"Hammer" to the slammer?
Jail time is not very likely, but his leadership of the House has been neutralized for the indefinite future. As has been expected for the past several months, Tom DeLay was indicted by a grand jury in Travis County, Texas today for alleged campaign finance violations. DeLay responded by calling District Attorney Ronnie Earle a "fanatic partisan" and said the indictments were "baseless" and "a sham." See Washington Post. For reasons of both policy substance and political style, I'm on record as being less than fond of "The Hammer," as the House Majority Leader is known (see May 3), but I'm also well aware that the prosecution is to a large extent politically motivated. Andrew Sullivan takes an appropriately detached perspective, and I agree: Let's not jump to conclusions either way. Let the legal process go ahead, and the truth will come out. If the charges are bogus, there will be hell to pay.
More constitutional silliness
Last summer the Republicans in the House passed a proposed constitutional amendment to forbid desecration of the American flag, to which I expressed opposition on September 15. Now two Republican senators, Jim Talent (Missouri) and George Allen (Virginia), say they intend to introduce a constitutional amendment to grant the president line-item veto power; see allen.senate.gov. I do not doubt that the senators have the best intentions, but anyone who thinks that this is the most effective response to the Federal government's growing fiscal deficit is, in my opinion, misguided. Those of us who have studied legislative processes know that this is the sort of procedural contrivance that tries to let legislators off the hook for their failure as a collective body to pass a sound budget. Don't pass a law to force yourself to do something, just do it! As the Staunton News Leader editorialized today, "If all this is about is cutting pork, then Congress needs to clean up its own act, not shift the burden to the president. If they can't do that, we can take care of it for them during the 2006 elections." Not that anyone should expect the tax-and-spend Democrats to take fiscal responsibility any more seriously than Republicans, but if that is the best our esteemed senators can come up with, fiscal conservatives like me will be far less motivated to work on behalf of the party's candidates than in the all-important 2004 election. The impetus for true fiscal reform can only come from the grass roots, not via constitutional mandates.