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Long Season of Pro Forma Sessions Comes to Quiet End

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Rep. Steven C. LaTourette , a Republican who is retiring, gaveled in many of the House’s pro forma sessions over the past few months.

The same show played out on Oct. 16, when Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., and Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., came to the floor intending to ask GOP leaders to deal with looming sequestration cuts, but Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., gaveled out without recognizing either member.

Not all pro formas spurred such partisan tensions, however. Some were positively congenial, as was the case on Oct. 23 when LaTourette closed the minutes-long pro forma without recognizing Connolly’s request for floor time. The two members then shook hands, hugged and left the chamber chatting merrily.

Other pro forma sessions showcased a bit of intraparty drama. On Oct. 12, Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., presided over the minutes-long session at the behest of House leadership, just one day after allegations surfaced that the pro-life Republican doctor had encouraged a patient he slept with to have an abortion in 2000 and on the same day he was scheduled to debate his Democratic challenger in Tennessee’s 4th district.

Some excitement transcended politics altogether. In the wake of superstorm Sandy and amid continued power outages, limited rail operations and federal office closures, the House and Senate convened on Oct. 30 in delayed pro forma sessions, each lasting less than 2 minutes. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, presided in the Senate, and LaTourette was present in the House.

LaTourette, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, presided over pro formas more than any other House member during the seven-week recess. He was asked by Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, to gavel in the Nov. 6 Election Day pro forma session.

“The real issue is he’s retiring,” said Dino DiSanto, LaTourette’s chief of staff. “His ability to do it is much easier than other individuals who are running for re-election.”

In the days leading up to Nov. 6, Democrats were notably absent from the House floor, their qualms with GOP leaders seeming to fade in the run-up to the elections.

With little fanfare during Friday’s final pro forma, Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., brought the session to a close as both parties braced for what is likely to be a jam-packed lame-duck session. No Democrats were present on Friday.

The House is scheduled to reconvene Tuesday at 2 p.m. and will likely consider several bills under suspension of the rules.

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