In June of 2004, when then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was trying to put the best face on Democratic intentions should they win a majority in the 2006 election, she issued a "minority bill of rights." It promised that Democrats would not treat Republicans as Republicans often treated Democrats should voters put Democrats back in charge of the House.
Pelosi promised a "bipartisan administration of the House" and a return to a more "regular democratic order for legislation." That meant bills would be considered under a procedure that "allows open, full and fair debate consisting of a full amendment process that grants the minority the right to offer its alternatives, including a substitute." Pelosi promised, "Members should have at least 24 hours to examine bills and conference report text prior to floor consideration. Rules governing floor debate must be reported before 10 p.m. for a bill to be considered the following day."
In the political version of what might be called, "of course, I'll respect you in the morning," House Democrats have announced they intend to break that promise. They will use House rules to keep Republicans from offering alternative measures because they want to show voters how quickly they can pass their "first 100 hours" agenda and allowing Republicans to offer amendments or alternative legislation, they figure, would slow them down.
Republicans are complaining about this, as one might expect, but after 12 years of treating Democrats as if they were subjects in a GOP dictatorship, they are unlikely to attract much sympathy. Plus, Democrats will have much of the big media on their side, which the Republicans, during their time in the majority, did not. The media treated every Republican legislative effort as insensitive, cruel and beneficial only to "the rich." Don't look for any "Gingrich That Stole Christmas" covers like Time magazine ran on former Speaker Newt Gingrich. The media will treat Democrats as caring, compassionate crusaders for the common man.
Here's one major difference between the 1994 election and the one in 2006 and the aftermath from each. In 1994, Republicans told voters, before and after the election, precisely what they would do. Speaker Newt Gingrich did not promise fealty with Democrats, nor did he promise to practice a political Golden Rule. Voters disgusted with Democrats had given Republicans a mandate and they would ram through their "Contract with America."
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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