The much-ballyhooed Tuesday hearing of the House Select Committee investigating voting irregularities on August 2, 2007 produced little drama or visible movement toward Republicans’ goal of proving that the Democrats abused their power in the disputed vote over illegal aliens’ ability to obtain federal welfare funds.
Republicans had hoped to prove that Rep. Michael McNulty (D-NY), presiding over the House at the time of the disputed vote, had — under pressure from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md) — declared Republicans had lost the disputed vote when they had won by one vote.
Hoyer testified for about two hours before the committee yesterday afternoon and emerged without having suffered obvious damage.
Republican questioning centered on two events. First, Hoyer’s scolding of House Parliamentarian John Sullivan just after Rep. Michael McNulty (D-NY) first declared the vote tied at 214-214 when the electronic vote “scoreboard” showed the Republicans had won 215-213.
Second, Republicans Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Ray LaTourette (R-Ohio) questioned Hoyer repeatedly about the conflicts in his testimony (recorded in an earlier deposition) and that of both chief House Democratic Staffer Caitlin O’Neill (a Pelosi staffer) and Rep. McNulty. Both said in depositions that they did not hear Hoyer give an order to close the vote when Hoyer’s deposition said that he had directed the vote be ended.
But the Republicans apparently missed the key question raised by the videotape of the event that they had enhanced for the hearing. The big question is what passed between staffer Caitlin O’Neill and Sullivan (or McNulty) and then between O’Neill and Hoyer?
The key moment in the disputed series of events on the night of August 2, 2007 occurred just before the first time McNulty declared that the vote had been tied at 214-214, meaning the Republican motion had been defeated. (A tie vote means the motion being voted on has failed.) But at that moment, the electronic vote “scoreboard” showed the Republicans had won 215-213.
At that point, Speaker Pelosi had come down to vote at the time McNulty had apparently closed the vote without declaring the result. At that moment, Hoyer testified, he made a passing comment to O’Neill that the vote should be closed when the Democrats had prevailed.
But that’s not what the tape shows, in the moments before Hoyer went to the podium to scold Sullivan.
At about 22:49:32 into the tape (on the 24-hour clock, 22 hours, 49 minutes and 32 seconds — 49 minutes and 32 seconds after 10 pm) Hoyer can be seen moving from the House floor into the “well” of the House and toward the podium. Then, O’Neill came up to him — twice — and apparently told him something that caused Hoyer to immediately accost Sullivan. Hoyer went up to House Parliamentarian John Sullivan and angrily told him, “We control this House, not the parliamentarian.”
Hoyer also testified Tuesday that the electronic vote scoreboard was the vote tally that was used to declare the results.
Republicans are focused on what Hoyer told O’Neill. But they have it backwards.
The key question — unasked of Hoyer yesterday — is what did O’Neill tell him? What did she say about how Sullivan was advising McNulty on the vote that caused Hoyer’s outburst? What had Sullivan said to McNulty that caused O’Neill to go up to Hoyer twice in less than a minute, causing Hoyer to blow up at Sullivan?
If the electronic tally board is the reliable count, and it showed a Republican win, why did McNulty first declare the vote over and then let Pelosi’s vote count, creating the Democratic win?
At this point, we don’t know. But if — as it appears — Hoyer’s scolding of Sullivan negated his professional advice on how the vote had already been properly ended (and should not be reopened to let Pelosi vote and reverse the apparent result), the Republicans’ case that the vote was reversed in violation of House rules could well be proved.
Other substantive questions remain. For example, why wasn’t House Minority Leader John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) last-minute vote counted when Pelosi’s was?
If Republicans don’t find out what Sullivan advised McNulty and what O’Neill said to Hoyer that precipitated his outburst, they may never get to the bottom of this.
At one point, after the explosion by Hoyer, Sullivan remarked to Tally Clerk De’Andre Anderson that they were in “uncharted waters.” And there the House — and the Select Committee — remain.