Fiscal conservatives take charge
Who knows, maybe it was all for the best that Tom DeLay got tripped up in this (rather dubious) fund-raising scandal in Texas. (From what we now know about "shopping" for a friendly grand jury to get an indictment against DeLay, and having had to amend his indictment almost immediately as it was presented, there is no longer any doubt that Texas district attorney Ronnie Earle is a partisan hack.) Since DeLay has stepped aside as House Majority Leader, the long-marginalized deficit hawks within the Republican party are starting to throw their weight around on Capitol Hill once again, demanding faithfulness to core conservative principles. This effort is being spearheaded by the "Republican Study Committee," chaired by Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana. See Washington Post. Hoo-ray!
This kind of grass-roots initiative does not usually last long, however, and as Brendan Miniter at opinionjournal.com warns, the next Congress could easily undo any belt-tightening moves by the present one. There is indeed a long way to go yet before we can feel sure that the overriding objective of shrinking the government will be carried out. If the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill cannot figure out how to govern and enact coherent legislative programs without resorting to the Democrats' old pork barrel tricks, as Tom DeLay was fond of doing, then what is the point of supporting the Republican party? The big test will be whether Bush sees the light and either cuts back, revises, or abandons the ill-considered Medicare prescription drug benefit.