's public policy; more than two dozen AEI alumni have served either in a Bush administration policy post or on one of the government's many panels and commissions. AEI, along with The Heritage Foundation, is sometimes seen as a conservative counterpart to the center-left Brookings Institution. In 1998, AEI and Brookings established the AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies.


Lynne Cheney, the wife of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, and an AEI senior fellow.
Christopher DeMuth, who served in the Reagan administration, has been president of AEI since 1986
Ted Frank is resident fellow and director of the AEI Liability Project.
David Frum, an author and former speechwriter for Bush, is a resident fellow.
Reuel Marc Gerecht is a resident fellow. He is the director of the Project for the New American Century's Middle East Initiative and a former Middle East specialist at the CIA.
Newt Gingrich, member of the Republican Party and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives between 1995 and 1999, is a senior fellow at AEI focusing on health care (he has founded the Center for Health Transformation), information technology, the military, and politics.
Author James K. Glassman is a resident fellow.
Michael Greve is the John G. Searle Scholar and director of AEI's Federalism Project.
Jeane Kirkpatrick is the former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and an AEI senior fellow.
Michael Ledeen was previously involved in the transfer of arms to Iran during the Iran-Contra affair -- an adventure that he documented in his book, Perilous Statecraft: An Insider's Account of the Iran-Contra Affair.
John Lott, Jr. is an opponent of gun control and the author of a book titled "More Guns, Less Crime."
Joshua Muravchik, is a Resident Scholar. He researches Middle East politics, democracy, neoconservatism and the history of socialism.
Charles Murray, an influential policy writer and a researcher, is the W.H. Brady Scholar in Culture and Freedom. He is best known as the co-author of the controversial The Bell Curve in 1994.
Winfield Myers is managing editor of AEI's magazine, The American Enterprise.
Michael Novak is the George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy and Public Policy and Director of Social and Political Studies at the institute. He has written extensively about the role of faith in government.
Richard Perle serves on the United States Defense Policy Board and the former deputy Secretary of Defense.
Lee Raymond, CEO of ExxonMobil, is the vice chair of AEI's board of trustees.
Sally Satel is a psychiatrist and author of PC, M.D.: How Political Correctness is Corrupting Medicine.
Christina Hoff Sommers is a critic of the feminist movement. She is the author of Who Stole Feminism and The War Against Boys.
Fred Thompson, the current D.A. on Law & Order and former U.S. Senator from Tennessee, researches "National Security & Intelligence (China, North Korea, and Russia)" for the AEI.
Ben Wattenberg, a speechwriter for President Lyndon B. Johnson, is a senior fellow.
John Yoo, formerly of the Office of Legal Counsel, and a professor at Boalt Hall, is a visiting scholar.
AEI has received more than $30 million in funding from sources including the following:

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Inc.
Castle Rock Foundation
Earhart Foundation
JM Foundation
Microsoft Corporation [1]
Philip M. McKenna Foundation, Inc.
John M. Olin Foundation, Inc.
Sarah Scaife Foundation
Scaife Family Foundation
Smith Richardson Foundation

The AEI is governed by a board of trustees. Current members of the board are: Gordon Binder, Harian Crow, Chris DeMuth, Morton Fleischer, Chris Galvin, Raymond Gilmartin, Harvey Golub, Robert Greenhill, Roger Hertog, Martin Koffel, John Luke, Ben Lytle, Alex Mandl, Robert Pritzker, Joe Ricketts, Kevin Rollins, John W. Rowe, Edward Rust, William Stavropoulos, Wilson Taylor, Marilyn Ware, and James Q. Wilson.

Emeritus trustees of the organization are: Willard Butcher, Richard Madden, Robert Malott, Paul McCracken, Paul Oreffice, and Henry Wendt.

Link Posted: 1/22/2006 8:23:40 PM EDT
The Brookings Institution is one of the oldest and best known think tanks in the United States. Founded in 1916 and based in Washington, D.C., it describes itself as "an independent, nonpartisan organization devoted to research, analysis, education, and publication focused on public policy issues in the areas of economics, foreign policy, and governance."

The institution's founder, philanthropist Robert Somers Brookings (1850-1932), originally financed the formation of three organizations: the Institute for Government Research, the Institute of Economics, and the Robert Brookings Graduate School. The three were merged into the Brookings Institution in 1927.

During the administration of Richard M. Nixon, it was revealed that Brookings had been named to Nixon's famous enemies list, due to its criticism of Nixon domestic and foreign policies. Nixon ordered a burglary of Brookings in 1971, looking for leaked government information about the Vietnam War.


Brookings is made up primarily of four policy programs: Economic Studies, Foreign Policy Studies, Governance Studies, and the new Metropolitan Policy Program. [1] The Metro Program was launched in 1996 by Bruce Katz, [2] former Chief of Staff to Henry Cisneros when Cisneros was U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Political Orientation

Journalists sometimes describe Brookings as "centrist" or "liberal," though some critics on the left view it as conservative.[3] Staunch conservatives have been equally as vocal in their criticism of Brookings, which they perceive as a liberal institution. Although the think tank has received funding from such right of center groups as The Bradley Foundation, known for its advocacy of laissez-faire capitalism, prominent center-left figures such as Teresa Heinz Kerry are also supporters. Nevertheless, Brookings is widely acclaimed for its intellectual rigor and pragmatic approach to a wide range of policy issues.


The current president is Strobe Talbott, who previously was the Deputy Secretary of State and an editor at Time Magazine. Brookings currently has over 140 resident and nonresident scholars. Some of its notable resident scholars include:

E.J. Dionne, Washington Post columnist
Michael O'Hanlon, expert on terrorism and foreign affairs
Alice Rivlin, expert on the United States budget process
List of scholars

The Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The Ford Foundation.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
University of California-Berkeley.
The Bradley Foundation.
Others, listed at mediatransparency.org.

See also
List of Brookings Institution scholars
Council on Foreign Relations
Rand Corporation
Trilateral Commission

Link Posted: 1/31/2006 12:55:52 PM EDT
There IS a way to solve or at least dispurse the power from DC.... and it's called a constitutional amendment that a) restores the Senate to it's original charter - i.e. people appointed by state legislatures rather than direct vote and b) restores to the States, the lion's share of taxation authority for projects that affect their state.

For example... because most Federal dollars have NOTHING at all to do with defense, it's entirely possible to re-work the system so that local, county and state government has the taxing and spending authority for all sorts of programs currently run and paid for from DC.

The benefit of this would be two fold: a) it would bring taxes and benefits closer to the people actually affected and b) drain DC of nation-wide 800lbs. gorilla type power. Sure, you'd get lobby groups in 50 states rather than just the Beltway, but then, that'd be good for jobs! heh heh heh.

Finally, the impact of Americans seeking to become less dependent on others for essential goods and services (off grid lifestyles, etc.) militates for less Federal control and more local government at least in the 66% of the budget that has nothing to do with defense.

There's no reason why families can't just start taking care of their OWN parents and grandparents...why allow ourselves to be forced by pop culture into economic and age-group ghettos? If grandparents lived with their kids and took care of their grandkids education and 'child-care' needs, both families would gain economically (reducing their overall mortgage needs) and culturally. No reason why Americans broke up their extended families and kicked the folks out.... certain it wouldn't be ILLEGAL for us to routinely live close to friend and family, have the folks live in wings or adjacent property....

No reason why old folk must choose between dog food and medicine EXCEPT their childrens' refusal to take care of their parents' financial needs!
Link Posted: 2/2/2006 5:31:24 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/2/2006 5:33:32 AM EDT by 2FALable]
So if we look at Brookings their work appears to have been more or less along the lines of what they were chartered to do until the 1950's when the Rockefeller Foundation started supporting them.

The AEI I'm not positive about but it concerns me that they have members that attend the Bildeberger meetings along with The Gates faimly and Gates has become a big supporter of Brookings as well.

While I have nothing to really base it on I feel quite certain that anything the Rockefeller Foundation supports won't be good for me..

In general any secretive group with elite membership that the very wealthy flock to, likely won 't be good for the average Joe.

"We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time Magazine, and other great publications who directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subject to the bright lights of publicity during those years but the world is now more sophisticated & prepared to march towards a world government which will never again know war but only peace and prosperity for the whole of authority."

-- David Rockefeller, CFR/Bilderberg/TC, 5 June 1991.
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