Saturday, January 06, 2007

New Rules - Walberg Voting Record

UPDATE: Oops! Didn't notice that Doug had already posted on Title IV below... Great minds think alike?

The first two days of the new Congress had little to do with governing the country, but were very important when it came to ethics and transparency in House activities. How did Congressman Walberg vote?

(Note: I'm not going to keep a record of every vote Walberg casts for the next two years. Many procedural votes-- like his first vote, in which every member votes "Present"-- aren't important enough to waste your time with. However, the votes on rules this week, while perhaps a little dull, are important reforms in the House).

- As would be expected, Congressman Walberg voted for John Boehner (R) for Speaker of the House. The vote followed party lines exactly, and Nancy Pelosi (D) won the election.

- Title II of HR 6: Walberg votes Yes. This bans all gifts and travel paid for by lobbyists and prohibits former members of the House from lobbying current members. Passed 430-1 (the only "no" was Dan Burton, R-IN).

- Title III of HR 6: Walberg votes Yes. This sets all voting periods at 15 minutes in length (a problem under the Republicans) and granted minority rights for conference reports. Passed 430-0.

- Title IV of HR 6: Walberg votes No. Now, for some of the controversial changes. For this description, I'll quote the US House Digest:
This one is a biggy. Two significant things were changed in this Title. First, the House agreed to publicly identify earmarks, or special-interest money and tax breaks often secretly inserted into legislation. This change makes it likely that we will see less and less pet projects. Or, at least, less than the near 10,000 in the 2006 budget. This won praise from even some Republican members, who were disappointed at their leadership’s inability to control government spending while they were in power.

Democrats had “more guts than we did to tackle earmark reform in a meaningful way,” said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) [Wiki].

Second, the House re-instated the “pay-as-you-go” rule. Basically, what PAYGO does is stop new tax cuts or new spending on “entitlement” programs unless those policy changes were paid for through tax hikes or other spending cuts. Therefore, if Congress wants to spend more, it has to raise taxes. If it wants to cut taxes, it has to cut spending. The PAYGO restrictions were a big part of how the U.S. got to a balanced budget in the 1990s. Alot of Republicans went along with this, so it passed 280-152.

To me, this seems like the sort of thing a "conservative" concerned about overspending would have supported. If earmarks are as awful as they are, why not have it publicly known who is inserting them into legislation? And why not have a little fiscal responsibility for a change with the PAYGO rules? Still, despite Walberg's No vote, it Passed 280-152.

- Title V of HR 6: Walberg votes No. Again, I turn to the US House Digest:
This was the Title for all the different rules Democrats wanted to make, but without really knowing how to classify them. The first section gives the minority more rights in deposing witnesses subpenoaed before a committee. The following two sections were technical changes to administrative positions, like the Director of National Intellegence. The following five sections to that, however, stirred up some debate on the floor. After pledging to reverse the Republican tradition of shutting the minority out of the legislative process, Democrats passed a set of exceptions for their priorities: the 9/11 commission recommendations, stem cell research, the minimum wage and prescription drugs. Democrats claimed the legislation they intend to present has already been discussed, and sometimes already voted on. Republicans replied that new members (of which there are more than usual) have not gotten the chance to have their voices heard. The remaining sections made some more technical changes, including banning lobbyists from entering the House gym. Every Republican was against this, but, as they will learn in their time as the minority party, they can have a rock solid caucus and still lose the vote. It passed 232-200, with three members not voting.
Yep, that's right-- Walberg voted against kicking lobbyists out of the House gym. The exceptions the Democrats passed are all part of their 100 Hours program, the idea being that they would give Republicans some of the minority rights that the GOP had denied Democrats after they had followed through on many of their campaign promises. Passed 232-200.

So, after two days in the House of Representatives, how has Walberg done?

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