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Der Kommissar’s Leaving Town

Well, here is a minor but encouraging development. Remember back in January when Dubya signed an executive order saying that "each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries"? The Democrats do:

It is a single sentence, on page 147 of the annual appropriations bill funding the White House, listed under the title "Additional General Provisions.”

The 18-word clause eliminates the money to pay for political appointees in each federal agency whose jobs are to approve any new regulations. By cutting the money for the positions, Congress would effectively repeal President George W. Bush’s 11-month old initiative.

(…)

An "omnibus” bill represents one of Democrats’ best chances to force policy changes because such measures typically run hundreds of pages, are subject to relatively little scrutiny by Congress and must be accepted or rejected by the administration in their entirety.

(…)

Democrats are also using a tool known as "limitation” — which prevents an agency from spending money on a specific activity — to try to kill Bush’s Jan. 18 executive order requiring proposed regulations to be vetted by appointees in each agency.

…Inserting the limitation in a must-pass budget bill, [Democratic Rep. Brad Miller] said, would cut off funding for Bush’s order. "You can’t use federal money, period,” said Miller.

I love this. It’s completely below the radar, it probably won’t net the Democrats a single extra vote in 2008, but it’s The Right Thing To Do. It gives the federal agencies much-needed freedom to protect workers, consumers, and the environment from unaccountable industries run amok.

Granted, most agencies are probably too rotten with Bush appointees to use that freedom, but we have seen plenty of loyal Bushies suffer from attacks of conscience over the last 7 years. So if one of his hand-picked agency heads snaps and suddenly decides to start regulating, there won’t be a Bushie loyalty officer (The All-Seeing Eye Of Froomkin called them commissars) there to reel him in.

It will be interesting to see if Dubya is prepared to veto the entire spending bill just to block this one provision, or if he figures the agencies are sufficiently loyal even without his minders in place. It will be even more interesting to see if the Democrats become emboldened when the sky doesn’t fall, and start resisting on a more visible and significant level. Who knows, maybe they’ll even become comfortable with the concept of defunding.

(h/t dakine)

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