Saturday, December 16, 2006
Reid and Hastert - Birds of a Feather
Venality Continues But Levin Ready to Investigate War & Counterterrorism
Jeffrey Birnbaum in the Post:
In the wee hours of the morning Dec. 7, Senate negotiators rejected a Medicare measure pushed by outgoing House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) that would have meant big revenues for an insurance company in Hastert's home state. But a day later, the $100 million proposal was alive and well, paired with a plan for a major Nevada land swap backed by Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), the incoming Senate majority leader.
The leaders' dealmaking went on behind the scenes during the final, frenetic hours of the 109th Congress. Hastert's provision, which would give certain Medicare beneficiaries additional time to change their health-care coverage, and Reid's plan, which involves more than 900 square miles of federal land, were included in a massive tax and trade measure approved by Congress shortly before its final adjournment early last Saturday morning.
Among the most eager incoming chairmen is Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), a lawyer with a professor's demeanor and a prosecutor's doggedness. As head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Levin, 72, will be his party's point man on the Iraq war and on the Democrats' call to begin withdrawing troops in the coming months.
Levin said he also plans inquiries into "documentation of waste and fraud and abuse in the contracting areas" of the military. Aggressive oversight "is not just a budget issue," he said, but at some point "becomes a significant moral issue." In the House, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), another leading advocate of a phased withdrawal, has vowed to use his Appropriations subcommittee chairmanship to investigate the Iraq war, holding "two hearings a day for the first three or four months . . . to find out exactly what happened and who's been responsible for these mistakes."