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Monday, January 09, 2006

Incumbency Over Ideas - The House GOP's real problems
Tom DeLay deserves credit for taking himself out of the House Majority Leader contest this weekend, even if he did wait until other Members began to force his hand. He has now given his GOP colleagues a chance to reinvigorate their leadership, assuming they're alert enough to realize the dangers facing their majority this November.

On first glance, we're not sure they are. Speaker Dennis Hastert's response this weekend was to issue a press release declaring his sudden passion for "lobbying reform." The Speaker says he wants these "important reforms ready as soon as possible," never mind that they are so important he'd never mentioned them before. The idea seems to be that a ban on lobbyist-paid golf junkets or limits on the House floor privileges of former Members of Congress will prevent the next Jack Abramoff.

This is a junior-achievement version of what Democrats did in responding to the Clinton fund-raising scandals by adopting the cause of "campaign-finance reform." Why is it that whenever Congress gets into an ethics scrape, its first reaction is to further restrict the Constitutional rights of other Americans to influence Members of Congress? We can only hope these "reforms" will be as trivial as they sound.

The real House GOP problem isn't about lobbyists so much as it is the atrophying of its principles. As their years in power have stretched on, House Republicans have become more passionate about retaining power than in using that power to change or limit the federal government. Gathering votes for serious policy is difficult and tends to divide a majority. Re-election unites them, however, so the leadership has gradually settled for raising money on K Street and satisfying Beltway interest groups to sustain their incumbency.

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