Recently, a congressman who I recall as just another a name on a list of freshmen that was part of our "Contract With America" GOP takeover (in my days as political chair for Newt Gingrich) lamented the fact that people back in his district seemed more interested in things like a best-selling book promoting the "Fair Tax" than in "changing Washington."
The statement from Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn) reminded me just how far apart many Republican members of Congress really are in terms of priorities and, more importantly, reality.
Rather than "Wamp" up on the congressman over his dismissal of this popular proposal (put forth in a book that debuted in the top spot on The New York Times Best Seller list), I'd rather take a trip down memory lane and recount an idea Mr. Wamp and many of his colleagues were touting back when they were the bright-eyed candidates of reform.
Way back in 1994, many of our Republican candidates were attacking a "corrupt Congress" made up of entrenched, pork-spending Democrat leaders who had held their seats for decades and were out of touch with the American people. The reformers pointed to the questionable dealings of former Speaker Jim Wright, who was essentially run out of office, and the strong-arm tactics of the then top Democrat leaders in the House.
The fact is, Wamp and his colleagues, who shocked the nation by taking control of the House in the '94 elections, did indeed deliver a strong conservative agenda and even put rules into effect that limited the number of years a member could serve as chairman of a committee. In fact, many of those eager, new reformists who hit Washington like a breath of fresh air declared that they would create self-imposed term limits on the years they would serve in the House. Rep. Wamp was one of those who made such a declaration. Now, 12 years down the road, not only does Mr. Wamp feel it lamentable that a revolutionary means of bringing sanity to our tax system is on the minds of his constituents, but, lo and behold, he is seeking to become one of his own party's top leaders as Republican members consider playing fruit basket turnover in wake of the legal problems facing their most recent majority leader, Tom DeLay.