Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Good news on the Social Security front: House Republicans are not impervious to public pressure.

It is well known that elections to the US Congress -- and particularly to the US House of Representatives -- have become less and less competitive as the decades have worn on. In fact, today House districts are so gerrymandered and the American public is so segregated economically and culturally that House elections are more like elections to the USSR's old Supreme Soviet than anything else. In 2004, 210 House seats were won by landslide (>20% margin), a mere 37 House members won with less than 55% of the vote (a commonly used line to measure vulnerability in the next election), and but 7 incumbents lost -- 4 of those because of Tom DeLay's Texas redistricting.

I have long been afraid that because of the incredibly uncompetitive nature of US congressional elections, House Republicans in particular were immune to voter opinion. Destroying Social Security sure isn't a popular idea, but in this system popularity seems to be the least important characteristic of a member of Congress.

However, this has at least marginally restored my flagging faith in American democracy and the future of Social Security.
Stung by criticism that they were lowering ethical standards, House Republicans on Monday night reversed a rule change that would have allowed a party leader to retain his position even if indicted. . . .

When they rewrote party rules in November, Republicans said they feared that Mr. DeLay could be subjected to a politically motivated indictment as part of a campaign finance investigation in Texas that has resulted in charges against three of his associates. The decision, coupled with other Republican proposals to rewrite the ethics rules, drew fierce criticism from Democrats and watchdogs outside the government, who said the Republican majority was subverting ethics enforcement.

Lawmakers said the party had also abandoned a proposed ethics change that would have effectively eliminated the broad standard that lawmakers not engage in conduct that brings discredit on the House, a provision that has been the basis for many ethics findings against lawmakers. . . .

. . . Republicans unanimously agreed to restore the old rule after Mr. DeLay told them that the move would clear the air and deny Democrats a potent political issue.
Put this alongside the Republicans' capitulation on the intelligence bill last month and you've got a least a sliver of a reson to believe that serious pressure on House Republicans in the Northeast, Midwest and maybe even Appalachia could doom the Boy King's Social Security deform program.

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