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GOP Congress All About "Purging Democrats and Hobbling Government"

Reporter Carl Hulse signs on to Democratic venting about the "stifling," dissent-squelching Republican Congress.

On Wednesday, Congressional reporter Carl Hulse lets the newly empowered Democrats whine about the GOP's supposedly corrupt years of control of Congress in "With Promises of a Better-Run Congress, Democrats Take on Political Risks."


"Republican rule on Capitol Hill drew to an exhausted end just before dawn on Dec. 9 after lawmakers dispatched a pile of bills that few had read and even fewer had helped write. Democrats say the era of such chaotic and secretive legislating came to a close as well."


Hulse lets us know that a kinder, gentler group is taking over.


"Mrs. Pelosi has consulted with the new Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, in developing initiatives for the year, including a task force to explore independent enforcement of ethics rules. That was in sharp contrast to two years ago, when Republicans - who only grudgingly consulted Democrats - pushed through a set of diluted ethics rules that they were later forced to rescind. Democrats also supported a severance package for senior Republican aides, but the spending was blocked in the last hours of Congress by conservative Republicans."


[...]


"Mr. Frank and Representative Edward J. Markey, a fellow Massachusetts Democrat, pointed to another difference between incoming Democrats and the Republicans who took control in 1995 and saw their mission as one of purging Democrats and hobbling government.


"'Democrats want government to work,' said Mr. Markey, who under the Republican majority was often frozen out despite his senior position on the Energy and Commerce Committee. 'I have not had a conversation where Democrats sit around talking about who they want to get back at.'"


[...]


"Republicans see the ability to force tough votes - which they avoided in the majority by stifling Democratic alternatives - as having two potential benefits: It can put vulnerable Democrats on record with positions that might not be popular at home, or it can fracture the untested Democratic majority."


Hulse goes to a Congress watcher who once worked for a Democratic senator to lambaste the outgoing Republicans.


"But to Congress watchers who grew increasingly outraged over Republican conduct of the House during the rule of Mr. Hastert and the majority leader Tom DeLay, the Democrats are definitely heading in the right direction.


"'The House has been so egregiously run for a number of years that it was seen as contributing both directly and indirectly to the election results,' said Thomas Mann, a Congressional scholar at the Brookings Institution. 'There really is a strong political incentive to try to do business differently.'"


If you believe Hulse, it's going to be a new era of sweetness and light now that the right people - Democrats - are in charge.


"In the House and Senate, the leadership is vowing to conduct full and open conference committees that reconcile differing legislation passed by the two chambers and produce a final bill. In recent years, those sessions have all but disappeared, with senior Republicans hashing out final versions behind closed doors, occasionally adding provisions passed by neither the House nor the Senate. Some of the major legislation approved in the final hours of the past Congress was written in private by just a few lawmakers and aides and rushed to the floor.


"Democrats said the Republican majority typically refused to tell them even where the supposedly bicameral, bipartisan conference sessions were being held.


"'We are going to have conferences with the House,' said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the incoming majority leader, 'real conferences, public conferences, where public issues will be debated and voted upon."


Hulse finally deals with the opposing view, briefly: "Republicans said that Democrats exaggerated the degree to which they were excluded from legislative operations and that the Republican majority was less oppressive than House Democrats had been in the latter part of their 40-year majority before losing power in 1994. And they said that Democrats did not want to work with them but were more interested in scoring political points.


"Democrats disputed those accusations. But even if there is some truth in them, they said, their years in the minority have made them newly sensitive to the need for a more democratic democracy."