Thursday, March 22, 2007

Democrats Will Break House Rules to Win Iraq Vote

When Democrats listed their grievances over Republican abuses of power, a top item was the fact that the former Republican majority had been willing to hold votes open beyond the normal 17 minutes, while they twisted arms to secure a majority. Their famous example was the Medicare vote, which was held open 3 hours. Well, now Steny Hoyer says that the Democrats only promise not to hold a vote open 3 hours - but they are willing to extend them beyond the limits:

Asked Wednesday night whether Democrats would keep to the time limit, Hoyer paused, then pointed out that many votes can run a few minutes longer for various reasons. Pressed further by a reporter who pointed out that Democrats themselves had often criticized Republicans on this very point, Hoyer said, "It won't be open three hours. How about that?"

"How about 30 minutes?" the reporter asked.

"I won't guarantee it," Hoyer replied.

In saying this, Hoyer is acknowledging that he is prepared to break the new House rule the Democrats installed a little over 3 months ago:

A record vote by electronic device shall not be held open for the sole purpose of reversing the outcome of such vote.

What did Hoyer have to say about the Republican majority when it held votes open?

"House Republican leaders proved once again today that they will stop at virtually nothing to win a vote, even if that means running roughshod over the most basic principles of democracy such as letting members vote their conscience and calling the vote after the allotted time has elapsed," Hoyer said.

"They ought to be ashamed of themselves, but when it comes to holding votes open and twisting the arms of their own members they clearly have no shame,’’ he went on. “These back-alley tactics have no place in the greatest deliberative body in the world. They might be the lifeblood of the tin-horn dictator, but not a world leader. It's an embarrassment.”

And that was over a 38 minute vote - not a 3 hour one.

In 2005 - 10 years after the Republicans took over the House of Representatives - Pelosi complained that Republicans:

ram bills through committees without full discussion, permit few if any floor amendments, and if need be, hold open floor votes until enough arms have been twisted to ensure passage.

Pelosi's Democratic majority has already done the first two, and Hoyer says now that they are willing to complete the trifecta.

So much for changing Washington.

Update: To pour salt in the wound, Roll Call ($) reports that Democrats have decided not to allow any amendments to be considered on the bill. I can understand that. After all, who would expect an open, honest, deliberative debate where the House could work its will, on a trivial issue like the Iraq war?

At press time Wednesday, the House Rules Committee was set to meet to establish the parameters of the debate, but Democratic sources said it is unlikely that amendments would be allowed to the spending bill, allowing Republicans only a standard motion to recommit.

Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said earlier Wednesday that no decision had been made, however, she added: “This is one of the most important votes we’ve ever cast and I’d like it to be as clean as possible.”

In a letter addressed to the Speaker, House Republicans called for an open rule on the bill, which would allow amendments, as well as an extended debate.

“We believe that an open rule for consideration of the supplemental is the only way the House should debate this binding bill,” stated the letter, signed by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and others. “The war spending bill presents an appropriate opportunity for the Democratic leadership to fulfill its commitment by affording all Members the opportunity to amend the bill, and we hereby request that you do so. Furthermore, given that four days were devoted last month to the non-binding resolution on Iraq, we believe similar time should be made available for debate on this binding bill, which would set a mandatory timetable for surrender and withdrawal from Iraq.”

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