Wednesday, January 03, 2007

On Dems Squelching Debate

A lot has been made of the move by House Democrats to limit GOP input into measures considered by the House in the first few days of the new Congress. I think it exposes the hypocrisy of these campaign promises rather well. Further, if the Democratic leadership is willing to sacrifice process to result on the first day, I'm willing to bet it happens a lot more often in the next two years.

At the same time, I can't get too upset about it - yet.

'Everyone knows' that the House Republicans squelched debate during their time in the majority, and 'ran roughshod' over the Democratic Minority. To the extent that happened, there are a few reasons:

  1. In the House, under 'normal procedures,' the Minority has great power to gum up the works - hence the use of 'special rules' to limit debate; and,
  2. The Democratic Minority generally intended to frustrate every effort by the Republican Majority to pass major pieces of legislation. So in order to enact a given policy, it was seen as necessary to limit their ability to interfere.
Now you're perfectly free to think this was wrong - that the 'will of the majority' in the House should be allowed to work on any given policy, and let the chips fall where they may. But Ms. Pelosi and the Democratic leadership don't think that way; they KNOW what they want to pass - just as Messrs. Hastert, and Boehner, and Armey, and Gingrich, et al., did before them.

So is this hypocrisy by the House Democrats? Absolutely. Is it unexpected, and is this the last time it will happen? No, and no.

In fact, the Democrats fface a major challenge on the minimum wage increase. As I have posted before, the GOP Congress passed the minimum wage increase several times in the past few years - most recently last July. The reason that no increase has been enacted is that Democrats have refused to support a measure that pairs a minimum wage increase with tax breaks for business.

However, 6 House Democrats voted last July against the Democratic version and for the GOP version. Those Democrats are Neil Abercrombie, John Barrow, Dan Boren, Bud Cramer, Chet Edwards, and Jim Matheson. Are there 10 House Democrats among the incoming class of Freshment who will join them? If 16 House Democrats join all House Republicans in a vote for the Republican version - probably in a procedural vote, or a vote on the Republican version of the bill - then the House may end up passing the GOP version - again. The President has said that he would sign such a measure. In that way, the incoming Democratic majority could wind up finally passing the minimum wage increase that they have been blocking for years.

Of course, I don't really expect this to happen - because there is a way to prevent it. It involves arm-twisting, bribery, and use of House rules to squelch the input of the minority...

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