Seven months have passed since I handed the gavel to Nancy Pelosi, formally returning control of the House to Democrats for the first time in 12 years. In my remarks to the House that day, I offered a bit of advice to the members of the incoming majority. I told them:
“A congressional majority is simply a means to an end. The value of a majority lies not in the chance to wield great power, but in the chance to use limited power to do great things.
“The [American] people don’t care which party controls it; what they want is a government that is limited, honest, accountable, and responsive to their needs. The moment a majority forgets this lesson, it begins writing itself a ticket to minority status.”
My friends: the Democrats’ ticket is being punched.
The stolen 215-213 vote Thursday night on the Republican motion denying taxpayer benefits to illegal immigrants could be the legislative equivalent of the “shot heard ’round the world.” This was about far more than just arcane parliamentary process. It was an act I believe will eventually come to symbolize this majority.
In a fateful moment that capped off seven straight months of cynical broken promises, the current leadership thumbed its collective nose at the will of the American people. In one telling instant that has now been viewed by millions of our constituents via the Internet and other means, the Democratic majority revealed it is willing to break any rule, trample on any precedent, and run roughshod over its own Members to defend a left-wing, big government agenda most Americans utterly reject. Then it compounded the gesture on the House floor by stifling Republican efforts to debate the majority’s handling of the incident, and erasing the evidence of its iron-fisted actions from the public record, much as it did with the 215-213 vote itself.
The stolen 215-213 vote wasn’t about us. It was a breach of trust between the Democratic majority and the American people the current majority swore it would work in an open, bipartisan, accountable manner to serve.
The severity of this breach hasn’t occurred to every Democrat yet. As this morning’s Washington Post revealed, there is disagreement within the Democratic leadership ranks as to whether Thursday night’s stolen vote action was even a mistake at all. Majority Leader Hoyer acknowledged on the floor that it was a mistake, and apologized. But Speaker Pelosi brushed Leader Hoyer’s comments aside, saying there was no mistake, and calling the incident something that was just an “inconvenience” for the Republican minority.
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