Tuesday, December 14, 2004

With control of legislative investigations in the hands of Republicans, the Democrats (outnumbered though they may be) are doing something smart. While their new investigative committee has no authority whatsoever, the key to getting an investigation really moving is to get some press coverage, which is exactly what they are trying to do.

One of the advantages the Republican's have in controlling both houses of Congress is not only that they get to set the legislative agenda, they also get control over the possibility of hearings and investigations that so plagued Clinton's two terms. With the Republicans in control of all three branches, the chances of any actual investigation into any malfeasance is slim to none. The Congress was even able to gloss over the President's initially staunch opposition to the 9/11 commission and any implementation of suggested changes. They were able to make the President's grudging acceptance of reality look like an open-armed embrace.

While there may be some grumbling by Republicans in the Congress, any defection or free enterprise is likely to be squashed early. The GOP leadership is ruling with an iron fist, the efforts to pass the intelligence reform bill in the House were a clear example of that. The GOP refused to let it pass unless every needed Republican vote was in. The bill could have passed with bipartisan support, plenty of Democrats supported it, but the leadership refused to let go to a vote until they had enough Republican votes to make any Democratic support unnecessary. The couple Republican holdouts eventually had their concerns heard and even a couple were responded to (tougher immigration laws for example), but it must have been a tough stand.

Most of the grease that moved the intelligence bill through the congress against the wishes of the White House was the overwhelming public pressure. It was too public and too tough a subject to drop the ball on. The Democrats hope to tap into public opinion to pressure Republicans into looking into subjects they should already be investigating.

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