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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

E. J. Dionne Jr. - More Than Minority Blues

E. J. Dionne Jr. in the Washington Post
Tuesday, August 16, 2005; Page A13

Recently I ran across a small book, a collection of essays called "A House of Ill Repute," that should strike fear in the heart of today's Republican majority in Congress. Its critique of the status quo is devastating.

Are you amazed at how little power the minority has, especially in the authoritarian House of Representatives? One shrewd contributor thundered against "the tyranny of the majority." He declared that "millions of Americans" were deprived of "their fair representation in the formulation of public policy" and that "the majority in the House has many ways to pass its pet legislation or stall other bills without due regard for proper debate and deliberation."

Are you astonished at the eagerness of this supposedly small-government Congress to lavish huge sums on a transportation bill and a slew of tax breaks for oil and gas interests? "In their effort to spend more money, spendaholics will use three basic defenses for their votes," says another writer. "First, it's the wrong time and the wrong place. Second, however bad this waste is, there is other waste that is worse. Third, whatever cuts you want to make are clearly extremism."

Another representative lamented: "I sense arrogance on the part of many of my colleagues. It is easy to see how much arrogance can take hold when members of Congress seem to be unaccountable for their actions."

The author of the introductory essay summed up the case by referring to the homeowner who realizes one day that his "entire house is shabby and needs major attention."

Perhaps you have already guessed that these attacks are not the work of frustrated, bloody-minded Democrats weary of their current minority status in Congress. They come from a book published in 1987 by a group of Republican House members. The authors of the above quotations are, in order, former representatives Vin Weber, Newt Gingrich, Barbara Vucanovich and Joseph J. DioGuardi....