House interrupts divisive debate to honor troops

AP News
Posted: Dec 11, 2009 3:34 PM

The House broke Friday from a divisive debate on banking laws to applaud a military unit visiting the Capitol.

But first, lawmakers had to finesse their own rules.

They were about to vote on a financial regulation amendment when Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., asked for the House to recognize more than 85 uniformed soldiers from Fort Bragg, N.C., seated in the chamber's gallery.

Though a handful of lawmakers started to applaud, Bachus' appeal was rejected. House rules prohibit members from referring to or addressing occupants in the gallery. Members are supposed to direct remarks to the chair.

"The chair cannot entertain that request at this time," said freshman Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., who was presiding over the debate.

Immediately after the vote and with most of the House's 435 members still on the floor, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., rose to praise the armed forces.

"It is not under the rules appropriate to directly address people who are in our gallery, but it is always in order to pay honor to those who serve us," Hoyer said.

Republicans and Democrats rose in unison for a prolonged round of loud clapping for the members of the 261st Multifunctional Medical Battalion.

"For them to pay their respects, that felt good," said Staff Sgt. Brian Roberts as he left the gallery.

The ovation brought tears to the eyes of Sgt. 1st Class Lorene Reynolds, who's spent 21 years in the Army.

"You don't do it for the recognition," she said.