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.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.
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.
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.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.
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.
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.
This 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.