Congress hadn’t even officially convened when aggrieved Republicans held not one but two press conferences to complain that Democrats were treating them in the same thuggish, high-handed way they had treated the Democrats, indeed treated them right up until Thursday noon when Congress officially changed hands.
What brought this on was new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plan for a whirlwind 100 legislative hours to enact six bills and some ethics and budget changes. It is meant to demonstrate the Democrats as a take-charge party and to evoke the first 100 days of FDR’s New Deal, an evocation likely to appeal only to history buffs and really elderly Democrats.
The breathtaking hypocrisy of the Republicans’ lament aside, they do have a point, at least with regard to the 100 hours. The bills were selected in meetings closed to the Republicans. The bills were brought to the floor without committee hearings. And Republicans will be given little opportunity to debate the measures, let alone amend them.
It may be smart public relations, but it’s poor legislating. Some of the 100-hour bills, like an increase in the minimum wage, are non-controversial. President Bush and most Republicans support the increase, and indeed a version of the increase passed the House last year. But other measures, like a bill to lower Medicare drug prices that critics say is a backdoor way to introducing price controls, deserve more measured scrutiny.
Let us hope that after 100 hours the Democrats have gotten this out of their system. The Democrats were elected precisely on their pledge that they would not run Congress as the Republicans had. The voters have every right to expect better. Sure, the Republicans had it coming, turnabout’s fair play, what goes around comes around, etc., but an even older rule should apply here: Do unto others …