Saturday, August 04, 2007
U.S. House Democrats Walk A Crooked Mile
House Democrats apologized Friday for wrestling what appeared to be a winning vote away from Republicans Thursday night, and on Friday evening agreed to an investigation.
Republicans continued to steam, however, over the episode in which they appeared to be the winners by a 215-213 tally on a procedural motion designed to make sure illegal immigrants would not get certain benefits from an agriculture spending bill.
Instead, with the tally clerk registering the final votes, Rep. Michael McNulty, D-N.Y., gaveled the vote to a close, saying the GOP measure had failed on a 214-214 tie.
Republicans erupted, chanting "shame, shame, shame," and then walked out in protest after McNulty permitted further Democrats to switch their votes to prevail 216-212. Despite winning that tally, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., moved for a revote as permitted under the rules, and Democrats prevailed again.
On Friday, Hoyer apologized. "The minority was understandably angry," he said.
Republicans prevailed upon their Democratic rivals to establish a special panel to investigate the manner in which the vote was handled.
A combination of arrogance and incompetence on the part of the Democrat leadership left the Rules looking like a prisoner at Abu Ghraib. Not bad for a Thursday night.
Here’s how it went down. The House of Representatives, like all democratic legislatures, provides for what is called a “Motion to Recommit.” It’s one of the many minority rights built into the structure of the legislative process. Basically, a properly led majority party in the House – unlike in the Senate – can pass pretty much any bill it wants to. It can swat down minority amendments, or even disallow their introduction in the first place. In order to give minority members a semblance of dignity in such circumstances, they are usually permitted one more vote, before a major bill’s final passage, to send the bill back to committee.
Democrat Congressman Michael McNulty, who would apparently make a compelling contestant on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, gaveled the vote closed – repeat, closed – when it was 215 to 213. Republicans win. Except when McNulty got the tally from the Clerk and realized what happened, he and the Democrat leader conspired to “correct” their mistake, after the gavel had fallen.
Angry Republicans started asking questions, primarily one beginning with the words, “what” and “the”. Republican Leader John Boehner stood up and asked the same question, politely, and all McNulty said was that the “voting machine is down.” (The House’s electronic voting machine doesn’t just “go down”, incidentally: it was more likely turned off to hide the evidence of the crime.) A few minutes of strange rustlings over on the Democrat side of the dais ensued until finally Rep. McNulty spoke up again and said, “The Chair prematurely called the vote at 214-214 [a lie], while there were votes being entered [illegal]. After all the cards [whose?] were added, the final [illegal] vote was 212 to 216, nay.
Labels: Dog and Pony Show
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