- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 2, 2006

The Democratic congressional leadership didn’t even need to take office to start breaking campaign promises. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that the Democrats do not plan to implement every recommendation by the September 11 commission after all, as they promised to do again and again during the campaign. No wonder: Some of these recommendations create more problems than they solve. Others, like the one they just punted on, are too difficult politically to undertake and in any event are not certain to work. It was a nice campaign slogan, but now reality sets in for the “most ethical Congress in history,” which hereby fudges on one of its most oft-repeated campaign promises.

At question is the proposal to move congressional authority over intelligence budget and policy matters from the House and Senate Appropriations and Armed Services committees to the House and Senate Intelligence panels. Such a change, argued the commission authors in 2004, “may be among the most difficult and important” of all the recommendations. “So long as oversight is governed by current congressional rules and resolutions, we believe the American people will not get the security they want and need,” the commission members contended.

Maybe it would work, maybe not, depending on how fully these powers could be integrated into the normal business of the intelligence committees by the chairman and their staffers. A prior issue is whether it’s even feasible politically. As both parties knew all along, it’s not. As is the case in every Congress, it’s incredibly hard to get stubborn committee and subcommittee chairmen to give up their coveted powers when acquiring and exercising those powers is the reason they wanted to become chairmen in the first place. It’s all the more difficult when the change is not certain to improve matters. This was as true in the Republican Congress now ending as in the sessions that preceded it.

Without doubt the Democrats knew all along that they wouldn’t be able to implement this one. Still, they criticized Republican incumbents for failing to bring about every recommendation made by the September 11 commission, as though every item were equally worthy and equally feasible. It looks like the laws of human nature still apply in the “most ethical Congress in history,” and so the Democrats are hoisted on their own petard.

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