This week, House Republicans were united in backing down an attempt by Democrats to rewrite House rules to make it easier to raise taxes on middle-class families and increase government spending without having to vote and be held accountable. We stared them down, and we won.
House Republicans used a series of procedural motions designed to bring business on the House floor to a halt. Democrats are already pushing to raise taxes on every American, not to mention the billions and billions in excessive, unnecessary spending. Now they want to duck responsibility for it? We won’t let it fly.
At issue are a series of House rules that have served Congress well since 1822, and are based on a manual Thomas Jefferson wrote for himself to use while President of the U.S. Senate. The last time they were changed was 185 years ago — when Jefferson was still alive and James Monroe was President. Every Congress since has been able to operate under these rules, which allow the minority party to expose flaws in and make substantive improvements in legislation considered on the House floor. Every Congress, that is, until the 110th.
Republicans have used the “motions-to-recommit” (MTR) allowed by House rules to amend and substantially improve the weaknesses in underlying Democratic bills. They’ve enabled Republicans to pass measures protecting innocent American passengers from being subject to frivolous civil lawsuits when they report potential terrorist activity (prompted by public outrage over last November’s “flying Imams” incident). They enabled us to protect U.S. military recruiters from discrimination by federally-funded colleges and universities, to strengthen terrorist screening programs, and more. All with the support of rank-and-file Democrats.
On March 27, Congressional Quarterly (CQ) reported that: “Now that Republicans have shown they can use new House rules against the new Democratic majority that wrote them, the Democrats want new rules.” This week, Democratic leaders tried to make good on that desire, quietly moving to shut down Republicans without any notice and eliminate a rule that’s forced them to take some tough votes.
It’s a far cry from where they were last November when House Democratic leaders promised the most open, ethical Congress in history. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Ca.) said in December, “[W]e promised the American people that we would have the most honest and most open government and we will.”
And House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D.-Md.) told Congress Daily he wanted to give “opposition voices and alternative proposals the ability to be heard and considered on the floor of the House.”
Speaker Pelosi once went so far as to say she was willing to lose votes if it meant ensuring her House was the “most open, ethical” in history:
“In perhaps the biggest break from the current practices of GOP leaders, Pelosi said she would be willing to lose votes on the floor.”
“‘I certainly would not say that we can’t bring things to the floor because we’ll lose…’”
So much for being willing to lose some votes. Perhaps before they game the system by changing the rules to their liking, Democratic leaders should ask their own members why they are voting in droves for our Republican proposals.
Why are Democrats against Democracy? The attempted rules changes strike at the very heart of what it means to be a representative in United States Congress. The American people elect each Member to represent them with the knowledge that we all have the opportunity to actively participate and ensure their voices are heard. Scrapping rules that have existed since the first days of the republic designed to make sure the House remains a deliberative body — and not simply a machine of the Speaker and Committee Chairmen — would do lasting damage to the institution. I won’t allow it.
Democrats need to be held accountable for the tax-and-spend policies they pursue — the high tax, high spend policies the American people do not want. House Republicans stood united to make sure that happens.
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