- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2007

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues have a strange understanding of the concept of time. When they first said “100 hours” what they really meant was “one week,” during which the Democratic majority approved a slew of bills without allowing debate or amendments from Republican members. All would go back to normal, they said, after the “100 hours.” But with this week’s consideration of a $463.5 billion spending bill, we just have to ask: Exactly how long is “100 hours,” Mrs. Pelosi?

As with the initial “100 hours” legislative agenda, the Democratic leadership again did not give Republicans — nor even their own Democratic members — a chance to debate or offer amendments to the omnibus spending bill. Democrats say that’s because they had to pass all the remaining spending bills left over from the Republican Congress as quickly as possible. Fine, but we’re talking about one of the House’s primary responsibilities essentially being driven through without any participation from the members. This bill was written by a small band made up of the House and Senate Democratic leadership team and appropriators — not exactly what we envisioned when the speaker talked about a more “open and accountable” Congress.

Going through the bill itself, it’s not all bad. Democrats are boasting that they stripped the bill of all earmarks (more on this below) and that they froze most federal accounts at 2006 levels. Veterans especially will be happy to learn that this freed money for an extra $3.5 billion in their medical coverage. In terms of these measures actually holding down spending, they’re a drop in the bucket. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see an empowered Democratic majority give the appearance of spending restraint.

As for the Democrats’ pledge that there will be “no congressional earmarks in the joint funding resolution,” that’s not quite true. While stripping the bill of any new earmarks, Democrats left in a host of old ones. These include $44.6 million for a rain forest biosphere project in Iowa left over from 2004; $266 million for previously cancelled earmarks to the Department of Energy; and $50 million to fund public services in Alaska. Democrats denied a proposal from Republican Rep. David Dreier to transfer the money for the biosphere project to help fund health care for veterans.

If Mrs. Pelosi’s idea of running a fairer chamber is to draft legislation in secret and unveil the bill just before a floor vote — with no debate or amendments of course — then her definition of fairness is a warped as her understanding of time.

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