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Assessing the 109th Congress:

The lead editorial in today's WSJ assesses the record of the 109th Congress, and it isn't pretty:

The 109th Congress has gone home to fight for re-election, and the best testament to its accomplishments is that very few Republicans are running on them. They're running instead against the peril to the country if the Nancy Pelosi Democrats take power.

We'll know in six weeks if this liberal fright mask is enough to save the GOP majority, but it's not too soon to say that Republicans in the 109th have been a major disappointment. The best thing about this Congress is that by doing little at least it did little harm. But despite their best chance in 50 years to reform the creaky institutions of the welfare state, Republicans couldn't maintain the unity or discipline to achieve nearly any of what they promised in 2004.

The editorial notes that some of the Republican majority's difficulties were due to a slim margin, Democratic obstructionism, and public discontent over the war in Iraq -- but these factors only explain so much.

none of this excuses the more fundamental problem, which is that too many Republicans now believe their purpose in Washington is keeping power for its own sake. The reform impulse that won the House in 1994 has given way to incumbent protection. This is the root of the earmarking epidemic, which now mars every spending bill and has become a vast new opportunity for Member corruption. This is also part of what corrupted felons Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, Jack Abramoff, Tony Rudy and Michael Scanlon. Power for its own sake also explains the House GOP's decision to join Senate Democrats in killing serious reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, despite $16 billion in accounting mistakes or fraud. The Members are in bed with the housing subsidy lobby.

Even amid all of this scandal, many Republicans still refuse to acknowledge any problem. Appropriators continue to resist major budget reform, and the same Republicans who gave a Democratic President the line-item veto in the 1990s refused to give a weaker version to a GOP President this year. No wonder so many loyal Republican voters have been telling pollsters they're not sure if they'll vote this year.

If Republicans lose control of Congress, they'll have no one to blame but themselves.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Assessing the 109th Congress:
  2. Specter on the Senate's Workload:
  3. A "Do-Nothing" Senate?
Bruce Wilder (www):
"The Members are in bed with the housing subsidy lobby."

Say, what?

The Members have been serving the interests of Big Energy, Big Media and Big Pharma assiduously, and they delivered the bankruptcy bill to the Banks, but the WSJ is worried about the "housing subsidy lobby"?!? Oh, wait, that's part of the hated New Deal legacy.

As to the hope that loyal Republican voters might stay home, I am not all that optimistic. Anyone, who voted for George W. Bush twice, should probably do her country the favor of never voting, or holding a political opinion, again in this life. But, fools seldom take responsibility for their own incompetent foolishness: that's what makes them fools.
10.2.2006 12:24pm
Commenterlein (mail):
"Anyone, who voted for George W. Bush twice, should probably do her country the favor of never voting, or holding a political opinion, again in this life."

Amen.
10.2.2006 12:28pm
Aultimer:

too many Republicans now believe their purpose in Washington is keeping power for its own sake


Which explains all those times that Democratic Congressional majorities have gone so far with term limits campaign finance reforms. Not.

It's a fundamental flaw in the system, thanks to human nature. Not just a Republican shortcoming.
10.2.2006 12:37pm
Jefe:
"Anyone, who voted for George W. Bush twice, should probably do her country the favor of never voting, or holding a political opinion, again in this life."

Except that the alternatives were worse.
10.2.2006 12:42pm
AppSocRes (mail):
If Bruce Wilder ever voted for Bill Clinton I hope she will "do her country the favor of never voting, or holding a political opinion, again in this life."
10.2.2006 12:48pm
Andrew Hyman (mail) (www):
Yes, the alternatives were worse.

Regarding the WSJ editorial, they should be more discerning. On June 22, 2006, the House passed the line itme bill (H.R. 4890). So we should give the House to the Democrats? It makes no sense. Moreover, 93% of Republicans supported the bill, whereas 82% of Democrats opposed it, in the House.

True, S. 2381 failed in the Senate. But was that the fault of a filibuster threat, or not? Does the WSJ care?
10.2.2006 12:50pm
Randy R. (mail):
Do nothing Congress? Oh, I don't know. Look at all the political points they made with the Terri Shaivo vote, the gay marriage amendment and the flag burning amendment. They did lots, it just wasn't anything that the people wanted.
10.2.2006 1:07pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
Seems like they did an awfully good job of covering up Mark Foley's emails, but I doubt that's something that Republicans want to run on.

And yes, the alternatives to Bush were worse, weren't they? I mean, the Gore and Kerry campaigns both proposed starting a war without end for no reason, opening an extrajudicial venue for kidnapping people they deemed terrorists, warrantless spying on Americans, and legalizing torture. Oh wait, they didn't--but Gore hired Naomi Klein and Kerry speaks French, so that's just as bad.
10.2.2006 1:30pm
James Blakey (mail) (www):
I absolutely done with the Republicans. Tacking the Internet Gambling/Poker Ban to the Port Security Bill is the last straw. I only regret that I didn't realize me error earlier.
10.2.2006 1:32pm
Stating the Obvious:
What's the absolutely worst thing about the 109th Congress? The utter assurance it will be followed by a 110th... (if you think it can't get worse, you haven't been paying attention. It always gets worse. Power runs amuck. The center cannot hold...)
10.2.2006 1:41pm
Ross Levatter (mail):
"The Members are in bed with the housing subsidy lobby."

And, we find, as the Mark Foley scandel breaks, not only the housing subsidy lobby...
10.2.2006 1:51pm
Pete Freans (mail):
If Republicans lose control of Congress, they'll have no one to blame but themselves.

Precisely. What exactly were the Republicans waiting for? I realize that 9/11 had, to a certain extent, placed prior legislative priorities into turmoil (remember Pres. Bush as the Education President pre-9/11? How far we have come).

What was their excuse after 2004? President Bush won with a respectable margin and he pledged to use the "political capital" he had acquired to push his agenda. Republicans comfortably held both houses and our national security, while still in flux, was settling to the point where we felt that another terrorist attack maybe was not forthcoming.

Congressional Republicans have squandered historic opportunity to leave a conservative imprint on this nation. I'm not not sure what's worse, a Pelosi led House or another two years of congressional mediocrity.
10.2.2006 2:00pm
Oren Elrad (mail):

I'm not not sure what's worse, a Pelosi led House or another two years of congressional mediocrity.


I'm pretty sure the next two years are going to be mediocre no matter how the elections turn out.

Question for folks older than myself:

How would you compare the times of the republican party machine to the democratic one that used to run the country (24 straight years of congressional rule IIRC)? Both were/are fairly corrupt (e.g. Murtha turning Dicksville, PA into a federal project town) and both have serious issues with simple honesty.
10.2.2006 2:15pm
Jimmy (mail):
The only good thing to come out of these last 8 years of vascillating democrats, corrupt republicans, and alternate-reality executives is the fact that many people at least have concrete examples in front of them of how a great nation can easily be led astray by any one of those 3 groups. And how the greatest nation can be derailed with a combination of all 3... At least our judges aren't so bad... :-( Comparatively speaking, of course.

What is the answer? Can someone answer that question? Without just pointing fingers and squealing about Clinton / Bush / etc? Where will the reform come from?

Of course, if I could vote myself a pay raise, I probably would too...
10.2.2006 2:44pm
KeithK (mail):

...both proposed starting a war without end for no reason...

If you can't see the reason it's not really worth having a discussion with you.

I can't say I'm thrilled with GWB. In fact I'm very unhappy with much of his administration. but I'm damn glad I voted for him twice and that we weren't stuck with Gore or Kerry.
10.2.2006 2:45pm
Houston Lawyer:
The problem appears to be that there have not been enough Republicans in the Senate. It's always a bit rich for a party who frequently filibusters legislation to complain that the legislation was not passed.

For now, we're getting a border fence and no amnesty for illegal immigrants. That's a start.
10.2.2006 3:01pm
Monty:
I don't see how anyone who voted for Bush in 2000 could vote for him in 2004 without either being stupid or a total hypocrite. The Bush who ran in 2000 ran as a principled, but moderate conservative. By 2004, Bush had proved that he had no principals and did not resemble in any way a true conservative. Yet, the sheep voted for him anyway.
10.2.2006 4:26pm
Al Maviva (mail) (www):
I don't see how anybody who voted for Bush could be anything other than the living, walking, breathing spawn of Satan, bereft of good, wallowing in the very depths of evil, fire and brimstone all about, and pitchforks too, subsisting on the blood of freshly slaughtered orphans, and tall glasses of the milk of human sorrow... There, does that outdo the condescending, smug trolls in the Bush Voter Smack of the Political Sanctimony Olympics?

While the Republicans look to be surpassingly corrupt, the Dems brave new ideas include 1) raising the minimum wage; 2) raising the income tax; 3) doing nothing about the impending fiscal crunch of social security or ever expanding social benefits programs; 4) retreating on all fronts in the GWOT except for using diplomacy to somehow "make" countries with interests that may be in conflict with ours cooperate with the U.S. law enforcement and increasinly hamstrung intel efforts; 5) nationalized health care; and most importantly, 6) exercising a vendetta against Bush with thinly veiled threats of impeachment.

Yeah, that's a breath of fresh air. A real change to the old Democratic Party platforms that the voters got tired of. Add "reinstating the fairness doctrine" in there, along with wage &price controls, and you'll have a completely new platform on which to run.

Much as I am coming to thoroughly loathe the Republican Party, which seems to exist only for the purpose of keeping itself in power, the other alternative's warmed over central planning solutions to various real and non-existent problems (aka neo-Marxism-lite) just doesn't appeal to me. Somehow, our left liberal friends think that because Republicans are screwed up, we will all repudiate conservative and libertarian beliefs, and go all lefty, decrying the fact that we can't all somehow elect Ned Lamont as our own representative or senator. I happen to still think conservatism and libertarianism have something to offer the country; too bad it hasn't been tried.
10.2.2006 4:48pm
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
If you can't see the reason it's not really worth having a discussion with you.

Thanks for the tacit admission that even a war supporter can't explain it. How could Kerry or Gore have been any worse than what we've got now?
10.2.2006 4:49pm
sksmith (mail):
The most important asset that Bush has is that he pisses off the right people. BDS is evidence that Bush is in fact doing fine. It was truly amazing that after Gore, the Democrats did even worse in 2004-I honestly didn't think that was possible. I'm praying for Hillary in 2008-a trifecta!

Steve
10.2.2006 4:53pm
Arbusto Spectrum (mail):
Steve - thanks for sharing your prayers with us.
When I pray, it is generally for things like an amelioration of the violence currently plaguing the Middle East and the safe return of our troops, as opposed to partisan divisiveness at home.
But hey, to each his own God....
10.2.2006 5:06pm
ray_g:
Oren Elrad
"How would you compare the times of the republican party machine to the democratic one that used to run the country (24 straight years of congressional rule IIRC)?"

Corruption, pork and incumbent protection are perhaps the only topics upon which the Congress is truly bi-partisan. Things were no better or worse in the past, despite what some partisan folks may claim. I wish that were not so.
10.2.2006 5:11pm
Justin (mail):
"BDS is evidence that Bush is in fact doing fine."

I was going to write something about the mentality, that if Bush puts this country to the brink of nuclear holocaust, many GOP voters would say that Kerry or Gore would have "been worse."

But then I saw this sentence. And I think it's more beautiful of another contingent of GOP apologists. The worse people think this is, the better it must be, right? Because evil people who don't agree with me are trying to tear me down, we should assume the exact opposite of what we hear. Civil war in Iraq? Oh, those are just birth pangs. Increased terrorism? Last throes. Democrats finding more and more to criticize about George Bush? Just proof that George Bush is doing things more and more right.

Whatever the (lack of) merits there are to "BDS" this seems to be the contrapositive to the "don't make the trains run on time, or you'll be Mussolini" fallacy.
10.2.2006 5:11pm
Monty:
Much as I am coming to thoroughly loathe the Republican Party, which seems to exist only for the purpose of keeping itself in power, the other alternative's warmed over central planning solutions to various real and non-existent problems (aka neo-Marxism-lite) just doesn't appeal to me. Somehow, our left liberal friends think that because Republicans are screwed up, we will all repudiate conservative and libertarian beliefs, and go all lefty, decrying the fact that we can't all somehow elect Ned Lamont as our own representative or senator. I happen to still think conservatism and libertarianism have something to offer the country; too bad it hasn't been tried.

That doesn't explain why you would vote for George Bush in 2004 as opposed to say Peroutka, Badnarik, or Gary Coleman. I can respect someone who voted for George Bush in 2000. But anyone who voted for Bush in 2004 and cares about small government is either an idiot or a total hypocrite.
10.2.2006 5:15pm
Derrick (mail):
Without just pointing fingers and squealing about Clinton / Bush / etc? Where will the reform come from?


The real answer seems to be some type of national gerrymandering reform. The Senate is no utopia, but the House is a complete mess. There is absolutely zero reason for 90+% of house races to be non-competitive. I'm no Arnold fan, but I think a gerrymandering reform has to be at the top of any list of reform.

The alternative that a few seem to be allergic too, is to let Democrats take at least one of the House or Senate. A divided government is the only way that competing interests will truly be able to fight it out. Democrats will be forced to act as the responsible party for at least a period time, and hopefully that will start a race to the top for governance as opposed to the current race to the bottom. And if that doesn't work, we are screwed.
10.2.2006 5:49pm
Houston Lawyer:
Monty

You surely can't suppose that Mr. Kerry would have pushed for smaller government than Mr. Bush.

We had a choice between big government Republicans and even larger government Democrats. Choose your poison.
10.2.2006 5:50pm
chris s (mail):
Monty - you forget the courts. Since 04 Bush has put Roberts and Alito on the S Ct. From a conservative or even libertarian perspective, both are far better than anyone a Pres Kerry would have nominated.
10.2.2006 5:59pm
Robert West (mail) (www):
Derrick --- what does it take to get gerrymandering reform? California's attempt to do that in 2005 was shot down by the voters, and there was no gerrymandering reform on either ballot in 2006.

The legislature won't do it and the voters don't seem to want it; so how do we get it?
10.2.2006 6:42pm
KenB (mail):
We had a choice between big government Republicans and even larger government Democrats. Choose your poison.

Well, as long as you vote for disappointing Party A because they're not as bad as Party B, you're just telling Party A that they can continue to ignore you without losing your vote. How much damage can Party B really do in two years over and above what Party A is doing?
10.2.2006 6:43pm
Taeyoung (mail):
Houston Lawyer:
You surely can't suppose that Mr. Kerry would have pushed for smaller government than Mr. Bush.
Oh certainly, Kerry would have pushed for a larger government. But can anyone seriously imagine that Kerry had the political skill to get a larger government? The more likely result would have been four years of Congress engaging in petty point-scoring off the President, probably leading to a term filled out with pointless (and largely inexpensive) Clinton-style "microinitiatives." School uniforms and V-chips and suchlike. Not such a terrible outcome, I think.

I had reasons to dislike Kerry and to prefer Bush to Kerry in the last election, but the specter of Kerry's legislative agenda was not among them. The man had achieved practically nothing of significance during his time in the Senate, and nothing we learned of him during the election led me to believe him capable of achieving anything more as President.
10.2.2006 6:43pm
jdd6y:
As a libertarian, I'm looking forward to a combination of gridlock and some GOP races where the margin of defeat is smaller than the libertarian vote.

Until we get 50 consecutive years without mandatory public "education" (read: brainwashing), socialism and nationalism in some form is always going to win.

But at least we can hope for a respite in the growth of the leviathan. Unified government is a horrible thing. We all knew the Democrats could not be trusted after their 50 years in power. Now we know the GOP is just as bad.

The main reason? They give voters what they want. Subsidies now with the invoice to their unborn grandchildren.

Why do people want this? Because they have been told that individual responsibility and greed somehow caused the Great Depression and FDR and World War II somehow fixed the problems. Is it any shock that people are addicted to public spending and war?
10.2.2006 7:22pm
Steve:
Until we get 50 consecutive years without mandatory public "education" (read: brainwashing), socialism and nationalism in some form is always going to win.

Mandatory public education was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925). So I guess we've been okay since 1975 or so.
10.2.2006 7:31pm
Greg L. (mail):
It seems like alot of people are jumping on a 'Hate Republican' bandwagon. Now I dont really agree with alot of Republican ideals (or even like most of them for that matter), but not every Republican is working just to keep other Republicans in power.

Also:
"Monty - you forget the courts. Since 04 Bush has put Roberts and Alito on the S Ct. From a conservative or even libertarian perspective, both are far better than anyone a Pres Kerry would have nominated."- Chris S

How can you judge on who Kerry would have nominated? Its not like he announced who he would have nominated or told you personally.
10.2.2006 8:12pm
Sk (mail):
"The worse people think this is, the better it must be, right?"

No, Justin, you're forgetting an important qualifier. The worse YOU think this is, the better it must be.

Steve
10.2.2006 9:21pm
Justin (mail):
Sk,

Unless you think that I, and the 50 million voters who agree with me, as well as the countless millions who don't vote but agree with me, are actively trying to destroy America, your position is absolutely psychotic.
10.2.2006 10:11pm
Justin (mail):
Of course, if you think that I am actively trying to destroy America...well, it looks like your positions are psychotic either way.
10.2.2006 10:12pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Two words: Term limits.
10.2.2006 10:31pm
Cornellian (mail):
Much as I am coming to thoroughly loathe the Republican Party, which seems to exist only for the purpose of keeping itself in power, the other alternative's warmed over central planning solutions to various real and non-existent problems (aka neo-Marxism-lite) just doesn't appeal to me.

It doesn't appeal to me either but I'll be voting Democrat in November anyway, because electing Democracts in November will not replace Republican rule with Democrat rule, it will replace Republican rule with divided government. I've said many times that divided government is the best we can expect, in that each party tempers the worst impulses of the other. This doesn't always work (e.g. bipartisan enthusiasm for earmarks) but it's better than one party rule.
10.3.2006 2:07am
Cornellian (mail):
Two words: Term limits.

I see no reason why term limits would improve the situation. It might make the situation worse, in that someone who knows he can only be in office for a few years is under more pressure to give in to lobbyists so they'll give him a job when his term is up.

Get rid of the ability of politicians to rig elections through gerrymandering and you wouldn't need term limits.
10.3.2006 2:09am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Cornellian: U.S. Senators can't rig elections through gerrymandering, but that doesn't keep people like Kennedy, Byrd, Thurmond, and Stevens from hanging around forever. (Depending on one's ideology, at least two of those four must be pretty distasteful.)
10.3.2006 2:55am
chris s (mail):
Greg L. - I don't think it's a stretch to assume that Kerry would have nominated people like Ginsburg and Breyer. and if you favor an originalist reading of the Const, nowadays you're gen safe in assuming a GOP president is much more likely to name people who tend to follow that line.
10.3.2006 10:16am
zaphod (www):
I don't see how anyone who voted for Bush in 2000 could vote for him in 2004 without either being stupid or a total hypocrite...

You apparently weren't paying attention in 2000. One of Bush's big campaign promises that year was to push through a Medicare prescription drug benefit (which he subsequently did). I wasn't particularly thrilled with the idea then and I'm still not but the Dems wanted the same thing only more. So what's a boy to do?

Anyway, my point is: you can't assert that Bush was EVER a small government conservative. I liked the tax cuts and he at least made an attempt to reform Social Security which NOBODY NOBODY NOBODY else has been willing to touch. And he's head and shoulders above the Dems on national security. So there you have it. My reasons for voting for Bush weren't completely devoid of principle but they were probably more practical than principled.
10.3.2006 10:38am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Zaphod is quite correct except that I don't see any conflict between my principles and what was practical. For most of the things that I and others who might be considered "Bush supporters" disagree with the President are things that he said he would try to do if elected during the 2000 campaign -- Medicare Part D, NCLB, steel tariffs, immigration, etc. About the only thing where he has "disappointed" (in terms of reversing himself) has been McCain-Feingold which I thought he would have vetoed which was the reason I supported him over Senator McCain. It should be noted as well that coming from the perspective of a "Bush supporter," these are also issues upon which the positions advocated by Mr. Gore and Senator Kerry were both demonstrably worse than the position taken by Bush, so at worst they're a draw or at best Bush was the lesser of two evils on them.

But that pales in consideration to all of the issues in which Bush wasn't just "the lesser evil" but generally right on the money. He at least attempted to do something about Social Security (which no one has seriously talked about since 1964) and is still working on it when others have given up, has been generally good on judicial nominees (something that has universal appeal among the GOP base), introduced means-testing to Medicare, has gotten Health Savings Accounts through Congress, supports Association Health Plans, is improving the process for FDA approval of generic drugs (which opposing price controls), supports tort reform, signed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act into law, got us out of Kyoto, refused (former Clinton Treasury Secretary) Robert Rubin's request to prop up Enron or to bail out California for the foreseeable results of its NIMBY energy policy, has taken a more market-oriented approach to regulations, and unlike Senator Kerry, Bush will not cut and run from the Iraqi phase of the GWOT.

As I see it there was no question that Bush was and remains the superior choice.
10.3.2006 1:31pm
Justin (mail):
"Bush will not cut and run from the Iraqi phase of the GWOT"

Wow, a statement that would get a smile even from Orwell.
10.3.2006 11:02pm
Randy R. (mail):
Bush is head and shoulders above the Democrats? Not when we have gov't intel reports that say that his invasion-of-Iraq-for-no-good-reasons has spawned more terrorists than ever, making us less safe. He still hasn't gotten Bin Laden. Whose he? Oh, yeah, the criminal who killed a few thousand people back in 2001. But says he's not worried about catching him! Okay, great, just let the criminal go free.
What about our ports? Remember when Bush wanted to sell them to the UAE? The very same UAE that has supported terrorism in the past?
What about our ports? Bush still hasn't committed much money to secure them. Most containers come into the country without any inspection. Feel safe now?
What about WAshington and NYC? Bush doesn't think they need all that money, and that terrorists are more likely to strike Iowa and the Dakotas, so guess who got most of the money? So I guess you are safe if you live out on the plains.
Bush is better on national security? Don't make me laugh.....
10.4.2006 12:44am