Now that the Democrats have won both houses of Congress there is much speculation about whether they will promote an era of good will and cooperation between the parties. Some of the legislation planned will probably meet with general approval and be veto proof – – raising the minimum wage, instituting real ethics reform and making sure bills are not loaded with earmarks and not written by lobbyists and that they can actually be read before being put to a vote.
On the other hand, if the president insists on re-nominating John Bolton to the U.N. he will have a fight on his hands and not just from Democrats. Lincoln Chafee, R. Rhode Island, has already said he will not vote to confirm, and the same issues that dominated the first nomination debate will be raised even more vehemently this time around.
Bolton’s term expires in January when a new Congress convenes so if his nomination fails before then the president will have to come up with a new candidate or wait until Congress is in recess once again, presumably some time after it meets for the first time in 2007. According to Paul C. Light, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who is a specialist in executive branch staffing, “It is highly unusual to use [the recess-appointment power] at this level”, i.e. a U.N. Ambassador, the power being used most often to appoint lower-level officials. (Washington Post, 8/2/2005) In any case, it would seem odd to make such an appointment during the coming holiday recess when Bolton’s current term would not have expired, and if, after that, the president reappoints him during a later recess Bolton would be required, by law, to work without pay for the final two years of his term.
Of course this president does and says odd things all the time. After the election he essentially said he had lied to the press when he said Rumsfeld had his support and would serve until the end of his presidency because he didn’t want it to seem as if he were trying to influence the election. Since when did anyone in this administration ever shrink from using all manner of means to influence voters – – fear, phony terror alerts, voter intimidation, push-polling, the list is endless. His party is furious with him because many candidates who lost think it would have helped them if the president had announced his decision before the election.
One can’t help wondering that had the election turned out differently and Republicans had hung on if there would have been such an announcement the day after the results were in. In other words was the president lying ‘then’ or is he lying now? It could be that he and his advisors decided to beat Democrats to the punch before the new majority forced his hand and called on him to fire Rumsfeld – – another of those Bush pre-emptive strikes. I guess we’ll have to wait for the next tell-all book to know for sure.
But right beside Iraq as an issue on the electorate’s mind was corruption – – some of it obvious and easy to understand, some of it so subterranean it defied the power of ordinary people to grasp and so complicated most voters had neither the time nor the will to plumb the depths of congressional corruption and lobbyists’ influence. But one thing they knew well enough, something was terribly wrong in Washington. As Hendrik Hertzberg put it in The New Yorker, 11/6/06,
“That the record is appalling is now beyond dispute” and includes a huge deficit, a rising national debt, “… the subcontracting of environmental, energy, labor and health-care policy-making to corporate interests; repeated efforts to suppress scientific truth…and on Capitol Hill, a festival of bribery, some prosecutable (such as felonies that have put one prominent Republican member of Congress in prison, while another awaits sentencing), some not (such as the reported two-million-dollar salary conferred upon a Republican congressman who became the pharmaceutical industry’s top lobbyist immediately after shepherding into law a bill forbidding the government to negotiate prices for prescription drugs.”
One of the announced priorities on the Democratic agenda is to reconsider Prescription Drug Plan D. The inability to negotiate for lower prices, as is done with veterans’ benefits, precludes one of government’s obvious assets in this instance, it size. The current plan simply represents in the eyes of many, a gift to the pharmaceutical industry, an industry that is one of the most profitable in the world and whose marketing expenditures far exceed its research and development outlays. Already many beneficiaries are hitting the “doughnut hole” in their coverage which, oddly, is based not on the discounted price they may have paid but rather on the higher list price of the drug purchased.
Hopefully the Democratic leadership will be able to make some headway in reforming congressional excesses and weaknesses, their own included. Hypocrisy has been a feature of this administration and this congress. Voters proved they are ready for change and will be unforgiving if none occurs.

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