By now, it’s almost certain that you’re aware that the Teabillies have, as our writer Bob Cull put it, “usurped power in a bloodless coup.” While the bloodlessness is up for debate, it is true that the Teahadists have rigged house rules so that the shutdown will only end when they allow it to. Under the modified rules, only the Majority Leader (currently Eric Cantor) or someone he designates is allowed to bring a motion to the floor–this effectively keeps those pesky Democrats from proposing anything that might make lives difficult for the Tea Party fueled House Repuglicans.
The public at large became aware of this after witnessing Chris Van Hollen call out a very nervous Speaker Pro Tem. Jason Chaffetz, who informed him that “under section II of HR 368 that motion may only be offered by the majority leader or his designee,” leading to an uncomfortable five minutes in which Chaffetz explains evasively that the idiots have, literally, taken over.
Here’s why this is important: House rules normally allow any member to call up a Senate-passed bill for a vote. On Government Shutdown Eve, however, the largely Koch-controlled House Rules Committee changed the rule to allow only Eric Cantor to call up a clean C/R (which has the votes to pass,) thus continuing the shutdown as the American Taliban scrambles for leverage against, and concessions from, the other side.
“It was just pointed out to me that under regular order of the House, any member can call for a vote on the Senate proposal. But you have changed that regular order under this resolution so that only the majority leader can do it. Can you tell us why you did that?”
Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) is more than happy to intimate the reason for the change:
“In fact, that is correct. What we are attempting to do is to actually get our people together. Rather than trying to make a decision, we are trying to actually have a conference. … So we think this is the quickest way to get that done.”
After Slaughter seeks clarification, Sessions explains:
“The reason why is that…under those (original rules) there could be a motion as early as tonight, and a conference would be avoided–and we want a conference.”
Slaughter asks if he means a vote on the Senate Bill, which Sessions confirms. “Well, I think you’ve taken (anyone’s ability to make a privileged motion) away.” Sessions replies, “That’s what I’m saying. We took that away.”
Slaughter let her thoughts on the matter be known:
“Oh, mercy! I think it is an atrocity to the rules of the House. I must tell you that I am more angry now that I understand that what you have done is take away our ability to really make a motion for that Senate vote.”
Doug Andres, a Republican committee spokesman, spoke out in favor of the usurping of power by a lone man in the House:
“The House acted in good faith to open up negotiations with Senate Democrats, but Majority Leader Harry Reid dismissed the idea of bipartisan talks. That partisan refusal to negotiate should not be rewarded with control of the House floor. The easiest way to settle this is for both sides to sit down and finally talk.”
In other words, accede to our demands–and you might get your government back.
Watch Rep. Slaughter ask the hard questions here: