Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pelosi & Co. ditch committee term limits

In a triumph of seniority over merit, the U.S. House -- led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- officially ditched committee chair term limits with the passage of a new rules package on Jan. 6.

Term limits on committee chairs was originally passed in 1995 as part of the GOP's Contract with America. Over 80 percent of House members voted in favor of the rule. And as polling from October shows, the public's desire for term limits has not diminished one bit since that time.

Ironically, the biggest losers from the regression to unlimited tenure are the relatively conservative 'blue dog' Democrats, the stars of the 2006 elections that put the Democrats back in control of the House. But these new Congressmen are now being pushed to the back of the bus, as the senior leadership will now control the levers of power indefinitely.

Yes, the new rules package is a power grab pure and simple. Call it a re-centralization of power.

The move is also a dramatic reversal of Pelosi's position just a few years ago. Back in 2004 while in the minority, Rep. Pelosi was quite eloquent about adding additional protections of minority rights under House rules. As John Fund pointed out in the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 9, Rep. Pelosi was making a valid point. For example, in 2003 he majority Republicans held an open roll call vote for three hours on their unfortunate Medicare drug entitlement until they twisted enough arms to get the votes they needed.

But now in power, she has thrown that old rhetoric out the window. Something tells me this is not the change voters were clamoring for in November.