After the election in November, I wondered whether all the talk from Democratic leaders about finally running things as uniters rather than dividers would ever come to anything. The answer
House Democrats intend to pass a raft of popular measures as part of their well-publicized plan for the first 100 hours. They include tightening ethics rules for lawmakers, raising the minimum wage, allowing more research on stem cells and cutting interest rates on student loans.
But instead of allowing Republicans to fully participate in deliberations, as promised after the Democratic victory in the Nov. 7 midterm elections, Democrats now say they will use House rules to prevent the opposition from offering alternative measures, assuring speedy passage of the bills and allowing their party to trumpet early victories.
The "but you did it first, so it's ok for me to do it too" mentality seems to have replaced Speaker Pelosi's earlier assurances that things would change with Democrats involved. A lot of people voted for Democrats to get the Republicans out of control. Issues of corruption and how government is run were front and center, even if those weren't the only issues people cared about. This move, therefore, seems to me to frustrate the intent of those voters who wanted to remove Republicans from control of Congress primarily because they were led to believe Democrats would do things differently. They should feel betrayed.
The article goes on to show how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in contrast to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), is going to be true to his word and to the spirit of the election. Some House Democrats, including at least one committee chair, will be joining him in demonstrating sincerity with respect to the complaints about Republican leadership that the Democrats have been making for years. Pelosi and Hoyer, on the other hand, must have had no interest in the principle behind their complaints, since they're happy to continue the same practices. They just didn't like its consequences for them and their favored policies.
I should note that they're saying the iron fist rule will only last for their initial agenda, and then they'll let the Republicans have some influence, but that's like saying that it's wrong for someone to slander you but then to do it back for a short time before calling it quits after you've had some fun with it. If it's wrong to do it, then it's wrong to do it for a brief time before stopping it later. Don't say it's wrong to do it to begin with if you aren't going to refrain from doing it yourself when you get the opportunity. It also raises doubts about how serious they are about stopping it once they're done with their initial fun. So I have to say that this is at best an inconsistency and probably something more like outright hypocrisy. It's hard to make the hypocrisy call, since everyone stumbles and does something they consider wrong. Real hypocrisy takes some sort of track record of speaking against it while doing it. Whether this is hypocrisy depends on how long they've been contemplating doing things this way and how long they will end up doing it, and we can't know either of those things right now. So it may be hypocrisy, but it's an inconsistency either way and one they've been unwilling to back down on once it's been brought into the public light. That at least moves it closer to hypocrisy.
On the other hand, certain Republicans really have no right to complain except to point out the inconsistency (and possibly hypocrisy) of the Democratic House leadership. They have no right to complain on principle, since they did the same thing. Republicans who weren't part of that still can't complain on behalf of the Republicans in general either, though they can state that it is wrong if they didn't personally endorse it. Also, the following position is neither inconsistent nor hypocritical: "There really isn't anything wrong with the way the Republicans ran the House for 12 years, but those who acted as if it was wrong cannot themselves then go and do the same thing." If the Republican complaints are restricted to that sort of thing, I wholeheartedly endorse them.
The iron fist rule of the House isn't the only issue. Corruption, probably an issue even more on the minds of voters in November, has been a real problem for Democrats too. How serious is Speaker Pelosi going to be about ethics cleanups? She's already shown her favor for people with known ethics issues in her choices for high positions. She favored Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) for Majority Leader, despite his Abscam problems. He didn't get the position, but not because Pelosi had anything to do with it. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) had been in line to chair the Intelligence Committee, but Pelosi in his case ended up finally giving in to pressure not to give him that job because of his ethics problems in the 80s as a judge. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), her choice to chair the Judiciary Committee, has issues with using Congressional staff for a number of personal uses, including some pretty grievous use of Congressional staff for babysitting and even full time nanny duties. Again, Republicans may well have no platform from which to complain except to point out the hypocrisy on the part of the Democratic leaders who have been fashioning themselves to be above this stuff. But I do think that point ought to be made. We've traded corruption for corruption, and conservatives and moderates who voted for Democrats on issues unrelated to policy should now be regretting what they've helped cause. Not only did they not achieve what they wanted, but they allowed people with very different policy goals to take control.