Cantor Unveils Congressional Calendar Reforms

Posted: Dec 08, 2010 12:36 PM
Why, it's almost as if we'll have responsible adults running the US House of Representatives next year:

Pledges of increased efficiency, greater oversight, and fewer weeks of legislative action are music to many taxpayers' ears.  Other highlights:

- Legislation will be posted online for public viewing for three days prior to votes.

- So long to late night voting; no votes will be held after 7pm ET.

- No more symbolic congratulatory votes for sports teams, etc.

- Morning committee time will be protected while Congress is in session to "ensure that committees can conduct meaningful hearings, meetings, and oversight on a regular basis."

It will be interesting to track whether GOP leadership holds firm on the 7pm vote cut-off -- even in cases where some prolonged, old-fashioned arm twisting may seem necessary to advance important legislation.  In theory, this new rule should guarantee that Republican shenanigans like this will not occur in the next Congress:

Almost immediately, 17 House Republicans voted "no." By 3:48 in the morning — almost an hour after the 15-minute vote had been called — 218 members of Congress, a clear majority, had voted against the bill, with 215 in favor.

Sometimes exceptions are made to that 15 minutes. On rare occasions, when the margin of victory is close, a vote might be held open as long as an hour.

But there was clearly something different about this bill.

At 4 in the morning, one of the rebellious 26 — Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla. — changed his vote from "no" to "yes," and the tide began to turn.

Only Toomey, Tom Feeney of Florida, Gresham Barrett of South Carolina, and Scott Garrett stuck to their guns.

Finally, at 6 a.m. — nearly three hours after the 15-minute vote began — the gavel came down and the triumphant Republican chair announced that the Medicare bill had passed.

That unseemly gambit was executed under the supervision and leadership of Speaker Hastert and Leader Delay in 2003.  Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor are thankfully promising that similar maneuvers will be off limits on their watch.