Thursday, January 04, 2007

Give Pelosi and House Democrats Their Due

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the new Democratic majority are promising to enact several major initiatives in the first 100 hours of the new Congress. As the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman summarizes the agenda:

Democrats have given themselves a mere 100 hours to break the bonds between lobbyist and lawmaker, boost homeland security, raise the minimum wage, fund stem cell research, lower prescription drug prices, slash student loan interest rates and free the country from its dependence on international oil.

A hundred hours to pass at least eight significant pieces of legislation and rule changes -- 4.17 days! Heck, Republicans had all year to pass 11 routine spending bills and managed only two. But, hey, who's really counting?

The items the Democrats have chosen to take up in the early days of the new Congress are all worthy of passage and should enjoy strong, bi-partisan support. Raising the minimum hourly wage from $5.15 to $7.25 is long overdue, and cutting student loan interest rates will be a major benefit for recent college graduates overwhelmed by debt. Laying aside short-sighted, ideological considerations by providing funding for stem cell research is a good idea.

Correcting the biggest special interest sell-out in the GOP-led Congress--a provision of the Medicare prescription drug program which bars the federal government from negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical companies--is extremely important. By requiring the federal government to negotiate drug prices for the Medicare program, the government could easily save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars in the coming years. Also, eliminating wasted tax breaks for the oil and gas industries while providing tax breaks for the renewable energy producers will boost the ethanol industry and reduce our reliance on foreign oil. That change will be very good for Indiana's economy.

Equally as important as these other changes are important new ethics reforms the House Democrats intend to adopt to end the "culture of corruption". One of those changes would bar lawmakers from accepting travel on private jets. This big loophole has permitted lawmakers to travel on corporate jets for the price of a first-class airline ticket. The Democrats also plan to ban lobbyist-paid travel and gifts to lawmakers and restrict privately-funded travel. The ethics reforms don't go far enough in my opinion, but they are definitely a step in the right direction to help reduce the influence of lobbyists over lawmakers.


Anonymous said...

I bet the first Democrat sponsored 'Tax & Spend' bill is introduced within 72 hrs.

Anonymous said...

I prefer a legitimate debate over "tax and spend" (is what we want to spend the money on worth the tax) than what we have had for the last several years which is "spend on ourselves, tax the kids."

Anonymous said...

aMEN 1:35.

Let's just hope the Congressional leaders don't take ethics lessons form the Indiana legislature. There, a "commission" appointed by the legislature oversees lobbying expenses and reporting.

Which is all very convenient.

There is a glitch, though, AI--the wire services are reporting that the new rules will extend to all staff, as well. There are hundreds of low-paid reearch and go-fer grunts, who often get taken to lunch by reporters and associations. That's now off the table.

Nothing like smacking the little guys, huh? Gingrich & Co. promised these reforms 12 years ago.

Anonymous said...

The "corporate jet" ban is one thing, what if you have your own plane and the Congressperson (or a staffer) is a licensed pilot?

I know it sounds like a silly question but keep in mind - the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Anonymous said...

I just hope the Senate R's are prepared to filibuster the sh*t out of anything and everything coming their way from the House.

The biggest lesson of the last 13 years is that nothing can happen in the Senate without 60 votes, right?

My proposal: allow Democrat bills to go through ONLY if the new majority allows up or down votes on all of Bush's judicial nominees.

Anonymous said...

"Raising the minimum hourly wage from $5.15 to $7.25 is long overdue"

Well, a $1/hr raise equals: $1/hr*40hrs/week*52weeks/year = $2,080/year more. So we basically just raised the income of min. wage workers $4,368.00/year. That is a pretty decent wage hike. Of course, I am hoping this affects other wages. When do I get my $4K raise? I doubt I ever will. Anyways, the min. wage will affect small business more than anything. My friends who own a fast food shop already pay over min. wage. They said a hike to $7.25 will cost at least one position. Depending on how many folks are working for them, someone may lose their job. I still say this will cause prices to go up. Everyone will disagree, but a .5% hike (if that) in prices will likely cover the wage burden.

Gary R. Welsh said...

anon 5:30, Are you aware the federal minimum wage has not been increased in a decade?