- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

About the closest the 110th Congress will get to bipartisanship happened yesterday in the House chamber, when newly elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stood beside Minority Leader John Boehner. The media, meanwhile, spent most of the time bemoaning the lack of bipartisanship before Congress even convened, as if somehow the new Congress wouldn’t be business as usual.

For the record, the first partisan shots were fired by the majority-party Democrats, who let it be known that they will not hold hearings nor allow Republicans to offer amendments to House bills, at least for the duration of the Mrs. Pelosi’s “100 hours” legislative plan. The Republicans then spent most of Wednesday charging hypocrisy, due to the Democrats’ campaign promise to have open and fair legislative procedures. Democrats — and the media — then turned around and also screamed hypocrisy. Swell start.

House Republicans knew that complaining about the Democrats’ heavyhanded ways was bound to turn on them. When Republicans tried to introduce the so-called Minority Bill of Rights, which would make House rules mostly independent from which party is in the majority, it didn’t take a historian to note that then-minority leader Mrs. Pelosi had introduced it three times during Republican rule, to no avail.

But what of the hypocrisy charge? Republicans are right in reminding those Democrats screaming “hypocrisy” the loudest that it was Democrats who campaigned on a message of fairness and bipartisanship, not Republicans. They are also right to note that when House Republicans took control in 1995 and began work on the Contract with America that they didn’t, as Democrats have just done, limit minority participation. And before Democrats think they have a mandate to do anything, they should remember one of the real lessons of the 2006 midterm elections: The American public will see stalemate and inaction as the majority party’s problem.

For the next 100 hours, Republicans won’t have much by way of legislative power. What they will still have, however, is a voice, and they should be using it to scrutinize the Democrats’ agenda. For instance, why won’t Democrats allow any debate on how to lower prescription drug prices or the minimum wage? Starting (and ending) Tuesday, Mrs. Pelosi plans on having the House approve most of the recommendations of the September 11 commission. Certainly Republicans have a case to make that national security isn’t an issue one solves in a day?

Another interesting question is how Republicans choose to voice their concerns. So far Republicans appear to be adhering to a tone of moderation. Hypocrisy charges aside, the worst a Republican member came to decrying the Democrats’ elimination of debate was to express “disappointment.” But losing the majority also means losing a great deal of media coverage, which might compel Republicans to up their anger quotient just to be heard.

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