Mad House

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

It usu­ally takes sev­eral years for a House ma­jor­ity to over­reach like Democrats did on the evening of Aug. 2. But now we see en­raged House Repub­li­cans cred­i­bly ac­cus­ing Democrats of steal­ing a vote, fol­lowed by a Repub­li­can walk­out, the first in the House in years. As we went to press on Aug. 3, boil­ing anger and talk of tech­ni­cal vot­ing-ma­chine prob­lems reigned on the Hill as con­tro­versy over il­le­gal aliens’ ac­cess to pub­lic ben­e­fits brewed.

The short ver­sion: Repub­li­cans sought to send the agri­cul­ture bill back to com­mit­tee to block fed­eral em­ploy­ment and rental as­sis­tance for il­le­gal aliens. Democrats sup­ported th­ese agri­cul­ture-bill loop­holes. They then tram­pled on the mi­nor­ity in their ser­vice. It hap­pened when Rep. Michael McNulty, New York Demo­crat, gaveled the vote closed as a 214-214 fail­ure. But the mon­i­tors showed a vote of 215-213 to re­turn the bill to com­mit­tee. Amid the con­fu­sion, Democrats re­opened the vote and even­tu­ally claimed a 216-212 vic­tory. Whether a tech­ni­cal glitch fac­tored into this mess was in dis­pute as we went to press on Aug. 3.

Glitch or no glitch, this was an out­rage. Democrats at min­i­mum were con­tent to ap­pear to tell Repub­li­can law­mak­ers that their vote and their slim ap­par­ent vic­tory didn’t count. On Aug. 3, House Mi­nor­ity Leader John Boehner and Mi­nor­ity Whip Roy Blunt vowed to halt all House busi­ness ex­cept for­eign intelligence sur­veil­lance re­form and bridge-safety leg­is­la­tion un­til the mat­ter is re­solved — as they should.

This episode has the po­ten­tial to gal­va­nize a dispir­ited mi­nor­ity the way Tom De­Lay’s Medi­care roll-call con­tor­tions did for Democrats in 2003, or the late Demo­cratic Rep. Frank McCloskey’s dis­puted In­di­ana House seat did for Repub­li­cans in 1985. House Repub­li­cans are right to halt all nonessen­tial busi­ness. The mi­nor­ity in the House of­ten­times re­quires an out­rage, an abuse of power by the ma­jor­ity, to wake from its slum­ber. This would qual­ify. Un­less there is some as-of-yet un­known tech­ni­cal ex­pla­na­tion, this was in­deed worse than Mr. De­Lay’s 2003 roll call of twoplus hours to strong-arm sup­port for Medi­care leg­is­la­tion.

A vote is a vote. It is par­tic­u­larly egre­gious for House Democrats to at­tempt to re­scind the out­come on an is­sue so clear-cut as pub­lic as­sis­tance for il­le­gal aliens. Il­le­gal aliens who dis­re­gard our im­mi­gra­tion laws should not also be al­lowed to en­joy pub­lic ben­e­fits cour­tesy of the Amer­i­can tax­payer.

On the morn­ing of Aug. 3, House Ma­jor­ity Leader Steny Hoyer of­fered to re­fer mat­ters to the House Ethics Com­mit­tee. He did not of­fer to cor­rect the vote. Later that day, the House vot­ing ma­chines went down with tech­ni­cal prob­lems amid prom­ises to re­turn to the is­sue.

Re­fer­ral to the ethics com­mit­tee would not be suf­fi­cient. Right now it cer­tainly looks like the mi­nor­ity’s rights were tram­pled upon, as was House pro­ce­dure. The mi­nor­ity will get nowhere if it al­lows the Demo­cratic lead­er­ship to flout rules with vot­ing do-overs on out­comes it does not like.

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