Saturday, August 04, 2007

Confirmation: GOP Won the Vote

Congressional Quarterly seems to have the definitive article on the furor in the House the other night. They lead with the news of a 'ceasefire,' but later confirm that the vote ought to have been a Republican win.

The piece leads with the creation of a bipartisan select committee to investigate the contested vote, and then retraces what happened:

The panel would be directed to make an interim report to the House by Sept. 30 and to deliver a final report by Sept. 15, 2008. The resolution also instructs officers of the House to preserve documents and recordings related to the vote in question. The panel, made up of three appointees of the Speaker and three of the minority leader, would have the power to subpoena documents and testimony.

Earlier, Hoyer took the floor to apologize for the way the entire series of votes was handled, as did Michael R.McNulty, D-N.Y., who had been presiding over the House when the furor erupted.

“The minority was understandably angry,” Hoyer said. Speaking quietly, he sought to lower the temperature a bit.

Republicans accused Democrats of using the kind of heavy-handed tactics that Democrats had assailed when the GOP ran the House. The late-night exchange featured a heated exchange between former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Hoyer.

And on a video replay of the night’s action, Hoyer can be heard saying, “We control this House, not the parliamentarians!”
Roll Call has a piece from yesterday afternoon, which shows that the compromise on a select committee followed some brinkmanship between Speaker Pelosi and the Republican minority:
Democratic House leaders dismissed Republican assertions Friday that the majority altered the outcome of a vote on the chamber’s floor, and rejected demands to return a disputed spending bill to committee, characterizing the request as “frivolous.”

“There was no mistake made last night,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a Friday press conference.

The Californian described the incident Thursday — in which Rep. Mike McNulty (D-N.Y.) allegedly announced a vote count before some Members had completed changing their ballots, leading Republicans and Democrats to differ on whether the measure had passed — as a “misunderstanding” and an “inconvenience.”

“It did not change the outcome of the vote,” she said.
CQ though, says pretty clearly that it did change the outcome:
The floor confusion arose when, with the tally tied at 214-214, two politically vulnerable Democrats, Nick Lampson of Texas and Harry E. Mitchell of Arizona, went to the well of the chamber to switch their votes to “no.” The buddy system would prevent Democrats who voted “no” from being targeted as the deciding vote in future campaign ads. Moments later, three Cuban-American Republicans from south Florida, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart, moved to change their votes to “aye.”

The five vote switches were called out by the House reading clerk. The two Democratic changes put the tally at 212-216. Ros-Lehtinen’s switch made it 213-215. Lincoln Diaz-Balart evened it at 214-214, but a tie vote fails. As the reading clerk called out Mario Diaz-Balart’s new vote, the Speaker Pro Tempore, Rep. Michael R. McNulty, D-N.Y., banged the gavel, apparently unaware that the second Diaz-Balart’s vote had yet to be counted.

McNulty had his eyes on the electronic scoreboard, which still read 214-214. But almost as soon as the gavel came down, the scoreboard registered Mario Diaz-Balart’s vote, pushing the tally to 215-213. The scoreboard showed those numbers and the word “FINAL.”
It was after this according to CQ, that Democrats switched votes to secure a 'win:'
Within a minute or so, a flurry of post-gavel vote switches by Reps. Zack Space of Ohio, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Jerry McNerney of California — resulted in an official outcome of 212-216. Boehner was observed switching his vote — a common way to preserve the right to seek reconsideration, and an aide confirmed that the tally board at that point should have read 211-217.

“Shame! Shame!” Republicans chanted across the aisle. Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, R-N.C., thumped the seat of a chair in rhythm with the chant. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, R-Ohio, repeatedly covered his mouth with his hand, pretended to cough and bellowed a barnyard epithet.

McNulty, whom Democrats often tap to preside over contentious debates, could be heard on television insisting “I called it 214-214.”
This will be uncomfortable for Democratic House leaders. CQ is a non-partisan publication with no ax to grind. If their account is accurate, then the GOP's misdirection tactics secured them a win that got taken away after the gavel came down.

We'll see how it gets portrayed in the broader media.

Update: Check out my thoughts on how to proceed over here.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Uncomfortable for Dems?
What about Republicans?

Playing silly games with their votes, like trying to game an eBay auction at the last second?

Lets face it. The outcome, based on how in fact the collected representatives intended to vote, was for the GOP to lose. They "won", if in fact they did, by playing this silly timing game.

Personally, I'm glad they didnt end up getting away with it. By what stretch of the imagination can anyone be happy with an outcome that is clearly NOT the will of the House, but achieved by this type of silly gaming?

Is this your idea of how the people's business should be done?

DWPittelli said...

One cannot so easily narrow down how the members "intended to vote," or what is "the will of the House" to a single defined meaning. The Democratic leadership knew their vote was unpopular with the people, but they had the power to flip some reluctant Democratic Congressmen if needed, but only if needed. It was because the Democrats were playing a game that the Republican could usefully play essentially the same game: flipping some votes at the last minute, so that the Democrats would have to force some counter-flipping (which would potentially embarrass the Congressmen in question) or, better yet for the Republicans, the Democrats would miss the voting deadline on their counter-flipping.

What's at question is whether the vote went according to the rules and schedule put in place (by the Democrats) beforehand, or whether the leadership is instead playing a rule-less game of Calvin-ball.

It may be that one of the Republican switchers missed the deadline, or that only some of the Democrats did. I do not believe the facts of the matter are clear yet, but they do matter.

Anonymous said...

So I trust Anonymous was not outraged when the Republicans held the vote open three hours longer than scheduled so they cold twist arms to get approval for their prescription drug plan, since that just gave representatives time to vote the way they intended to vote? Come on -- the Republicans were rightfully criticized then, and the Democrats are rightfully criticized now. It's not "silly gaming," it's called "procedure," and without it, you would have despotism in place of democracy.

JimMtnViewCa said...

It is not only changing the outcome AFTER the gavel came down.
The whole vote "disappeared" overnight, like it never happened. This is not a "Repubs do it, Dems do it". This is whole new ground.

Angela said...

If this stands, it's the end of the Republic.

I know that sound like a line from the Black Helicopter/Chemtrails crowd, but I am gravely concerned about this. I've been a practicing attorney for 32 years, and a Democrat for 40.

We were told that Bush would destroy the Constitution, ignore votes, rig elections and disenfranchise the public. That is exactly what the Democratic leadership has just done.

If this stands, votes will no longer be needed in the house, the Democratic leadership can decide what the outcomes will be - including the outcomes of their own caucus votes.

B-Rob said...

Here is my prediction: nothing will come of this. Just as nothing came of the drug bill b.s. that the GOPers pulled. It is procedural shenanigans of the same level of importance as the whole "righty vs. lefty" debate in baseball: for the real players, it doesn't matter because they neutalize the opponant regardless of which side of the plate they bat from. Likewise, who rooked who on a procedural vote? THAT is what the GOPers will run on in November 2008?

Let me say this: if the best the GOP has to offer to independent moderate voters as a reason to vote for them over the Dems is "the Dems on a procedural vote on a subsection of the farm bill, gaveled down before the third of our three vote switchers could switch his vote" . . . if that is the best you cons have to offer, then the only question in November 2008 is whether the Dems will win by a bazillion votes or a gazillion.

Just as with the entire "activist judges" garbage, this procedural "outrage" will play to red meat Red State GOPers (who would never vote for a demonstrably superior Dem over the dumbest, most corrupt GOPer . . . Tom DeLay, no one called you!). No independent in their right mind will care.

Good Lieutenant said...

Let me say this: if the best the GOP has to offer to independent moderate voters as a reason to vote for them over the Dems is "the Dems on a procedural vote on a subsection of the farm bill, gaveled down before the third of our three vote switchers could switch his vote" . . . if that is the best you cons have to offer, then the only question in November 2008 is whether the Dems will win by a bazillion votes or a gazillion.

Bazillion? Gazillion? Are those even words? We're obviously dealing with a true mind here...

What we have here is a Democrat apologizing and rationalizing something unprecedented in American history. A party actually erasing a vote after it had been taken, after the gavel, and pretending it didn't happen. Because the Democrats LOST the vote.

So how about all of those ethical changes and pink unicorn happytime smiles we were told we were going to see in this Congress? Where are they?

28%ers don't seem to think the Majority erasing votes is something that needs to be worried about. We'll keep it in mind when the House flips again.

M2inOR said...

I know that this is congressional shenaigans, but consider this:

After much hew and cry, the networks were convinced to withhold voter results in national elections until aftert he polls closed. that way, early results would not skew later votes on the west coast.

Wouldn't it be interesting if Senate and House votes on measures and bills were secret until the voting window was closed?

The votes would be revealed after the gavel was struck.

Think of all the arm-twisting that could be avoided.

This certainly would instill some spine in our representatives.

Mike

Assistant Village Idiot said...

B-Rob, I doubt if Republicans will frame this as a botched procedural matter for the election. They will frame it as "Democrats cheated by miscounting the votes, erasing the evidence, then covering their tracks." That may play to an independent or two.

We don't like to imagine that our representatives play procedural games, and Democrats spinning this as "more of the same," will impress some. But make no mistake, this is a definite step downward in congressional procedural ethics. It has not been the first by Democrats this year, and the excuse that it is only incrementally worse than what has always been done does not impress me at all.

Your inflated rhetoric, which seeks to sneer and disparage rather than argue, is further evidence to me that liberalism is more a social valorization than an intellectual argument.

And you're wrong about the baseball, too.

Tom Perkins said...

So I trust Anonymous was not outraged when the Republicans held the vote open three hours longer than scheduled so they cold twist arms to get approval for their prescription drug plan, since that just gave representatives time to vote the way they intended to vote?

There is a very great difference between holding a vote open so that more horse trading can go on--which still leaves member votes counting--and vote fraud.

This is the end of the Republic if it becomes a habit.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp

Carl said...

I'm an independant and I'm outraged anytime I see Stalinist procedure overwhelming parlementary procedure. According to Hoyer it doesn't matter how the house votes, it only matters who counts the house votes.

inmypajamas said...

If anything, this incident has probably made the Republicans even more unified and energized. The Democrats are behaving like children put in charge of a candy store and Americans are watching the whole shameful thing, courtesy of the new media. Maybe they can push those poll numbers all the way to the bottom.

butta86 said...

Quote from CQ Article

“Shame! Shame!” Republicans chanted across the aisle. Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, R-N.C., thumped the seat of a chair in rhythm with the chant. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, R-Ohio, repeatedly covered his mouth with his hand, pretended to cough and bellowed a barnyard epithet.


Maybe he just suffers from "LaTourette's" Syndrome!

Michael Greer

Anonymous said...

It seems rather pathetic we're to the point where we need a bipartisan select committee to investigate the vote. What's the argument against honoring the count as it stood when the gavel hit? Does it depend upon what the meaning of the word 'gavel' is?

Anyone know someone clever enough to build a system that could detect the gavel strike and instantly lock the voting counter? As a nation, it would be a worthy recovery on our part to spend money on such a system, rather then on a select committee. Am I out of my mind here, or does this make sense to anyone else too?

Kafir_Kelbeh said...

B-Rob:

I'd argue point by point the fallacies of your argument, but I am thoroughly concerned with your grammar & syntax, as well as your shocking lack of knowledge regarding History, laws & governments, and our Republic's Constitution.

Plainly speaking, I think you should do the following before you can argue on this topic to any degree:

1. the Constitution to determine the exact nature of our checks and balances.

2. the procedures for introducing and passing legislation to determine why Republicans would be outraged. (the details DO matter here.)

3. the History of the US, especially as it pertains to government, as well as influential countries & philosophers.

4. the History of England, and how its laws influenced the creation of our legal system

5. the definition of a Democratic Republic.

6. the definition of Common Law.

It's a shame our overtly Liberal Education System has failed you so.

Others posting:

The vote is not finalized until the Clerk hands over the tally. The gavel has NOTHING to do with the rules here.

Anonymous said...

"So I trust Anonymous was not outraged when the Republicans held the vote open three hours longer than scheduled so they cold twist arms to get approval for their prescription drug plan, since that just gave representatives time to vote the way they intended to vote?"

Copmparing apples and oranges. That procedural "game" is completely legal and aboveboard. Changing the vote AFTER the gavel came down and the vote was declared final is NOT called "procedure" because it isnt a procedure. It's not even a "game". It's theft of a vote.