- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2007

After several procedural matters were decided by party-line votes in the House of Representatives, more than a few Republicans have signed off on various parts of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s early agenda, which has received nearly unanimous support within the Democratic caucus.

On Jan. 4, three hours after electing the first woman to be speaker of the house (and, constitutionally, placing Mrs. Pelosi two heartbeats from the presidency), House Democrats effectively ditched a 12-year-old Republican-sponsored rule that would require a three-fifths majority to raise taxes. Except for Dan Burton of Indiana, all Republicans supported a measure that banned members from accepting gifts from lobbyists (the previous limit was $50). The next day, the House unanimously voted to prevent keeping recorded votes open longer than the 15-minute minimum time period for the purpose of reversing an outcome.

Forty-eight Republicans (nearly a quarter of GOP members) then joined a unanimous Democratic caucus in support of a House organizing resolution that reinstated pay-as-you-go budgeting rules, which, unless waived, would require offsets for tax cuts or new entitlement spending. The same resolution also required a list of earmarks and targeted tax or trade benefits (including the sponsors and recipients) to accompany all legislation and conference reports. While not perfect, the earmark provision will publicize more earmarks than last year’s much-ballyhooed Republican-sponsored reform, which, according to a tally by Congressional Quarterly, failed to identify a single earmark. In truth, of course, members themselves are only too pleased to brag to their constituents about the earmarked pork they bring to their districts.

After adopting the new House rules, the chamber embarked upon Mrs. Pelosi’s 100-hour legislative extravaganza last Tuesday. That day 68 Republicans joined all the Democrats in voting to implement more recommendations from the September 11 commission. They included provisions requiring that homeland-security grants be more risk-based (and less pork-based) and that all U.S.-bound cargo be scanned for radiation in foreign ports. A separate vote, in which eight Republicans joined all the Democrats, established a new intelligence-oversight panel as a subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee. That may not be a bad idea, given that Silvestre Reyes, Mrs. Pelosi’s hand-picked chairman of the House intelligence committee, recently told Congressional Quarterly that he thought al Qaeda was a “predominantly” Shi’ite organization. He had no clue about Hezbollah.

Last Wednesday more than 40 percent of the entire GOP caucus (82 out of 202 Republicans) joined all 233 Democrats in voting to increase the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 over two years. Since the minimum wage was last raised in 1997, congressional salaries, including the pending increase for the 110th Congress, had risen $34,900 per year, or more than three times the annual income ($10,712) of a minimum-wage earner working 40 hours per week 52 weeks per year.

On Thursday, 37 Republicans (nearly one out of five Republicans who voted) joined 216 Democrats to pass legislation to increase federally funded embryonic stem-cell research. Commanding less than 60 percent of the House vote, support for the measure fell below the two-thirds needed to override President Bush’s promised veto. House supporters gained 18 votes, mostly from Democratic freshmen, since the president vetoed an identical bill last year.

On Friday, in the face of another promised White House veto, 24 Republicans (one out of eight GOP representatives voting) joined yet another unanimous Democratic caucus in supporting a bill to require the government to negotiate drug prices on behalf of beneficiaries participating in Medicare’s drug program. With 60 percent of the vote, the measure also failed to attract the two-thirds needed to override a veto.

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