Sunday, November 19, 2006

Cleaning House

Well, the Democrats did it - they took back the House, and they have a razor-thin majority in the Senate. Really razor-thin when it will rely on Joe Lieberman, who lost the Democratic primary and went on to win his seat back not only without party support but with the Democrats supporting his opponent. Great start, guys. Actually, if I could say one thing to each member of the Democratic leadership, it would be Han Solo's advice to Luke Skywalker: "Don't get cocky."

Just to illustrate this, we now have Charlie Rangel, newly elected chief of the House Ways and Means committee, all set to reinstate the draft, a move that polls have shown is opposed by 70% of the American public. Nancy Pelosi is reported to be a great political leader. Surely she must see what a disastrous idea this is. Mind you, this isn't a new idea for Mr. Rangel - he's been pushing it for years. But if Pelosi can't herd her cats any better than this, the Democrats may have a very short time in power this round.

Mr. Rangel's chairmanship of Ways and Means illustrates something else that worries me about this Democratic takeover. Look at the list of committee chairmen. The Dems have stuck with straight seniority for chairmanships: that means there are only 2 committee chairmen under 60 (and none under 55), Kent Conrad of N. Dakota at Budget, and Tim Johnson of S. Dakota at Ethics. Furthermore, three of the new chairmen are over 80: Akaka and Inouye of Hawaii, and Byrd of West Virginia. I have the greatest respect for these men, especially Dan Inouye, but how about some new blood and new ideas?? I objected to Phil Angelides, as I've said elsewhere, because of my feeling that he ran for governor because it was "his turn." This is just more of the same: people are chosen to run the Congress, and the country, based on time in office, and we don't get the full benefits of any ideas the new folks might have.

I'm not arguing for legislative term limits. They are a disastrous idea, and the California legislature is the primary example of it. The only term limits we need are the ones we impose when we vote the rascals out. (Fairly drawn district boundaries and public financing of campaigns would help, too...) But I do think that the party and the country would benefit if legislative committee chairmanships rotated after a set number of years.

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