Changes in Democratic Rules Package Stiffs Americans
Jan 9, 2009 -
One of the first orders of business at the start of each Congress is the adoption of rules by which the Chamber will be governed. This is typically a perfunctory matter as the majority party drafts the rules, and passes them on the strength of its greater number of Members. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t rife with politics, as Americans learned earlier this week when they observed the shenanigans perpetrated by the Democratic Leadership.
The rules package for the 111th Congress incorporates some big changes from last year. Although consideration of the rules package is very much inside baseball, it has real consequences. One particularly egregious change will stifle the rights of the Minority party to offer alternatives to legislation on the House floor through a process called the Motion to Recommit. Largely used to remove tax hikes or excessive spending in bills, the process still requires a majority of votes from both Republicans and Democrats.
On several occasions since the 2006 elections, when the Democrats first took back control of the House, major pieces of legislation have been brought to the House floor without going through the regular committee process. This has effectively shut Republicans out of the deliberative process, requiring us to use floor procedures in order to mend bad bills, and bring some fairness to the business of the House from the tyrannical rule of the Democratic Leadership. These procedures gave us a chance to be heard on bills that were otherwise bereft of Republican input.
Procedural fairness is the antithesis of partisanship, and stripping the Minority party of its rights sets a very partisan tone right off the bat. That’s what I said on the floor of the House when I spoke against the rules package on Tuesday. When the Minority party in the House is treated unfairly, it sets the stage for more partisanship. This is contrary to the message of President-elect Obama, who energized the vast majority of Americans last year with calls for “change” in Washington. I cannot believe that this is the change he envisioned. On the contrary, this week’s actions by Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic Leadership represent more of the same.
Given the current economic state of affairs in our nation, and the specter of a behemoth $1 trillion economic stimulus package looming in the near future, Congress needs a lot less “Washington politics” mentality, and a lot more of the “change” espoused by the President-elect. Ultimately, many of the larger problems facing Congress this session will require cooperative and bipartisan solutions. And in order to get a good solution, we need a good process. The rules package which will govern this session of Congress is not the auspicious first step I had hoped for, nor what Americans deserve.