In 2006, the minority party in Congress issued a dire report on the "unprecedented erosion of the democratic process." Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter, then the ranking member of the House Rules Committee, authored the scathing document. She blasted the majority Republicans' violations of "procedural fairness," short-circuiting of debate, and late-night meetings "to discourage members and the press from participating" in legislative deliberations. My, how history repeats itself.
Fast-forward to 2009. The Imperial Congress has returned. The oppressed have become the oppressors. Democrats have met the enemy of deliberative democracy, and it is they.
Three years ago, the Democrats complained of House Republicans rushing through conference reports "before members could read them." Sound vaguely familiar? They urged their colleagues in power to "spend more time on major, substantive legislation" instead of ramming things through. Deja vu, anyone?
The Slaughter report pleaded for more transparency and public access: "Regular order should be the rule, not the exception." Instead of meeting late at night or early in the morning, the Dems called on the majority to operate "during regular 'business' hours so that members and the press can attend and participate."
Three years later, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is jamming a 1,900-page health care takeover bill through Congress for a hasty Saturday vote while members of her own party revolt against strong-arm tactics. Upward of 40 pro-life Democrats have objected to the plan's government subsidies for abortion. Majority leaders evaded sunlight by keeping a compromise amendment on the matter out of the version of the bill made available to the public. As of Thursday afternoon (fewer than two days before the scheduled vote), Pelosi had yet to decide whether to permit an abortion ban amendment to her health care bill.
Pelosi's "most ethical," open and transparent House ever ordered Capitol police to block a GOP staffer from attending the public unveiling of the health care reform plan last week. A week before that, Democratic Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., locked Republicans out of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee room to prevent them from meeting when Democrats weren't present.