Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Casting a shadow...

Now that's what I'm talking about.

On the heels of the hearings by Rep. John Conyers into voting irregularities in Ohio, the Senate Democrats announce plans for their own independent investigations of administration mismanagement...
WASHINGTON - New Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said Monday his party will launch investigative hearings next year in response to what he said was the reluctance of Republicans to look into problems in the Bush administration.

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Sen. Byron Dorgan , D-N.D., who heads the Democratic Policy Committee, said the first hearing will be at the end of January and he suggested it might focus on contract abuse in Iraq. He said the policy committee, which has held occasional investigative hearings in the past, planned to convene at least one such hearing a month.

Dorgan said that with Republicans controlling the White House and both the House and Senate, "the congressional watchdog remains fast asleep in this Congress."
There's a lot of talk about the Democrats acting as an effective opposition party. It's an important issue, and it seems that there are primary ways to approach it. One is obstructionism, using the filibuster in the Senate, for instance, or trying to use procedural rules and amendments to alter or obstruct legislation in either branch of Congress, or setting up 'war room' operations to reframe or reject the Republicans step by step. All of that is good enough in its own way, I suppose, but there's concern that constant obstructionism will alienate many voters, and those concerns aren't without merit. That's why I've argued that tools like the filibuster should be used sparingly, picking our fights carefully.

The other approach is to operate as a 'shadow government,' something which is more common in parlimentary systems, but which can be used to good effect in ours as well, I think. The kind of hearings that Conyers has conducted and that Reid and Dorgan are talking about are a good example of that approach. Hearings don't need official sanction to have public credibility, if they're conducted in the open and focused on facts. It's an opportunity to demonstrate how our Party would lead if given that official sanction through majority status, and a way to point out the absolute failure of the Republican caucuses to fulfill their responsibilities in the Constitutional system of checks and balances.

Good news, in my book.

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