Hypocrisy in the House

With an expanded majority in the 111th Congress Speaker Pelosi has decided to revisit a fight she lost in May of 2007.

At the time it was only a few months into the new Congress, but Democrats had become frustrated with the Republicans success in forcing votes on tough issues.  Unable to maintain control under the same rules Hillary Clinton had famously accused Republicans of using to run the House, "like a plantation ... in a way so that nobody with a contrary view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard," they decided to take the extraordinary step of altering the rules mid-session to limit debate.

As Politico described the plan,"Democrats suggested changing the House rules to limit the minority's right to offer motions to recommit bills back to committee -- violating a protection that has been in place since 1822."  This power grab provoked an immediate backlash, with Republicans essentially shutting down the chamber by forcing a series of procedural votes on the House floor.  In the face of such a strong response the Democrats backed down and withdrew the proposal.

But it appears that Speaker Pelosi was merely biding her time.  With the start of the 111th Congress this week Democrats unveiled a package of rules changes that go far beyond what they were attempting in 2007.  While clearly outling their opposition House Republicans were unable to prevent the rules from being adopted on a nearly party line vote of 242-181 with only 6 Democrats finding the courage to vote against their party.

These new rules: limit the right of the minority to offer motions to recommit; abolish term limits on Committee Chairs, returning the House to the pre-1995 status quo where powerful chairs refused to relinquish power, serving until death or retirement; weaken the pay-go rules that Democrats campaigned on in 2006; and reverse the prohibition on votes being held open for the purpose of changing the outcome.

This is in stark contrast to the many promises Democrats made before taking power, such as Steny Hoyer's statement that, "We intend to have a Rules Committee … that gives opposition voices and alternative proposals the ability to be heard and considered on the floor of the House" (CongressDaily PM, 12/5/2006) and Nancy Pelosi's pledge, "...to lead the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history."  It also violates the spirit of their campaign document 'A New Direction for America' published in June of 2006 that outlined a Congress that would work for all Americans instead of simply a narrow constituency.

Change indeed.

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they did do that.

the republicans fubared themselves by making motions to recommit DURING A FUNERAL SERVICE. for one congresswoman from Ohio.

That's not simply political gamesmanship, that's political stupidity.

I think you mean Rep. Lantos

Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones' funeral was delayed because of the 2008 DNC and held Aug 30th when I believe the House was still adjourned.  You might be thinking of Rep. Lantos who's memorial service last February was disrupted by a similar situation to what you described.

In that case there had been an agreement that the House would remain in recess during the service, but apparently Democrats called the chamber back into session as part of their drive to bring a partisan vote on 'contempt of Congess' charges against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former Bush counsel Harriet Miers.  In response the Republicans made a motion to adjourn.  Both sides blamed each other and Politico concluded, "To some extent, it appears both sides are at fault, but the recriminations have been fast and furious."

This video explains it in greater detail:

you're right. my memory fades over the years.

funny thing about that and the house rules:




I think that it would be a good thing if there would be more congressional oversight over the Federal Gov't. from both parties and either party.