Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Washington has changed, not me

From the March 24 Edition of The Fresno Bee:

Since the Democrats gained their majorities in Congress in November 2006, the atmosphere in Washington has changed; not me. This change was not just in leadership but in tactics.

Fresno Bee columnist Bill McEwen wrote Tuesday that I have become cartoon-like in my rhetoric; a caricature of my real self. However, to reach this conclusion one must first ignore the record of the Democratic-controlled House under Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Consider, for example, the widely reported comments of Rep. Alcee Hastings, Speaker Pelosi's Rules Committee point man for "legislative process."

During a March 21 hearing, Congressman Hastings said, "There ain't no rules around here, we're trying to accomplish something. And therefore, when the deal goes down, all of this talk about rules -- we make them up as we go along."

You might be surprised to learn that Rep. Hastings is a former federal judge. Former -- not retired -- because he was impeached by a Democratic-controlled Congress in 1989 for bribery and perjury. It is oddly appropriate that he would serve on the Rules Committee. Even worse, these remarks occurred during the historic health-care debate, and preceded passage of a law that enabled the government to take control of one-sixth of our economy.

In my experience, there are few words that describe Speaker Pelosi's tactics better than "totalitarian." Indeed, the word conveys both the personal nature of her leadership, as well as the greater implications of a political philosophy operating on the basis of "the ends justify the means."

I use "totalitarian" because it describes what is happening in the Peoples' House. The word means: "Of or pertaining to a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion."

To be sure, the tone of public debate has grown increasingly shrill. However, to simply characterize my rhetoric as "cartoon-like" misses the very real horror inflicted on the American people by one-party rule under the Democrats. That horror has manifested itself in the transformation of the Peoples' House into an institution used solely for the benefit of the political left.

For the first time in the history of our republic, the House has not permitted debate under an "open rule" on any legislation. Closed rules have permitted Democratic leaders to hide their agenda from the American people. It has also made the resolution of serious challenges confronting the American people, such as the California water crisis, virtually impossible. For example, I have repeatedly been blocked from offering legislation or amendments that would resolve the water crisis facing the San Joaquin Valley.

At the same time, these oppressive rules have been used to pass highly controversial and far-reaching public laws that would have otherwise not passed -- or at least, not in the form in which they were enacted. The only bipartisan vote that occurred was in opposition to the health-care bill. This clearly demonstrates that the legislation would have looked different if the House were permitted to reflect the will of the people.

It is a travesty that the House -- a body our Founders' intended to be responsive to the will of the people -- is no longer an institution of debate. It is not a place for the free-flowing exchange of ideas.

I have witnessed the worst character of government and have fought to implement reforms in the face of opposition from both Republican and Democratic leaders. I have authored earmark reform legislation, sought the establishment of a fair redistricting process to end the practice of politicians picking their voters, and have exposed both Republican and Democratic leaders who have violated the public faith.

Thousands of people in the Valley have lost their jobs because of the misguided and dangerous views of leftists. With regional unemployment near 20%, Fresno Bee columnists and editorial writers should begin listening to the victims of oppressive government policies because no amount of federal spending will create jobs taken from our region by the government.