Last night on the House floor – that sprawling, brawling arena that was like a second home to me during my 22 year career in Congress – it seems pretty clear that a crime was perpetrated against the rule of law and the American people. A combination of arrogance and incompetence on the part of the Democrat leadership left the Rules looking like a prisoner at Abu Ghraib. Not bad for a Thursday night.
Here’s how it went down. The House of Representatives, like all democratic legislatures, provides for what is called a “Motion to Recommit.” It’s one of the many minority rights built into the structure of the legislative process. Basically, a properly led majority party in the House – unlike in the Senate – can pass pretty much any bill it wants to. It can swat down minority amendments, or even disallow their introduction in the first place. In order to give minority members a semblance of dignity in such circumstances, they are usually permitted one more vote, before a major bill’s final passage, to send the bill back to committee. A good example of this would be a budget bill: Republicans don’t want to just vote against the Democrat budget, so they propose their own in the form of the motion to recommit, so at least they can have something they’re for. Now, because majority parties are in control of things and presumably have competent leadership, these procedural votes are typically formalities.
Until this year. In the seven months since the Democrats took control of Congress and, as now appears evident, elected the most incompetent speaker in American history, Republicans have passed one motion to recommit after another. They have cleverly written their motions so as to make it difficult for Democrats to cavalierly vote against them. Such was the case last night. Before the vote on the Agriculture spending bill for the next fiscal year, Republicans offered a nifty little motion to recommit so that illegal immigrants would not receive taxpayer funded government welfare. (My compliments to whoever thought that one up.)
Well, because a few of the Democrats can’t afford to have an ad in their next campaign saying he wanted to give illegal immigrants federal funds, Nancy Pelosi’s duct-taped majority sprung another leak. The motion to recommit, whose passage would scuttle the Democrats’ bill offering taxpayer benefits to illegal immigrants, was on the verge of passage, with 215 votes in favor and 213 votes opposed. Yet another ring was about to run around Pelosi and her bumbling leadership team.
Then it happened.
Tom DeLay is the former House Majority Leader, the second ranking leader in the United States House of Representatives, and co-author of No Retreat, No Surrender: One American's Fight.