Legislative Lowdown: Obama guilty of contempt for transparency

Brian Darling Liberty Government Affairs
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President Obama promised “an unprecedented level of openness in government.” Instead, he has revealed an apparent contempt for transparency.

The president has caused a storm of controversy by using executive privilege to cover up aspects of his administration’s Fast and Furious gun-running scandal. This week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed a contempt of Congress resolution to be considered by the full House of Representatives next week. If this resolution passes, it will be the first time in our nation’s history that an attorney general has been held in contempt of Congress.

At the same time, there is emerging evidence that the administration leaked classified information on the Stuxnet Iranian nuclear program attack, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and drone operations in an effort to prove that President Obama is strong on national security.

When he was running for president, Obama argued that “the issue of executive privilege is subject to abuse, and in an Obama presidency what you will see will be a sufficient respect of the law.” As we now know, Obama was prepared to promise anything to the American people to get elected.

It’s clear that President Obama doesn’t have the power to use the pretext of executive privilege to shield wrongdoing. At any point he can waive executive privilege in the name of transparency.

Ron Johnson’s idea

This week, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) offered an amendment to the farm bill that would have separated the food stamp portion of the bill. Right now, there is an axis of spending set up between farm state senators and welfare-state supporters that will pass a bloated farm bill dominated by food-stamp spending. Johnson’s amendment was an attempt to single out food stamps for reform.

The vote separated the squishy Republicans from the tea party-minded members. The amendment failed on a 40-59 vote, with Republican Sens. Scott Brown (MA), Thad Cochran (MS), Susan Collins (ME), John Hoeven (ND), Richard Lugar (IN) and Olympia Snowe (ME) betraying the tea party with a vote to preserve the alliance between big-government liberals and free-spending farm-state Republicans.

This legislation started out at a cost of $969 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, with a price tag for food stamps of $750 billion. The food-stamp provision alone dwarfs the whole price tag for the last farm bill in 2008, which cost $604 billion. The food-stamp program, the fourth-largest welfare program on the books, has doubled in size since President Obama took office and is in dire need of reforms.

The Madison Project

The Madison Project is a group of conservatives fighting for free enterprise and individual liberty. They have unveiled a new scorecard for conservatives to see which legislators belong in the “Hall of Fame” and which belong in the “Hall of Shame.”

The Madison Project has concluded that there “are only a few dozen consistent conservatives in the House.” The top members for the House are Reps. Tom Graves (R-GA), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Joe Walsh (R-IL). These heroes have represented their constituents as constitutional conservatives.

The low-ranking members “are the worst of the worst, radically underperforming the conservative expectations of their districts.” The Madison low-performing members in the House are Reps. Don Young (R-AK), David McKinley (R-WV), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MS), Rodney Alexander (R-LA) and Walter Jones (R-NC).

The Madison Project has done our nation a service. So far, it has only ranked members of the House. We await its Senate rankings.

Judd Gregg wants to raise your taxes

In the continuing assault on the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge, former New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg has joined the fight to raise your taxes.

The Hill reports that Gregg “is stepping up his role in building Republican support for a broad deficit-reduction plan.” Gregg and former Debt Commission Co-Chairman Erskine Bowles led a secret meeting last week on ways to force through a massive tax hike in the lame-duck session of Congress this fall. The plan reportedly would “raise hundreds of billions of dollars in new tax revenues.”

Gregg joins Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in pushing for Republicans to abandon their promise to the American people that they will not raise taxes. This is further evidence of a secret plan on the part of Republicans and Democrats to raise your taxes during the lame-duck session.

Brian Darling is Senior Fellow for Government Studies at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).