Thursday, June 14, 2007

Can 'Vote Pummeling' Get Movement on Earmark Reform?

Erick and the team at Red State are doing a great job of chronicling the ongoing fight in the House over earmark reform. Confirming that optimistic Republicans were premature when they thought they had convinced Democrats to stick with their promise to reform earmarking, Democrats are preventing Members from offering amendments to a regular appropriations bill.

House rules expert Don Wolfensberger recently explained in Roll Call ($) that while there may be no filibuster in the House, the minority can still engage in some 'vote pummeling:'

The minority party in the House of Representatives cannot use the Senate’s filibuster or “hold” to block or protest majority power plays. Instead, the minority has what I call the “procedural vote pummeling ploy,” in which it forces a series of recorded votes on various procedural motions.

The votes can tie up House floor business for hours on end since each recorded vote takes at least 15 minutes. The ploy focuses media and public attention on perceived abuses of power. More importantly, the minority’s threat to “shut down the House” can force the majority to reconsider its heavy-handed tactics.

That’s exactly what happened on May 16 when Republicans caught wind of a rumor that the majority was about to spring a House rules change either to curtail the minority’s right to recommit legislation with instructions (offer a final amendment to a bill) or to change the germaneness standard for such amendments. The rumor was enough to trigger a rolling pummel of 12 votes on adjournment, quorum calls and demands that the Committee of the Whole rise on the Defense authorization bill.

That's what the Republicans are trying to do right now.

It's making for a slow day on the House floor:

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