It looks like the Democrats have already broken one of their major campaign pledges. Remember how the Democrats were going to implement all of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission? Now it appears that they have no interest in doing so.
The Democrats have rejected the recommendation that the Congressional oversight of intelligence be overhauled. The 9/11 Commission recommended that the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence be given both oversight and budgetary control — a plan which would mean that lawmakers on the powerful Defense Appropriations Committees would lose a significant amount of authority. Coincidentally, Rep. John Murtha happens to sit on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
For those wondering why Nancy Pelosi’s failed political maneuvers matter, the Post makes it clear:
Democratic leadership dust-ups this month severely limited the ability of House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) to implement the commission’s recommendations, according to Democratic aides.
Pelosi strongly backed Murtha for House majority leader, only to see him soundly defeated by Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (Md.). That chain of events made it difficult for her to ask Murtha, a longtime ally, to relinquish control of the intelligence budget from his consolation prize, the chairmanship of the Appropriations defense subcommittee, according to Democratic sources.
Likewise, a controversy over the choice of a new chairman of the House intelligence committee proved to be a factor in the decision. The Sept. 11 commission urged Congress to do away with traditional term limits on the intelligence committees to preserve continuity and expertise, a recommendation the House implemented in 2003. But in her search for a reason to drop the committee’s most senior Democrat, Jane Harman (Calif.), from the panel, Pelosi fell back on the tradition of term limits. She has decided to pass over the intelligence committee’s second-ranking Democrat, Alcee L. Hastings (Fla.), as well.
To the Sept. 11 commission, the call for congressional overhaul was vital, said former New Jersey governor Thomas H. Kean (R), the commission’s co-chairman. Because intelligence committee membership affords lawmakers access to classified information, only intelligence committee members can develop the expertise to watch over operations properly, he said. But because the panels do not control the budget, intelligence agencies tend to dismiss them.
“The person who controls your budget is the person you listen to,” Kean said.
The Democrats are going to take a lot of political flack for this, especially since the reasons are so clearly political and the breach of the promise so great. The Democrats promised time and time again that they would implement all of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, and now they’re going back on their word when it comes to one of the more vital recommendations. The former Commission members are going to push back on this one, and it’s already put the Democrats in a weakened position before they even formally take power.
At this point, one wonders if the long knives aren’t already being drawn for Speaker Pelosi. Her political allies keep suffering defeats, and with the influx of Democrats coming from relatively conservative districts, being tied to a San Francisco liberal is hardly beneficial. With this latest maneuver, the Democrats have made their first truly high-profile mistake. The leadership battles that Pelosi has lost are mainly inside baseball — most voters don’t care. However, when it comes to failing to keep a key campaign promise, that’s hard to spin.