The Beginning Of Accountability

The Washington Examiner is reporting the following today:

A House Republican introduced legislation Wednesday that would make public all legislative branch settlement payments made in the past two decades and would force lawmakers and staff to repay harassment claims settled on their behalf.

The bill, authored by Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., would also prohibit future use of federal funds to pay harassment claims, which is now the practice.

This is long overdue. The practice should not have begun in the first place. There also needs to a private audit of government expenses to see what else Congress has been spending money on that the public is unaware of.

The article further reports:

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., pledged a “comprehensive” examination of harassment problems, beginning with a Dec. 7 hearing in the House Administration Committee. The panel will scrutinize the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act, which instituted a prohibition of discrimination and harassment in the legislative branch.

One thing to keep in mind here is that sometimes a person will simply pay a person bringing charges because it is easier than fighting the charges. That needs to be considered in looking at these cases–how much time would a Congressman lose fighting a charge that wasn’t true? Also, not all of these cases were sexual harassment cases–some were discrimination. Again, how many were settled because it was simply easier than going to court? What we need is a way to distinguish false charges from valid charges so that appropriate actions can be taken. I am not sure Congress is capable of that. However, the bill that Representative De Santis has introduced is a good first step toward ending a pattern of horribly adolescent behavior in Congress. Let’s see if Congress is willing to pass the bill.

Ending Some Of Washington’s Political Gamesmanship

Scott Johnson at Power Line posted an article today about the practice of ‘the blue slip courtesy’ used to block judicial nominees in Congress.

The website judicialnominations.org explains the process:

One way in which senatorial courtesy has manifested itself is something called the “blue slip.” This is a device used by the Senate Judiciary Committee to communicate with the home-state Senators about a nomination to the U.S. courts of appeal or district courts, or to be a U.S. marshal or U.S. attorney. When a nominee is referred to the committee, the committee sends a letter (typically on light blue paper) asking the two home-state Senators to take a position on the nomination. The Senators check off the appropriate box on the sheet—either approve or disapprove—and return the paper to the Judiciary Committee.

The blue slip process is used only by the Senate Judiciary Committee —no other Senate committee uses it for other kinds of nominations. The practice of using blue slips dates back to at least 1917. Since mid-2001, the status of blue slips for each judge nominated have been publicly available on the Web.

It is a matter of some debate how important blue slips are in the confirmation process. The blue slip practice is not a formal part of the Judiciary Committee’s rules, and the determination of just how much weight to give to a Senator’s opposition to a nomination is left largely up to the chair of the committee. Among other issues, the chair will decide whether to honor the objections, voiced through blue-slips, from all home-state senators or just those who belong to the same party as the president.

Unfortunately, the process has been occasionally abused. The Judicial Nominations website explains:

Much also has been written that is critical of the blue-slip system. George  Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley described the system this way:  Blue-slipping is a little known process by which senators can block federal judge nominees from their state. This means that judges who may rule in your case often are selected to meet senatorial, not professional, demands. By simply not returning blue slips sent by the Senate Judiciary Committee, a senator can block a nominee for the most nefarious or arbitrary reasons, including a personal grudge, a bargaining tool with the White House or failure of the nominee to be sufficiently fawning in the senator’s presence.

This courtesy has been misused by both sides–it was not meant as a negotiating tool–it was meant to be a courtesy.

The article at Power Line details some changes that Senator Grassley is making in order to expedite the confirmation of President Trump’s judicial nominees.

Power Line reports:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley announced that he would not let Franken’s withheld blue slip block the nomination of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to the Eighth Circuit (or Senator Kennedy’s block Kyle Duncan to the Fifth Circuit).

Senator Grassley took to the floor of the Senate to explain his disposition of “the blue slip courtesy” and his decision to schedule a committee hearing on the nominations of Stras and Duncan (text of statement here, video below). The Hill reported on Senator Grassley’s statement here.

Washington needs to stop playing games and get its work done. All Congressmen (and Congresswomen) should be paid according to what they actually accomplish. That might actually change how things are done in Congress.

It Would Have Been Nice If They Had Read The Bill Before They Passed It

Breitbart.com reported yesterday that many of the Democrats who formerly supported ObamaCare are now working to undo some of its major parts.

The article reports:

With some of their most influential constituent groups facing onerous tax increases that are slated to help fund the law’s mandates and regulations, Senators like Al Franken (D-MN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), John Kerry (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and others — all of whom voted in favor of the law — are aiming to delay or outright repeal parts of ObamaCare.

The araticle concludes:

…Threatened by these cost-containment provisions, these members of the health care industry are now intent on eliminating this panel, again using “Republican” terminology, like, “The AMA will work to stop the IPAB from causing this type of double-jeopardy situation for physicians and compromising access to care for seniors and baby-boomers.”

It appears many of the groups that originally supported ObamaCare want to be able to have their cake and eat it, too, and Senate Democrats seem poised to allow them to do just that. The question is, without these sources of funding for all the ObamaCare mandates, and without cost-containment, as intrinsically horrific as mechanisms like the IPAB may be, how will the law be implemented at all?

Couldn’t this have all been avoided by reading and studying the bill in the first place?

When Sarah Palin talked about death panels, she was ridiculed. Now some Democrats have realized the danger to senior citizens that death panels in ObamaCare represent. What ObamaCare has essentially done is take money away from Medicare and put it in Medicaid. What this does is simply take away care from senior citizens and add money to poverty programs. I am not opposed to poverty programs, but it seems as if many of them have morphed into alternative career choices for people who do not want to work. It is time to re-evaluate how and where American tax dollars are being spent. Government spending has become a giant hole into which American workers are expected to put their earnings. We need to examine where that money is going and what impact it is having on our culture and society.

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