Sorry for being a little off-topic, but I thought this was classic. Don Wolfensberger, one of the great Congressional procedure wonks, described in Roll Call ($) the procedure that allowed the GOP to amend a the DC vote bill with a DC gun ban provision. The whole event is a brilliant lesson in the hypocrisy of the House Democratic leadership. This is a long post and a little esoteric. So, if you are interested in Congressional procedure and Democratic hypocrisy, read more after the jump.
First, the bill, to which I am highly sympathetic, required some spending:
A complicating factor intervened when the Congressional Budget Office estimated the cost of the bill over 10 years included $2.5 million in “direct spending” (mandatory or entitlement costs) for the salary and benefits of the new, at-large Member from Utah. This in turn triggered the “pay-as-you-go” budget rule Democrats had revived in January. The PAYGO rule requires that any new direct spending increases be offset by other direct spending reductions and/or tax increases.
So the Democrats decided to attach a provision to the bill to pay for it. While they were at it, they discarded all GOP amendments and attached a number of additional Democratic amendments. Note also how the rich are merely the ATM for Democratic pet projects:
The majority’s solution was to use the special rule to self-execute the adoption of an amendment increasing the amount of estimated taxes certain wealthy individuals must prepay, along with the chairmen’s three other amendments. In other words, when the House adopted the procedural rule it simultaneously would adopt four amendments to the bill, thereby obviating the need for future debate or votes on them. The Rules Committee also jettisoned all 15 Republican amendments filed.
Ahhhh. Democracy. "The People’s House". So… The Democrats short-circuit the legislative process, and the Republicans attempt to amend with an amendment that is popular:
Something had to give, and it did. Grafting the unrelated tax provision onto the D.C. vote bill expanded the scope of the measure so much that practically any amendment would have been germane. And Republicans still had the minority party right (which they had guaranteed back in 1995) to offer a motion to recommit the bill with instructions (a final amendment).
Enter Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) with instructions to repeal the D.C. gun laws. In a departure from usual practice, however, Smith encased the amendment in a motion to send the bill back to committee with instructions to report it back “promptly,” rather than “forthwith.” That meant that instead of an instant vote on the amendment by the House, the motion actually would send the bill and instructions physically back to committee.
Simple enough… Popular provision. Just take the lumps for a dumb procedural move and be done with it. Right? Nope, not in a House run by the anti-democratic Nancy Pelosi:
After the allotted 10 minutes of debate on Smith’s motion, Speaker Pro Tempore Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) announced that, pursuant to section 2 of the procedural ground rules, further proceedings on the bill would be postponed until a time designated by the Speaker — effectively pulling the bill from the floor and blocking the impending vote on the minority’s motion.
While House standing rules permit the Speaker to postpone votes on the final passage of bills, special rules and suspension motions for up to two legislative days, they do not allow postponements of the minority’s motion to recommit a bill. The Speaker Pro Tempore acknowledged that the section 2 authority of the special rule was indeed a departure from the regular order. In effect it gave the Speaker authority to postpone the vote on the minority’s recommit motion until, as the song goes, “the twelfth of never and that’s a long, long time.” As of today the vote on the minority motion has been delayed 432 hours. That makes the Republicans’ three-hour prescription drug vote in 2003 seem like a nanosecond.
Wolfensberger, a smart man, gets the joke:
Although some liberal commentators predictably painted Republicans as the heavies in the piece, the fact is the Democrats did this to themselves by going back on their campaign promise to be more fair and open with amendments than Republicans had been to them. It is a lesson Republicans belatedly came to recognize only after they lost control of the House. It is one their Democratic successors apparently have yet to learn and for which they will continue to PAY the further they GO.
Let’s just hope that the American people get the joke too.