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11-04-2010, 09:14 AM   #1
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Jim DeMint's advice to freshman Repub. senators: avoid committee assignments

Sen. Jim DeMint's cynical advice to incoming Tea Partiers. - By Timothy Noah - Slate Magazine

QuoteQuote:
Corrupting Committees
Sen. Jim DeMint's cynical advice to incoming Tea Partiers.
By Timothy Noah

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., probably the only Tea Party incumbent on Election Day, was re-elected by a comfortable margin of 61 percent to 28 percent. With little need to worry about his own prospects, he concentrated on writing a Wall Street Journal op-ed ("Welcome, Senate Conservatives") advising freshman tea partiers on how to navigate the moral cesspool atop Capitol Hill (where he has labored for more than a decade, first in the House and, since 2005, in the Senate). Most of DeMint's advice is benign and predictable (don't get co-opted by lobbyists; don't request earmarks; hire likeminded staff; don't value re-election above all else). Some of it is a dig at Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell ("don't seek titles"). But one recommendation on his list struck me as novel: Avoid committee assignments.

"[B]eware of committees," DeMint wrote. "Committee assignments can be used as bait to make senators compromise on other matters. Rookie senators are often told they must be a member of a particular committee to advance a certain piece of legislation. This may be true in the House, but a senator can legislate on any matter from the Senate floor."

What's new isn't DeMint's suggestion that committee membership matters more in the House (which has 335 more members and keeps a tighter rein on floor action) than in the Senate. Rather, it's DeMint's conclusion that because committee membership matters somewhat less in the Senate, it should be avoided altogether. This is a new, bracingly nihilistic notion about what it means to be a U.S. senator.

"I never heard the avoid-committee advice before," the Brookings Institution's Thomas Mann, who's forgotten more about the U.S. Congress than I'll ever know, informed me by e-mail. "Committees are less important in the Senate than in the House," Mann agreed, "but still essential for getting into the guts of legislation and learning something about the substance of programs and their implementation."

"Perhaps," Mann mused, DeMint "is afraid that his new minions will go native on committees and dilute their role in the revolutionary vanguard." Action equals corruption. Mere knowledge equals corruption. Ignorance is strength.

DeMint (whose office ignored my request that he elaborate) would probably dispute this interpretation. After all, "a senator can legislate on any matter from the Senate floor"! But that's a ridiculous exaggeration. Legislating from the floor typically means introducing either an amendment or a filibuster. Amendments, Mann notes, "aren't really a satisfactory alternative" to crafting a bill and seeing it through the committee process, "especially given the filibuster-induced paralysis in the Senate chamber." Not unless—could it be?—paralysis through filibuster or the sponsorship of mischievous killer amendments is the whole idea. DeMint wrote his op-ed before the election results were in and probably assumed (somewhat disloyally, it seems to me) that the Democrats would maintain their Senate majority, which they did. He therefore assumed it would remain necessary for any self-respecting Republican to emulate Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff, who sings in the Marx Brothers' Horse Feathers, "Whatever It Is, I'm Against It."

Does DeMint actually mean what he's saying, or is he simply posturing, trying to establish himself as more contemptuous of bipartisanship than any other member? Well, let's take a look at his own committee memberships. He's on the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee; the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; the Foreign Relations Committee (perhaps the clubbiest in the entire U.S. Senate); and the Joint Economic Committee. That's four. I asked Mann: Is four a lot, or a little? "The mean number of standing committee assignments in the Senate is 3.4," Mann explained. In other words, DeMint sits on slightly more committees than the average senator. If you count subcommittees, Mann added, the mean number of committee assignments is 11.7. DeMint sits on 10 subcommittees—on three of them he's the ranking member; that is, the Republican most likely to consort with the Democratic enemy—bringing his total up to 14. That's more than two committees above the average!

We must conclude that either DeMint hates himself for being unable to overcome a debilitating committee-sitting addiction or he's a hypocrite offering advice that he would never be foolish enough to follow himself.


11-04-2010, 09:27 AM   #2
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Clearly, DeMint maintains an admirable naivete when he comes to the Senate and allows himself to be drafted into all these committees and subcommittees by some slick older Senators eager to make him "compromise on other matters". I wonder what his compromises on other matters are?
11-04-2010, 10:31 AM   #3
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11-04-2010, 02:03 PM   #4
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Yeah, the GOP sure weren't avoiding 'Committee assignments' when they crafted the non-single-payer 'Obamacare' plan that did very little of what the people wanted.

Pretty clearly he wants to keep the 'tea partiers' loud and ideological... in the sausage *sales* and away from the sausage-making. Wouldn't want em exposed to any realities or anything.

11-04-2010, 02:09 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ratmagiclady Quote
Yeah, the GOP sure weren't avoiding 'Committee assignments' when they crafted the non-single-payer 'Obamacare' plan that did very little of what the people wanted............
It wasn't the GOP that passed it, or signed it into law though, was it?
If the Republicans actually crafted the bill then the fact that they voted for it means:

1. They voted for a bill that they didn't like, or want signed into law.
or
2. They actually liked the bill, but new the public wouldn't so they let the Republicans write it so they (Dems) wouldn't have to take responsibility for it.
or
3. They passed it without knowing what it actually said.

Any one of them that voted for passage under any one of those three circumstances has no business holding public office.

Last edited by Parallax; 11-04-2010 at 02:19 PM.
11-04-2010, 02:52 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Parallax Quote
It wasn't the GOP that passed it, or signed it into law though, was it?
If the Republicans actually crafted the bill then the fact that they voted for it means:

1. They voted for a bill that they didn't like, or want signed into law.
or
2. They actually liked the bill, but new the public wouldn't so they let the Republicans write it so they (Dems) wouldn't have to take responsibility for it.
or
3. They passed it without knowing what it actually said.

Any one of them that voted for passage under any one of those three circumstances has no business holding public office.

Actually, what it means is that the actual committee positions as well as corporate leverage and media circus were used to prevent getting done what people *voted for,* and made it impossible to get much of what was really needed.

The 'Obamacare' stuff was basically a fraction of what people *wanted,* but was all that would be allowed to go through: in fact, people hate 'Obamacare' when the Obama name is stuck on it, but actually highly approve of what's left of the 'liberal' plan *in it.*

So much for 'Bipartisan,' which the Right was clamoring for, is what it really is.

There's also the simple fact that without the much-decried by many conservo's here *Public Option,* the rest was more or less just going begging to the corporations, who were whining that not having the country *entirely* over the barrel was both 'Unfair competition, boo hoo,' and 'Communism!'

Which is to say, without a public option, if the corporations didn't *like* anything, they could basically just say, 'Well, now we 'have' to make it worse. To preserve our profits. While dumping the unprofitable on the public bill. even if they paid for coverage.'

The whole darn *point* was that the corporations couldn't have total control of the people's money.

People *didn't* want 'Obligatory buying of corporate insurance,' they wanted government to provide other *options.* Real ones.

The long and short of it is that the *original* 'Obamacare' that Obama actually ran on was *very* popular, until the Republicans gutted it in committee. It's still somewhat better, and not as 'costly' as some claimed people should believe it is, especially compared to 'doing nothing about the rampant insurance industry that wants more and more money to provide no real insurance,' but it's funny how *De Mint* of all people is warning against the 'corruptibility of committees.'

Last edited by Ratmagiclady; 11-04-2010 at 03:04 PM.
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