During the 2006 election run-up, Democrats ran on a campaign of Republican corruption that had soiled the Congress and saw GOP leaders place the wants and needs of lobbyists above those of their constituents. Republicans denied this of course, but the ethics and lobbying scandal (remember Jack Abramoff?) eventually pulled them within reach of Dems.
A number of things have happened since the election that should make clear now that the culture of corruption within the GOP was real, and still needs to be put down. The former Senator Conrad Burns was ridden hard by the man who would come to defeat him, John Tester, on Burns' links to Abramoff and powerful lobbyists. Although Burns was never accused of a crime, his dedication to corruption was quickly confirmed when his first order of business after rejoining the ranks of private citizens was to join a lobbying firm.
Even more disturbing were Republicans successful attempts to scuttle the ethics and lobbying reform bill that the Senate has been been working on ever since the 110th session began. The House has already debated and passed four bills that Democrats ran on during the elections, while the Senate has been stuck on ethics this entire time. Last night, Republicans demanded that an unrelated measure, a line-item-veto, be added to the bill, and when they didn't get their way, they became the very thing they accused Democrats of being over the years: obstructionists.
Republicans filibustered last night unless they got a totally unrelated bill to ethics and lobbying reformed added as an amendment and prevented a vote from taking place. Nothing could be more clear today than how beholden to special interests, K-street lobbyists, and soft ethics rules Republicans have become over the past twelve years. They ran on a platform of corruption and ethics reform in their 1994 takeover of Congress, only to fall victim to corruption themselves.
What I find most interesting is how Republicans used the line-item-veto to kill off the ethics and lobbying legislation. The Supreme Court has already ruled that line-item-vetos violate the Constitution's separation of power doctrine two fold. First the Constitution only empowers the President to sign or veto legislation in its entirety, it doesn't allow him to change it because that would count towards authoring legislation, something reserved for the Congress.
The second violation is related, in that it allows the President to sign into law legislation that the Congress technically did not approve. Once something has been added or removed, the legislation has changed and is no longer what it once was. This is the reason that most laws must be passed multiple times when the House and Senate vote on bills that contain different language. They must negotiate out the changes that will satisfy both houses, and vote on it yet again.
While state laws differ and many Governors do currently enjoy the line-item-veto, the Supreme Court has made clear that it's not something the federal government may ever have. This leads me to believe that Republicans simply picked something they knew would never be allowed to be rolled into the current bill to keep the ethics and lobbying reform from passing. It would probably pass on a party-line vote, but they want it dead so desperately that they are trying to poison it, and last night, they succeeded.
The Republican culture of corruption has been confirmed, and the GOP should be utterly ashamed of themselves. They were not elected by the people to serve lobbyists and themselves, and they should be aware that sentiment in this country has not magically changed since the 2006 elections have passed. The U.N. has recently announced that the civilian death toll for 2006 was nearly 34,000 people, or close to 100 per day every single all year.
Democrats have passed a number of bills in the House -- some with bipartisan support, some not -- all of them with incredibly high favorability by the public. While the President continues to drag down his party in public support, Democrats have actually brought a rise in the approval ratings of Congress after less than two weeks in session. That figures to change as time passes, and the Congress begins to consider bills that the public does not support, or have no opinion on, and votes begin to fall along party lines more often than not. Republicans play dangerous games which give Democrats a perfect opportunity to claim the high ground, and hold it right through 2008.
The ethics problems in the Senate made the country sick to its stomach and the people have not forgotten, nor will they forget what will happen over the next two years. The McCain Doctrine has pushed the country even further away from the neo-con agenda and an entirely new batch of Republicans will be up for reelection in '08 that is likely to see more Democratic gains. The country wants stem cell funding and Bush is threatening to veto it. The surge will probably result in escalated violence, and a united Democratic stance against these things could be hugely damaging to Republicans. Last year there were 33 Senate seats up for election and Democrats gained seven of them. The same number will be up again in two years and if Democrats gain another seven, they will be just two short of a veto-proof majority in the Senate.
I am of the belief that neither side should ever have a veto-proof majority, but if Republicans want that to happen, then by all means they should continue to screw over the people that elected them by favoring corporate America and special interests. Continue to fight ethics and lobbying reform. Continue to infect our nation with their corruption.
The shoe is on the other foot now, if you'll forgive the cliche. Republicans defend the culture of corruption. Republicans are the obstructionists. Republicans are the party of no new ideas. Republicans are out of touch with mainstream America.
'Power corrupts; Absolute power corrupts absolutely" is a lesson Republicans refuse to learn. If they don't get a clue by 2008, they should prepare for another 40-year Democratic majority in the House.