If the current House Page Scandal isn’t enough to convince you that the GOP leadership values its own political fortunes over the welfare of the nation (let alone the youth placed directly in their charge,) take a look at this article in today’s Washington Post about how our legislative agenda was gerrymandered in the interests of vulnerable incumbents just weeks before the November election.
The effort to achieve such successes went to extraordinary lengths last week, even almost bringing down a major defense policy bill. House and Senate negotiators nearly failed to reach agreement on the defense bill, not because of issues such as the prohibition on torture that held up the bill last year, but because of an issue that had nothing to do with national defense — a measure to clamp down on illegal immigrant gangs.
During a rare news conference, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) publicly challenged Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.), saying he would not bring the defense policy bill to the House floor without the gang provision. Asked why Hastert had singled out the gang measure for his stand, one senior House leadership aide pointed to the person standing next to the speaker: freshman Rep. David G. Reichert (R-Wash.), the provision’s author, who is running neck-and-neck with Microsoft executive Darcy Burner.
In the end, Hastert relented, but he offered Reichert a promise to be used on the campaign trail. The gang measure will be one of the first revisited when Congress returns after the election.
Yeah, that’s right. Reichert is so vulnerable that he and Hastert were willing to hold hostage a major defense policy bill in a cynical effort to throw Reichert a campaign bone. Nice priorities.
Of course, the uncomfortably well-biceped Reichert didn’t even have the political muscle to get the bone he so desperately needed, and Hastert doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of delivering on his promise. Regardless of Reichert’s reelection prospects (getting dimmer every day,) Hastert will be out of the Speaker’s chair by the start of the new session, if not the end of the month… and that’s a prediction I invite the folks at (u)SP to tease me about come January.