After railing for months against Congressional corruption under Republican rule, Democrats on Capitol Hill are divided on how far their proposed ethics overhaul should go.
Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate, mindful that voters in the midterm election cited corruption as a major concern, say they are moving quickly to finalize a package of changes for consideration as soon as the new Congress convenes in January.
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Senator Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat tapped by party leaders last year to spearhead ethics proposals, said he was pushing for changes with more teeth. “The dynamic is different now,” Mr. Obama said Friday. “We control both chambers now, so it is difficult for us to have an excuse for not doing anything.”
He is pushing to create an independent Congressional ethics commission and advocates broader campaign-finance changes as well.
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Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who will oversee any proposal as the incoming chairwoman of the Rules Committee, for example, said she was opposed to an independent Congressional ethics watchdog. “If the law is clear and precise, members will follow it,” she said in an interview. “As to whether we need to create a new federal bureaucracy to enforce the rules, I would hope not.”
I suppose the question is whether to let the political process deal with corruption, as it obviously did in the mid-term election, or to create even more bureaucracy in Washington. It is a difficult question actually. We, of course, want to feel like there are laws that govern what our elected officials do and some mechanism, other than self-policing, to enforce those laws. However, one has to ask whether this new bureaucracy would really accomplish anything, or if it would just put more people on the government payroll that could be tempted by the same corrupting forces that are currently at work.
What is the ultimate answer?
42 - okay, not really.