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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lien and Herseth Sandlin: Time to Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way

As Sibby Online points out, the Chris Lien/Stephanie Herseth Sandlin debate at Dakotafest yesterday saw some agreement...and some important differences.

While both U.S. House of Representatives candidates said we need to do more drilling offshore, drill in ANWR, build more nuclear power plants, and build the proposed Hyperion refinery at Elk Point, the Argus Leader reports they differ on how to best accomplish proactive energy policy in Washington:

The two differed in their take on a House proposal that attempts to limit speculation in oil markets and use oil company royalties to develop wind power and other renewable energy forms.

Lien berated such a comprehensive proposal.

"You put it all in one piece of legislation and nothing gets done," he said.

Herseth Sandlin, who has supported the proposal, said Lien's stance shows a lack of experience.

"Anyone who thinks you can focus on one issue doesn't understand how the process works," she said. "Major pieces of legislation tend to be comprehensive proposals because of the needs across the country."

She's probably right about how the process currently works. But I think that's part of what Lien is getting at: that process isn't working.

The current process involves loading up a bill with a lot of things that often results in several things: (1) conflicting priorities that hinders passage of the most important, (2) unrelated items that makes the primary bill cumbersome and often unattractive, (3) extra items that provide cover or justification for either a "yes" or "no" vote, depending on what the representative needs to placate voters back home, (3) a lot of extra garbage that contributes to the wasteful spending on bloated government projects.

As the heated discussion over earmarks has shown in the past couple of years, "business as usual" in Washington desperately needs to change. Not only is it producing massive amounts of wasted taxpayer dollars on junk that few people outside a congressman's district care about, it is bogging down the whole process (which should have the goal of accomplishing something) and reducing accountability to the people.

We need relatively simple legislation that targets a specific issue, doesn't get sidetracked, and provides a clear opportunity to support or oppose something. This would make the choice more clear for the representative...and more clear for the voters back home who should decide whether to "rehire" the representative based on how well the representative is representing their priorities in Washington.

It would also help remove the veil of secrecy behind which so much wasteful spending (we have a $3 trillion budget) goes unnoticed. And if there isn't time to deal with so much of that because of the need to vote on the specific, targeted legislation that deals with real issues...great!

So I think Herseth Sandlin inadvertently admitted one of the best reasons she should be replaced by Chris Lien: the current process isn't working, and she is obviously invested in that broken process and unwilling to work to fix it.

I knew a squadron back in my Air Force days which had the motto "Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

If Herseth Sandlin is unwilling to take the lead in fixing the mess that is Washington, or follow those who are willing to fight for change, then she needs to get out of the way for those like Chris Lien who will.


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