Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Senator Leahy's buyer's remorse

Senator Patrick Leahy is troubled by a provision in the new financial reform bill that was just passed by Congress. An exemption from the Freedom of Information Act, what the senator describes as "our nation's premier open government law", would keep American citizens from checking up on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as it moves forward under the new law. He's quick to point out that the provision was "originally drafted in the House", and that he wants the SEC to "narrowly interpret" the new exemption.

I won't get into the specifics of the new law or its implications for America; many others have done and will do so themselves, and in much greater depth and detail than I could. The purpose of this post is to highlight the buyer's remorse that even men as accomplished and staunch as Sen. Leahy feel as they continue in the manner and courses they set for themselves. This Congress, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid at the head, has enacted practices that are not only contrary to the country's best interests, but also to their own guidelines. Bills that are massive in both size and scope are literally rushed through both houses of Congress without time for proper review on anyone's part.

It began (at least in the current Congress) with the stimulus bill that became law within a day of the final language being drafted. That final language allowed embarrassingly huge corporate bonuses to be paid (at the taxpayers' expense) despite the failures on the part of the executives receiving them. Congress was so red-faced they tried to impose a brand-new tax on those bonuses (in possible violation of ex post facto laws) to cover for the fact that they allowed them in the first place.

Now, one of the leading Democrats in the Senate unwittingly voted to allow a major regulatory agency to operate outside the view of the American public. Why? Because, again, he didn't read the final bill before he voted. He subtly tries to shift the blame to the House of Representatives for changing the language before the final vote; but as a senator, it is still his own responsibility to know what is included in a bill before voting on it.

He's very sorry about it, too. He thinks immediate action should be taken. What's his solution? To draft new legislation that would revoke the exemption? No; it's to trust the SEC to not abuse its new power. It's to "work with the Obama administration and others in Congress" to make sure the SEC still has to tell us what its doing while it holds the future of our economy in its hands. Well, good luck with that, Senator. Maybe next time, you'll read the bill before you vote; but I doubt it.

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