Democrats Abandon Their Promises Even Before They Take Control
Well, it's no surprise that the Democrats are backing down from their campaign promises (they are politicians, after all), but couldn't they at least wait until they were actually in control of Congress? No, indeed. They have already reneged on their promise to implement all of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations:
Democrats and intelligence
Copyright 2006, Chicago Tribune. All Rights Reserved.
12-04-2006 13:36 EST
One of the main themes in the Democrats' campaign for Congress was a simple one: Fight the war on terrorism by implementing all the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The American people gave them the chance to do that by awarding them control of both houses of Congress. But when it comes to translating the 9/11 Commission's agenda into policy, congressional Democrats are asking: Who, us?
Among the panel's proposals was to streamline the congressional system for monitoring and financing the federal government's various intelligence agencies. "Congressional oversight for intelligence--and counterterrorism--is now dysfunctional," it concluded. "So long as oversight is governed by current congressional rules and resolutions, we believe the American people will not get the security they want and need."
The biggest problem identified by the commission is that the committees overseeing the intelligence agencies are not the ones that control their funding. That job lies with the armed services and appropriations committees. This division of labor has two bad consequences.
The first is that intelligence committees lack the leverage they need to force the intelligence agencies to heed their concerns. As commission Chairman Thomas Kean told The Washington Post, "The person who controls your budget is the person you listen to."
The second is that the people who control the money are too busy to give much attention to intelligence. Kean recalled Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, saying it rarely spends more than 10 minutes a year on the intelligence budget.
The commission urged that Congress transfer budgetary authority to the intelligence committees, reduce the size of the committees to give each member a greater stake and let members serve indefinitely so they can develop greater expertise on the subject. The intent was to make the oversight process simpler, more effective and more accountable.
But apparently House Democrats have concluded that protecting America is not as important as protecting the turf of their incoming committee chairmen.
The Post reports that intelligence reorganization has been dropped from the package of measures planned for the opening days of the new Congress. Said Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), chairman of the defense subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee and an ally of incoming Chairman John Murtha (D-Pa.), "I don't think that suggestion is going anywhere."
In a September letter to Speaker Dennis Hastert, Democratic House leaders said the commission's agenda had to be "fully implemented" because "our first responsibility is to keep the American people safe." If that's no longer the case, Democrats should let the public know.
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