Say what you will about the 12 years of Republican rule in the U.S House, but the G.O.P. got at least one thing right: Term limits for committee chairmen.
The same can’t be said of Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats, who, after surprisingly keeping the limits on the books last Congress, are now set to do away with them. Apparently a robust majority that should be safe for at least a few cycles has satisfied Democrats that the coast is clear to go back to their old tricks.
It’s hard to remember just how different the atmosphere was on Capitol Hill when the Republicans stormed to power in the House in 1994, ending four decades of uninterrupted Democratic supremacy. Until the very end, no one had thought the outcome even possible, so entrenched was the permanent Democratic majority.
That entrenchment had given rise to culture of arrogance and dysfunction, one epitomized by the autocratic old bulls who’d grab hold of committee gavels around the time of their 70th birthday and not let go until rigor mortis set in. Hailing from safe districts and protected by the seniority system, they answered to no one – not the Speaker, not their fellow committee members, and certainly not the voters. Their only qualification: they’d been around the longest.
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