Monday, December 06, 2004

Intelligence Reform Bill Sparks Debate At Institute

The pressure on members of the House Intelligence Committee to quickly pass a bill reforming the Intelligence community sparked a debate at the Institute regarding the changing roles of the House and Senate.

In Federalist Paper No. 52 it is clear that the House was intended to be closer to the people, to reflect the popular will of the populace.

As it is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a
common interest with the people, so it is particularly essential that the branch
of it under consideration should have an immediate dependence on, and an
intimate sympathy with, the people.

The Senate on the otter heiny, was intended to be a more deliberative body. The House was set up to have direct elections with only two year terms. Senators were to be appointed by the state legislatures and served longer terms than the House. By design they were to be less prone to the flaming passions of an aroused public, as is clear from this passage from Federalist Paper No. 62.

The necessity of a senate is not less indicated by the propensity of all
single and numerous assemblies to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent
passions, and to be seduced by factious leaders into intemperate and pernicious

In the modern age Senators are now directly elected as is the House. Senators, we believe because of their fewer numbers suffer from celebrity. Their primary goal (of which representatives are not immune) is to be reelected. To this end they pursue face time on the evening news and try to come up with catchy sound bites to capture the fancy of the media. The goal is to pass legislation that they can campaign on to get reelected.

The House, because of their numbers are less well known. They less often get the face time on the Sunday shows, and are left with nothing else to do but do their jobs, going about the business of governance.

Which brings us back to the Intelligence Reform bill. The Senate wants to quickly pass a bill for the appearance of having done something. Certain members of the House want to deliberate and pass a bill that actually will serve to strengthen the intelligence community and make us more secure.

It is the official view of the Institute that nothing that is passed is going to make us safer in the short term, but changes that are made now could have a dramatic effect on our security ten years down the road. Therefore, taking a few months to pass the right bill is warranted. The Senate wants to pass the proposals of the 9/11 commission with very few changes. We think given the embarrassing behavior of that commission some deliberation is warranted.