I’ve excerpted Novak’s column (Reid presses stealth attack on ethics legislation) below. As usual, I would suggest reading the entire piece (it is fairly short, and to the point). Excerpts follow:
When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid picked up his ball and went home following his staged all-night session last week, he saved from possible embarrassment one of the least regular members of his Democratic caucus: Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Reform Republican Sen. Tom Coburn had ready a defense authorization bill amendment to remove Nelson’s earmark funding a Nebraska-based company whose officials include Nelson’s son. Such an effort became impossible when Reid pulled down the bill.
That Reid’s action would have this effect was mere coincidence…But Reid also is working behind the scenes with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to undermine transparency of earmarks and prevent open debate on spending proposals such as Nelson’s.
While Johnson used chicanery, Reid resorts to brute force that shatters the Senate’s facade of civilized discourse. Reid is plotting to strip anti-earmark transparency from the final version of ethics legislation passed by the Senate and House, with tacit support from Republican senators and the GOP leadership.
At stake is the fate of Coburn’s “Reid Amendment” previously passed by the Senate — so called because it would bar earmarks benefitting a senator’s family members such as Reid’s four lobbyist sons and son-in-law.
In requesting the 21 CSI earmark, Nelson did not disclose his son’s employment there…Inclusion of Nelson’s son, however, would be required if and when the ethics bill provision passes.
When the defense authorization bill came up last week, Coburn prepared amendments to eliminate the Nelson earmark and the most notorious earmark now pending in Congress: Rep. John Murtha’s proposed $23 million for the National Drug Intelligence Center in his Pennsylvania district. Reid’s game plan to satisfy anti-war activists with an all-night debate averted debate for now on these two earmarks.
Reid, the soft-spoken trial lawyer from Searchlight, Nev., in his tumultuous 6½ months as majority leader, has tended to suppress free expression in the self-proclaimed World’s Greatest Deliberative Body. Last week, he cut off an attempt to respond to him by Sen. Arlen Specter, the veteran moderate Republican, in an abrupt way that I had not witnessed in a half century of Senate-watching. Neither had Specter. When Specter finally got the Senate floor, he declared: “Nothing is done here until the majority leader decides to exercise his power to keep the Senate in all night on a meaningless, insulting session. … Last night’s performance made us the laughingstock of the world.” It may get worse if plans to eviscerate ethics legislation are pursued.
Obviously, pressure needs to be applied to both parties, but so much for the Democrat leadership campaign promises of meaningful ethics reform. Don’t count on the media covering this, either.