The historic gains made by the Republicans in the recent elections were in most part due to the popular push towards the First Principles backed by the TEA Party movement. It now seems that some of those establishment Republicans who were up for election might have only temporarily shed their wolf's clothing for that of a sheep's. Even the establishment politicians realize, however, that there may be a price to pay if they go back to their old, status quo spending ways, thus the explanation of widespread support among them for a largely symbolic earmark ban (which does not amount to any significant impact on the nation's fiscal woes). So what else have the establishment Republicans been doing since they captured the House of representatives?
This week, the GOP caucus will finalize committee assignments. Committees are the workshops of Congress, where legislation is debated, tweaked and finalized. Legislation emerging from committees is the legislation that comes to the House floor for a vote. (The Democrats by-passed this process, but the GOP is expected to return to committees to their traditional legislative function.)
But, not all committees are created equal. The House has a group of committees called the “A” committees, through which all significant legislation must pass. These committees are so powerful, there is even a limit on how many of these committees a member may serve.
House GOP Leadership has made it clear; no freshmen need apply for these committees. They are reserving them for the existing members, thank you very much. Not one newly-elected Congressman will serve on any of these committees, according to the House GOP Leadership. The 80+ GOP members just elected will have no voice in any of the debates about spending, taxes, entitlements, bailouts or health care. The incumbent GOP Congressmen, many of whom helped create this mess, will handle it.
This year, freshman members make up about one-third of the GOP caucus. Excluding them from “A” committees is a deliberate action. It requires willful action and jostling of assignments to pull it off. You have to go out of your way to ensure that one-third of a caucus is excluded from these committees. Unfortunately, the House GOP Leadership did go out of its way.
If this GOP Leadership rule prevails, expect a great deal of disappointment next year. As much as it pains me to say this but maybe Barack Obama is partially right; maybe we are just handing the keys back to the same members who drove us into this ditch.