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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: Rep. Roy Blunt Claims to "Have the Votes"

Rep. Roy Blunt, R-MO, sat down in front of the mike with Hugh Hewitt today and addressed the same bevy of questions the Ralk Radio Host/Blog Prophet put to representatives John Shadegg, R-AZ, and John Boehner, R-OH, earlier this week.

The three men are candidates for House Majority Leader and the winner will succeed Rep. Tom Delay, R-TX, who resigned the position as a result of his legal difficulties in Texas and in connection with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Blunt claims to have sufficient votes to win the Feb. 2 vote for the second most powerful leadership position in the House of Representatives. Delay's nickname was "The Hammer" for his ability to produce Republican votes on key issues in the House. Blunt has been acting House Majority Leader for several months, as Delay's legal troubles mounted.

Hewitt asked Blunt about his position on making public the names of Members requesting earmarks, posting legislation at least 72 hours before it is voted on by the House and applying the Freedom of Information Act to Congress.

Here are the three key questions from Hugh on measures to increase transparency in the House and Blunt's answers:

"HH: Mark Tapscott, my colleague in blogging over at The Heritage Foundation has proposed that any candidate for the leadership support the idea of proposing that all earmarks be identified by the name of the requesting member. Do you support that transparency?

"RB: I actually proposed that more than half a year ago, and I absolutely support that. The Member that makes the request should identify that it's their request. They should identify who that's going...what entity gets the money, as much about that entity as we determine needs to be on the public record, and then exactly what public service, what public purpose is served by this entity having this opportunity.

"And it may be a great public purpose of someone that the Member knows about some entity, some agency, some not-for-profit, that can provide what the federal government's now doing at a much more reduced and effective rate, if they're given a chance to have just a little assistance to get that program off the ground.

"HH: How about pre-publication, 72 hours before a vote, on the internet, of the text of a bill?

"RB: You know, looking at the conference reports, we may have to think about the realities of that when we get near the end of the session, with some waive ability if there is a real crisis. I don't have any...I think the more information we have out there earlier, frankly, the easier it is for the whip to do their job, and that's the job I've had for the last several years, or the leader to do his or her job. And that's the job I've had for the last hundred days or so.

"HH: How about applying FOIA, along with its exception for national security confidentiality to the Congress?

"RB: And FOIA is...

"HH: Freedom of Information Act.

"RB: It depends on what you mean along with its exceptions.

"HH: Okay, but generally speaking, if you're communicating with an agency as a Congressman, I'd like to be able to see what the Democrats are writing, and that sort of stuff.

"RB: Oh, sure. And I think you should be able to see what we're communicating."

I must admit, it is a bit disconcerting that Blunt appears not to be sufficiently familiar with the FOIA to recognize what the acronym means. Probably indicative of how important it is to apply the FOIA to Congress.

Go here for the transcript of the Boehner interview and here for the transcript of the Shadegg interview.

By the way, here are the announced candidates for the other two House GOP leadership positions being determined Feb. 2. If Blunt doesn't win the House Majority slot, he will remain as House Majority Whip and there would be no election in the GOP caucus for the latter post:

House Majority Whip:
Eric Cantor, R-VA
Todd Tiahrt, R-KS
Zach Wamp, R-TN
Mike Rogers, R-MI

House Republican Policy Committee
Darrell Issa, R-CA
Phil Gingrey, R-GA
Thad McCotter, R-MI
Adam Putnam, R-FL