Republicans use one-party rule to parcel out the billions

Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 09:05 AM

Feel like the Republicans are running roughshod over the government in Washington?  You aren't alone.  The Washington Post's front page on January 24 carried a story headlined "Closed-Door Deal Makes $22 Billion Difference, GOP Negotiators Criticized for Change In Measure on HMOs."

Many of the billion dollar legislative proposals are hammered out in private, behind closed door, with no member of the opposing party allowed to attend.  It's been going on for years now, although our mighty and independent media, especially the yammering heads on the evening news-talk shows, have largely managed to avoid spreading the word just nicely.

This is what the Republicans mean when they talk about governing for the people, about being fiscally responsible, about restoring ethics to the institutions of government?

What happened? "House and Senate GOP negotiators, meeting behind closed doors last month to complete a major budget-cutting bill, agreed on a change to Senate-passed Medicare legislation that would save the health insurance industry $22 billion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office."

And what did the Democrats, the loyal opposition have to say in these negotiations? Zip. Nada.  The goose egg.  Because they weren't allowed in the room.

Continuing the Wash. Post excerpt:

"More than ever, Republican congressional lawmakers and leaders are making vital decisions, involving far-reaching policies and billions of dollars, without the public -- or even congressional Democrats -- present."

The Senate-House confrerees made the changes in a December negotiation involving House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and the committee staffs, negotiations from which House and Senate Democrats were excluded.

As long ago as December of 2003, the Washington Post reported that (emphasis added) "[Bill] Thomas and his GOP colleagues brushed aside Daschle's complaints and enacted their [Medicare] bill -- aided by a now-infamous three-hour House roll call -- with less minority party involvement than on any major issue in recent times. Congressional Republicans and the Bush administration now appear poised to press other initiatives with barely a pretense of seeking Democratic input.

So who is this rogue Bill Thomas?  Some kind of under-the-radar zealot out to destroy democracy?  Not according to his colleagues, one of whom says of Thomas "He cares deeply about the institution and good government."

This is outrageous, which means, by definition, that people should be outraged.  Read this description of another Republican-only session back in 2003:

"Senate Republicans rewrote a massive (and still-pending) energy bill with zero Democratic participation."

Same source on what happened when the Democrats had the audacity to enter the meeting room where the 2003 Medicare bill negotiations were going on:

"And top House and Senate Republicans negotiated the complex Medicare bill with only two conciliation-minded Democrats -- Sens. John Breaux (La.) and Max Baucus (Mont.) -- in the room. (When some House Democrats barged in one day, Thomas, the Ways and Means chairman, halted the meeting until they left.)"

This is the democracy we're trying to export to the world at the cost of thousands of lives and billions of dollars?

Hillary Clinton took heat from the right wing shouting crew for describing the House as being run like a plantation?
You think this is palatable, in any way, shape or form, while they're cutting billions from programs like student loans. (see post "President got it wrong on budget cuts for school loans")