Paul  Weyrich

Do you recall how House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) was elected? Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) attempted to purge him from the Democratic Leadership. But came the Leadership elections and Hoyer defeated her candidate and long-time ally, Representative John P. Murtha (D-PA), by a nearly two-to-one margin. Either Madame Speaker miscalculated or she stuck with a losing choice to the end. Whatever the case, Hoyer is Majority Leader and now he is trying to change one of the rules adopted at the beginning of the 110th Congress because the Republican Minority has found a way to be heard by using that rule.

Since January of 2007 the Minority has been having a jolly time sending back measures to the committees from which they came with what is called a motion to "recommit." It is all because of a House rule the Democrats adopted at the beginning of the year stating that all legislation involving new expenditures (other than appropriations) must have a "pay as you go" (PAYGO) plan included. The Republicans have pointed out that if new money is appropriated in a specific bill and the funds cannot be taken from somewhere else the bill can be sent back to committee with "instructions" to figure it out.

Republicans have had at least 17 Democrats voting with them on several successful motions. The Water Quality Investment Act (H.R. 569) contained a provision to prohibit the use of funds to lobby or retain a lobbyist and it allocated many new funds for programs without identifying the source of the money. The vote on the motion to recommit on March 7 was 425-0, with 228 Democrats and 197 Republicans voting to recommit to the Transportation Committee -- with instructions.

The motion to recommit the Gulf Coast Hurricane Recovery Act (H.R. 1227) was helped by an amendment that prohibited occupancy in public housing if the individual renter had been convicted of dealing drugs, a sexual offense, domestic violence or gang crime and it gave priority to individuals who were working. Many Democrats could not risk having to vote on that one way or the other so they voted to recommit.

Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is the late Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.
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