Thursday, November 30, 2006

Regarding 9/11 commission recommendations, it's not as if there won't be a big difference in what the Democrats pursue--just don't expect miracles


"Of all our recommendations, strengthening congressional oversight may be among the most difficult and important. So long as oversight is governed by current congressional rules and resolutions, we believe the American people will not get the security they want and need."
--from the report of the 9/11 commission

What this recommendation entails, explains Jonathan Weisman in today's Washington Post, is--

grant[ing] the House and Senate intelligence committees the power not only to oversee the nation's intelligence agencies but also to fund them and shape intelligence policy. The intelligence committees' gains would come at the expense of the armed services committees and the appropriations panels' defense subcommittees. Powerful lawmakers on those panels would have to give up prized legislative turf.

And that, it turns out, is no more going to happen in a Democratic-controlled Congress than it was going to in a Republican-controlled one.

"I don't think that suggestion is going anywhere," said Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) [right], the chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee and a close ally of the incoming subcommittee chairman, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.). "That is not going to be their party position."

Note the casual description of this change as a "suggestion," as if the commission had suggested changing all ice cream served on Capitol Hill from vanilla and chocolate to mocha almond raisin. This isn't quite how the commission members see it.

"The Democrats pledged to implement all the remaining 9/11 reforms, not some of them," said former representative Timothy J. Roemer (D-Ind.) [left], who served on the commission.

Does it really matter?

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 do plan to implement many other commission recommendations that were brushed aside by the Republican leadership in Congress. This one, however, appears to go just too far.