[Mb-civic] NYTimes.com Article: Duty Chafes on Capitol Hill

michael at intrafi.com michael at intrafi.com
Wed Sep 8 09:31:27 PDT 2004

The article below from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by michael at intrafi.com.

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Duty Chafes on Capitol Hill

September 8, 2004


Congress has eased in from a six-week recess of politicking
with the reform of the nation's bedeviled intelligence
system clearly crying out as the lawmakers' top priority.
But don't count on that happening quickly or effectively
without some serious pressure. Election Day beckons, and
Republican leaders are already wasting precious time on one
more go at their oldie-but-goodie election-year issues -
restricting abortion rights, reducing judgments from
lawsuits, and protecting the flag and the Pledge of
Allegiance - with one new partisan meat scrap tossed in:
banning same-sex marriages. (In shameful contrast, the
renewal of the proven assault-weapons ban, which expires
Monday, is nowhere in the homeland security priorities of
either the Republican-led Congress or President Bush.) 

Lawmakers promise a serious attempt at intelligence reform,
but it's clear that enormous heat will be needed in the
next few weeks from alarmed voters, the 9/11 commission
members and the powerful voices of 9/11 victims' families,
who organized themselves into a political force after the
terrorist attacks rewrote the nation's agenda in blood. 

Key lawmakers are already cherry-picking among the 41
recommendations of the 9/11 panel. Some are even balking at
creating a national intelligence director and ending the
Pentagon's stranglehold on $40 billion in intelligence

The bipartisan report's parallel warning that Congress must
reform itself to apply true intelligence oversight is
flat-lining so far on Capitol Hill as rival committee
leaders defend a checkerboard full of impotent fiefs. House
leaders are hoping to at least attract voters' interest by
changing the homeland security financing bill, notably with
a fairer distribution of money to the areas facing the
greatest risk of terrorist attacks. We, of course, commend
that possibility, which seemed to gain momentum after
Republican conventioneers met last week so near to ground
zero. But there is real concern that legislative bargaining
will feature a countereffort from lawmakers who are
determined to keep feeding homeland security pork to
unthreatened areas. 

A month or so remains for Congress to tackle these pressing
issues, not to mention the appropriation bills that finance
government, and huge highway and corporate tax bills. Yet
lawmakers hope to quit within a month to see to their own
re-elections. It's disheartening to hear Congress already
sounding resigned to a "lame duck" session after Election
Day to get the work done. 

If the vital issue of intelligence reform is allowed to
drift toward that political limbo by Congress and the
president, the ultimate cost to the nation could prove
profound. Better that Congress stay on the job and let
voters judge the results. 



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