Democrats Still Seek Floor Strategy as Defense Authorization Nears Action
Even as House Democrats consider methods of breaking the Republican hold over the legislative agenda, a top Democrat admitted his party cannot force the majority to bring their bills to the floor.
“Frankly … they can jam us with impunity as long as they hold … 207 of their people in order,” Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Monday.
Democrats, who hold 205 seats, are still smarting from the May 9 Republican blockade of their alternative to the tax package. Since then, they have tried to draw attention to the fact that often they are not allowed to offer key amendments or alternatives to major bills on the floor.
Hoyer said he would be meeting with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other members of the Democratic leadership to map out a protest strategy in the event they are prevented by the Rules Committee from offering amendments to the Defense Department authorization bill this week.
Joking that they could emulate the 51 Texas Democrats who prevented the Republican-controlled state Legislature from considering a redistricting bill by fleeing to Ardmore, Okla., Hoyer said they could walk out in protest, although such a move would be ineffectual.
Unlike in Texas, the House could continue to work and pass legislation without the Democrats.
So far, Republicans have ignored the charges that they are being undemocratic and stifling debate.
As one Republican aide noted, the Democrats had no qualms about blocking Republican legislation when Democrats controlled the chamber.
Increasingly, Democrats have tried to evoke their constituents when complaining about unfair treatment.
Hoyer frequently notes that collectively, House Democrats represent 140 million of the country’s 270 million Americans and that denying House Democrats a voice is tantamount to denying their constituents one.
Jonathan Grella, spokesman for Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) said such talk is just sour grapes.
“They are trying to undermine the president’s agenda,” he said, adding that complaining about procedure instead of working to help Republicans pass President Bush’s “ambitious” agenda will not win them back the House.