That was the easy part. Taking over the Congress, that is. Let's face the truth here: Scoring a triumph over Republicans who themselves were impatient with the Republican record during an unpopular war was no great achievement, despite the great deal of celebrating that it prompted among Democratic partisans. Indeed, the startling thing would have been if, under these circumstances, the Democrats hadn't prevailed.See what I mean? It's like your dad saying, "Good job! You didn't screw up as badly as you could have. Congratulations!"
But they did, and though only a few days have passed since the big moment, a sobering wave should be passing through Democratic ranks right about now. They have Capitol Hill, the great prize. But power brings responsibility and, even in a system that permits and perhaps even encourages divided government, the burden now passes to the Democrats. They have to do something with that power besides reward themselves with chairmanships and patronage and the psychic rewards of office.He then tut-tuts the first few days:
The Democrats have a plan for the first few days, and much of it involves getting sworn in and swearing not to do as the Republicans have done. That is not good enough. If they are looking at their 2006 victory as a staging ground for 2008, which is the political way of doing things, they are going to maneuver the president into one uncomfortable corner after another for the pure recreational value of it all. If, on the other hand, they look at last week's victory as a chance to change the country, there's going to be a lot less recreation but perhaps some value.Good thing there's The New York Times has an article that answers all of Shribman's concerns. The Democrats plans can be summed up in a nearly forgotten word in Dubya's DC: Oversight.
Congressional Democrats say they will press new legislation next week to restore the power of a federal agency in charge of ferreting out waste and corruption in Iraq and greatly increase its investigative reach.Ah oversight. It's a beautiful word, isn't it?
The bills, the first of what are likely to be dozens of Democratic efforts to resurrect investigations of war profiteering and financial fraud in government contracting, could be introduced as early as Monday morning.
The move would nullify a Republican-backed provision, slipped into a huge military authorization bill, that set a termination date for the agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. The agency’s findings have consistently undermined Bush administration claims of widespread success in the reconstruction of Iraq.
Oversight, the power wielded by Congressional committees to demand information and internal documents and to haul executive branch officials to hearings, by subpoena if necessary, is reverberating through Congress as a Democratic battle cry.
Conservatives had been screaming, Chicken Little-like, in the weeks before the election about the flurry of subpoenas they expected to see. But isn't that what's supposed to happen? Congressional Oversight?
Something that has been lacking entirely in Dubya's DC:
The current Congress has shown no inclination to investigate the Bush administration. Last year The Boston Globe offered an illuminating comparison: when Bill Clinton was president, the House took 140 hours of sworn testimony into whether Mr. Clinton had used the White House Christmas list to identify possible Democratic donors. But in 2004 and 2005, a House committee took only 12 hours of testimony on the abuses at Abu Ghraib.But back to the Times. Other examples of oversight:
In the Senate, Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is in line to become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that seeking a new strategy for Iraq would be his primary focus, but that he would also look carefully at military contracting.And
“There have been serious allegations and evidence of misconduct among suppliers,” Mr. Levin said. “And the taxpayers, of course, get socked on that. And the troops are not properly taken care of when that happens.”
The imperative to investigate financial misdeeds extends beyond the military. Congressional aides said that the House government reform committee under Representative Henry A. Waxman of California might also investigate spending related to domestic security and the response to Hurricane Katrina.Oversight. A lovely beautiful important word.
The Appropriations Committee, which is likely to be led by Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, is likely to review more closely spending like large supplementary requests for Iraq and Afghanistan.
In addition, after the negative political fallout of corruption cases involving lawmakers, the Appropriations Committee is under pressure to curtail earmarks, which are spending measures for specific projects not sought by a federal agency but sponsored by a lawmaker — sometimes anonymously and often for a financial supporter.