Friday, August 03, 2007

Democrats Breaking House Rules?

The Politico reports that House Democrats apparently manipulated a vote and changed the final tally to deny Republicans a win on a motion to recommit the agriculture spending bill to committee, to bar assistance to illegal immigrants:

Details remain fuzzy, but numerous Republicans argued afterward that they had secured a 215-213 win on their motion to bar undocumented immigrants from receiving any federal funds apportioned in the agricultural spending bill for employment or rental assistance. Democrats, however, argued the measure was deadlocked at 214-214 and failed, members and aides on both sides of the aisle said afterward.

One GOP aide saw McNulty gavel the vote to a close after receiving a signal from his leaders – but before reading the official tally. And votes continued to shift even after he closed the roll call - a strange development in itself.

Whatever the final tally, acrimony quickly exploded between lawmakers on either side of the aisle as Democratic leaders tried to plot a solution, while parliamentarians on either side argued over protocol...

When Democrats finally moved to consider the spending bill as the last vote of the night, furious Republicans left the chamber en masse to protest the maneuver. The House eventually recessed at 11:18 p.m. But Republicans quickly discovered that there was no longer any record of the controversial vote and immediately charged Democrats with erasing the bad result.
According to the House website, Democrats won the vote on the motion to recommit by a margin of 216-212. Obviously, that's different from the 215-213 outcome Republicans claim, and the 214-214 tie that Democratic aides asserted. Whatever the accurate count, as many as 4 votes shifted after voting had closed.

Deputy Whip Eric Cantor writes about the incident -- and is pretty outraged:
The Democrat chair closed the roll call when Republicans had won – as the electronic voting tally indicated enough votes to return the bill to committee. Shouting erupted on the floor, as the Democrats attempted to change the outcome of the vote after the gavel had come down – the vote was closed.

Republicans attempted to adjourn, but we were ruled out of order. Confusion set in as members waited at least five minutes for the chair’s decision.
Democrats have been frustrated all year at the success of Republicans in winning motions to recommit. They had threatened to change House rules to prevent it; if the Republican account is accurate, they have simply decided to ignore the rules instead.

And if Cantor is right that it was 'at least 5 minutes' before the final tally was announced, then manipulation is definitely suggested. After all, it never takes more than a few seconds to tally just 3 or 4 vote shifts.

is what current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said when Republicans held a vote open to manipulate the result:
In 22 years of service in this body, I have never seen such an undemocratic subversion of the will of the House. The American people, I believe, would be shocked if they knew such undemocratic tactics were used. Republicans were defeated according to the rules, and they then changed the rules to claim 'victory.'
In response, Democrats promised to stick by vote timetables and allow measures to succeed or fail according to the will of the majority. Their opening-day rules package
Prohibits the Speaker from holding votes open for longer than the scheduled time for the sole purpose of changing the outcome of the vote.
I suspect we'll see some 'instant replays' that may shed more light on this. It would be a rather dramatic deviation from principle if House Democrats did what they are accused of.

See also Powerline.

Update: Eric Cantor provides a portion of the ruckus in this clip from C-SPAN. The chairman states that he 'prematurely' closed the tally while votes were still being entered:

If votes were still being cast, it's customary for the chair to keep the vote open to allow Members to complete their voting -- including if they've decided to change a vote. Did that rationale serve as a cover to allow other Members to change votes as well, and turn a loss into a win? Quite possibly.


Anonymous said...

Speaking as a liberal who normally votes democratic, I do not know much about this issue, but please follow it - rules should not be broken, most especially by those in power! Granted, when the republicans were in charge, they held votes open for a LONG time (arguably to change the outcome of a vote), but as I understand it, the rules are different now. Also - you might want to point out where in the rules package the change is (Title III - Civility Rule XX cl.2)

Anonymous said...

Well if you are using the Politico as a source you are obviously incorrect, but more so, this seems to be a perfectly legit tactic when rethugs did it on the medicare bill a couple years back, plus the attempted bribery to get a vote...

legaleagle said...

There's a little aphorism that says "What goes around, comes around."

Get used to it. Because it's gonna be coming around for a loooonnng goddamn time, and the single guiding political principle I care about more than any other is that the Democrats treat the Republicans with EXACTLY the same level of comity and respect they were shown in the preceding twelve years of Republican Congressional rule.

The Editor at IP said...

Thank you, legaleagle (and anonymous). As Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid endlessly tell us, the American people voted for change last November. I appreciate your offer of continuity! Treating the GOP Minority the same way they treated the Democrats will help ensure that the American people vote for change again in 2008! It cheers me greatly that there are Democrats willing to put spite ahead of self interest!

Liberal Observer said...

To Editor: Well, then, since you're all for the "change," then I assume you're backing the Democratic push to end the occupation in Iraq? And their legislative agenda?

Or is your enthusiasm for "the change" voted for by the people only relevant when you can criticize the Democratic Party when you mention it?

The Editor at IP said...

Do I want to leave Iraq a bloody mess? I'm surprised you'd ask; you ought to read the blog more. Even if you don't, I think you could tell I'm eager to see Nancy Pelosi resume her former position as Minority Leader.

Does that make my political prognostication invalid? If you think it does -- and that the voters will reward you for continuing business as usual in Washington -- it would kick off my weekend right.

I guess I have to write more clearly. I'm obviously too subtle...

Liberal Observer said...

Uh, Iraq isn't a bloody mess right now? Wow...that's...interesting...

Since you're so interested in the "will of the people," could you address the fact that a majority of Iraqi lawmakers want America out?

Wouldn't that make American an occupier and not an ally of Iraq?

Oh, but then, their opinions about their own country don't count unless you agree, right?

The Editor at IP said...

Did you give up on your last line of argument just because you hit a wall? Come on -- you're a liberal! Don't give in to reality!

And I see that you're projecting your desires about the US system onto the Iraqi system. The resolution you reference -- put forth by Muqtada Al Sadr (whose side I would not want to find myself on), has not been approved by the Iraqi government. Prime Minister Maliki has said he will veto.

So I assume you will back the voice of the Iraqi people as expressed through their government, and oppose a withdrawal? Or will you simply not recognize the legitimacy of any system with an executive with veto power?

Grog said...

After 6 years of the Republican party conclusively proving that the American people have no interest in this sort of story, what makes you think that people will care about it now? Most Americans have come to accept this sort of toxic behavior.

Is this worse than forcing a cloture vote and cutting off every issue before it gets to the floor in the Senate? Is it worse than the vote rigging allegations in the 2000 and 2004 elections? Is it worse than the attorney firings, the DOJ bust up over the NSA bill, the illegal treatment of detainees at Gitmo, or the Halliburton contracts?

I can tell you're all worked up over this, but I just can't tell why you would expect anybody to care. This is the government your party has spent the last 6 years creating. I thought this kind of crap was what you wanted.

Anonymous said...

I think this calls for a full investigation. Wait, did I say full investigation? I meant you could talk to a handful of the congressmen involved off the record, with no transcripts, out of the public eye. I can't imagine that would be a problem.

I just hope that in the time it takes to set something like that up, everybody involved doesn't forget everything about the night in question. That would sure make for an embarassing Q&A session.

dr. luba said...

And I see that you're projecting your desires about the US system onto the Iraqi system. The resolution you reference -- put forth by Muqtada Al Sadr (whose side I would not want to find myself on), has not been approved by the Iraqi government. Prime Minister Maliki has said he will veto.

Let's see--the majority of Americans want to end the war in Iraq, the congress tries to do so, and Bush threatens to veto.

The majority of Iraqis want the Americans our of Iraq, their congress tries to pass legislation to this effect, and their president threatens to veto.

You're right. Absolutely no parallels there.

Time DeLay said...

Call the Wahhhmbulance. There's nothing so pathetic as a whiny Republican.

They walked out. How mature. I tell my five year old, "Use your words."

Anonymous said...

Editor, if Pelosi has to be minority leader again, she will likely resign from Congress.