Friday, October 27, 2006

I've Got a Little List

Michael Crowley in TNR:
    As the Lord High Executioner said in The Mikado, 'I have a little list.'" So says John Dingell, the 26-term Michigan House Democrat who spent 14 years as a mighty committee baron before the 1995 Republican Revolution booted him into the powerless minority. At last poised to reclaim his House Energy and Commerce Committee gavel, the 80-year-old Dingell now sounds like a man who can't wait for 2007. Though he knows a House Democratic majority won't pass much legislation, especially given George W. Bush's veto pen, his chairmanship means he can subject the Bush administration to high-profile committee hearings--lots and lots of them.

    "Privacy," he begins. "Social Security-number protection. Outsourcing protection. Unfair trade practices. Currency manipulation. Air quality. We'll look at the implementation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. We'll take a look at climate change. We'll take a look at [the Department of Energy's] nuclear waste program, where literally billions of dollars are being dissipated. We'll look at port security and nuclear smuggling, where there's literally nothing being done. We'll look at the Superfund program. We'll take a look at EPA enforcement." He pauses for a breath--but he's just getting started: "On health, we'll take a look at Medicaid and waivers. The Food and Drug Administration. Generic drug approval. Medical safety. We'll also take a look at food supplements, where people are being killed. We will look at Medicare Part D [prescription drugs]." Is that all? "Telecom. We'll look at FCC actions. ... Media ownership. Adequate spectrum for police, fire, public safety, and addressing the problems of terrorism. ... We will look also at the overall question of Katrina recovery efforts."


    But the curious thing about Dingell's little list is that it targets policies--not people. While some Democrats may dream of hauling Karl Rove to the Hill to discuss Plamegate or forcing Dan Bartlett to testify about Dick Cheney's hunting accident, Dingell is one of a number of future Democratic chairs who plan to focus on substance, not sideshows. And, as strange as it sounds, this may not come as a relief to Republicans. The GOP would love nothing more than for Democrats to go off on half-cocked, mean-spirited inquisitions that generate sympathy for the hapless Bushies. Alas, the GOP's conduct during the Clinton years has provided Democrats with a near-perfect what-not-to-do manual.
Just a glimpse of what the payoff for another 12 days' of hard work might be.
    He's got 'em on the list — he's got 'em on the list;
    And they'll none of 'em be missed — they'll none of 'em be missed.

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