Tuesday, May 09, 2006


The Washington Post has an interesting article that describes what House Democrats say they will do if they are returned to power in November (article can be read here; free registration required).

The specifics are as follows (with my editorial comments interspersed).
“House Democrats have formulated a plan of action for their first week in control. Their leaders said a Democratic House would quickly vote to raise the minimum wage for the first time since 1997.”

I am ambivalent on this one. On the one hand, it is obvious that most people can not expect to live on today’s minimum wage (especially if one wants to have a house and health insurance). On the other, I think it is fairly well established economic theory that raising the minimum wage will cause employers to create hire fewer low-wage jobs. So which is better: more jobs at lower wages or fewer jobs for better wages?
“It would roll back a provision in the Republicans' Medicare prescription drug benefit that prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services from negotiating prices for drugs offered under the program.”
I know little about this but it seems to make sense to me. I suspect that the absence of such a provision in the original was a sop to the pharmaceutical companies. As long as the government is going to be their biggest customer, big drug companies should at least be compelled to offer a decent deal.
“It would vote to fully implement the recommendations of the bipartisan panel convened to shore up homeland security after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Democratic leaders said.”

Again, I don’t know much about the specifics (which recommendations haven’t been implemented yet?) but this seems reasonable as well. There will doubtless be issues of implementation and enforcement (with plenty of opportunity for corruption, cronyism, earmarks etc.) but if we can’t heed the recommendations of a bipartisan panel on national security, who on earth should we listen to?
“And it would reinstate lapsed rules that say any tax cuts or spending increases have to be offset by spending cuts or tax increases to prevent the federal deficit from growing.”

No problem with this proposal. I suspect, however, that Congress will, as always, find abundant loopholes and exceptions sufficient to keep the gravy train of any individual legislator running as usual.
“Pelosi also vowed "to use the power to investigate" the administration on multiple fronts, starting with the task force convened in secret by Vice President Cheney to devise the administration's energy policy. The administration has successfully fought lawsuits since 2001 that sought to reveal the names of energy company executives tapped to advise the task force.
"Certainly the conduct of the war" in Iraq would be the subject of hearings, if not a full-fledged House investigation, Pelosi said. Another subject for investigation could be the use of intelligence on Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction to make the case for the 2003 invasion.”

Given the relentless use of investigations for obvious partisan reasons during the Clinton Administration (remember Senator Al D’amato’s never-ending parade of subpoenas?), it is hard to not grant the Dems a good deal of leeway in their quest for payback. I think the country would be better off if both sides backed off a bit but I can’t blame the Dems for salivating at the prospect of going after Bush with guns a blazing.
So, all in all, I don’t find myself seriously objecting to these Democratic proposals, despite the fact that I didn’t grow up a member of that particular tribe. I don’t think, however, that these would necessarily be on the top of my to-do list were I contemplating controlling the U.S. House of Representatives.

What would be on the top of yours?

I am also a bit surprised that some of the big issues that have been perennials for the Dems of late (rolling back tax cuts for the rich, bringing our troops home, ratifying Kyoto, going after price-gouging oil companies, etc. etc.) aren’t on this list. Perhaps they are all slated for the second big week.

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