Putting our House in order
Wednesday October 16th 2013, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Politics

After sixteen days of the shutdown, as a Washington, DC-born native and political addict I happened to catch the Washington Post just as they were going live with the one-minute-limit speeches and then the vote in the House.

It took me back to my grandfather’s funeral, where his former Senate chief of staff told of another staffer telling him, You don’t know how lucky you are. You always know your guy will vote his conscience. Ours hides in the cloakroom to see which way it’s going.

And so the vote began slowly tonight, especially on the Republican side and with their Ayes two-to-one to their Nays–until they hit that magic number that meant the Democrats were going to win now, period: we would not default. We would reopen the government. The deal was done.

And so now they could play to the folks in their districts back home without being responsible for bringing the country and even the world down around their heads, and suddenly the Republican Nays doubled, then in short order doubled again.

Made for interesting political theater.

Now, whichever side one might be on politically, there is one thing that hasn’t gotten much press that I think we should all be able to agree on. Standing House Rule 22 Section 4 was described by James Madison thus: “If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution.”

Thus: if the House amends a Senate bill and the Senate rejects the amendments and sends it back to the House, any member of the House can then call for a straight up-or-down vote on that bill. That was Rule 22 Section 4.

Chris Van Hollen, during the standoff, asked to be able to do exactly that and was denied. The Republican-run Rules Committee had met the day before the shutdown and had changed that centuries-old rule so that now only the Majority Leader–that would be Eric Cantor of the Tea Party–had the authority to call such a bill up for a vote.

Jason Chaffetz (the guy who wants to sell off chunks of Yosemite) tried repeatedly to refuse to allow Van Hollen to be heard.

“Democracy has been suspended,” said Van Hollen after his attempts at getting a straight answer out of the guy as to just what they had done, and he wrote a piece for The Guardian laying out the details.

There’s been a lot of press about the Hastert rule, but even Dennis Hastert says it wasn’t really a rule.

This, however, is something that everyone needs to tell their House representative to overturn: even if it serves your side now, it will be used against you later. It gives control over the entire House, and as we saw these last two weeks the entire country, to one man in one party in one half of Congress that is one third of the three branches of the government. One individual, under Citizens United, denying liberty and administering injustice to all.

And that is no way to run this great country.

Write your Congressperson. Reinstate House Rule 22 Section 4. By law.

And now, at long last, two-year-olds in teddy bear suits will get to go see Smokey the Bear at the National Zoo again.

(Edited to add: find links to your Senators’ emails here. Your House members, here.

4 Comments so far
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I saw that Van Hollen bit. To me it just underlned the hypocracy of the Tea party. Holding the nation should be just as illegal as it is in other instances.

Comment by Donald Meyer 10.17.13 @ 8:24 am

Thanks for spreading this information. So many folks never see or hear about the underhanded antics of our legislators. This one was a doozie!!! Hope you’re feeling better!

Comment by Jayleen Hatmaker 10.17.13 @ 10:01 am

Bravo, Alison. (Thanks too for the links!)

Comment by Channon 10.17.13 @ 5:58 pm

Very interesting. Thanks, Alison. My congressperson is Chris Van Hollen. Lucky. I’ll write two words: well done.

Comment by RobinM 10.17.13 @ 6:04 pm

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