‘Stolen Vote’ Panel Set to Interview Leadership

Posted December 4, 2007 at 6:32pm

Democratic and Republican leaders will soon be called to testify before the select committee tasked with probing an August voting snafu on the House floor, as the panel moves to its investigative phase.

“Make no mistake about it, we’re getting into the hard part,” Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), the panel’s ranking member, said Tuesday. “We’re going to reopen some old wounds from a very painful night.”

The committee will soon move to interview Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), as well as about a dozen rank-and-file lawmakers who have volunteered to testify, including Rep. Mike McNulty (D-N.Y.), who presided over the House floor during the disputed vote.

But Pence said he does not expect Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will be called to testify: “Republicans on the select committee do not anticipate calling Speaker Pelosi to testify before the committee at this time.”

The interviews, not technically depositions since no Member will be placed under oath, will be conducted through the December holidays and into early January. At the same time, staff also will examine document trails, including e-mails exchanged during the incident, Pence said.

“I would fully anticipate that any Member, officer of the House and employees that were directly involved in the incident would be called to testify in a public hearing,” he added.

The order in which Members and other witnesses would testify has not been determined, but Pence said he and Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), the panel’s chairman, have discussed the possibility of daylong hearings to dispense with the committee’s “heavy lifting.”

The Indiana lawmaker said he hopes the committee, which is not required to complete a final report until mid-September, will be able to finalize its work in spring 2008, including recommendations on how to avoid future disputes.

The committee, which has held its meetings in the Rules Committee’s space in the Capitol, has been assigned its own hearing room in the Longworth House Office Building, as well as new office space.

In addition, both parties added independent counsel to their staffs during the Thanksgiving recess.

Democrats have added former Pelosi Chief of Staff George Crawford, now a senior government relations adviser at King & Spalding’s Government Advocacy and Public Policy practice group. He also is a former staff member of the House Rules Committee.

In addition, Tom Spulak, a partner in King & Spalding’s Government Advocacy and Public Policy practice group, also will serve as Democratic counsel. Spulak is a former staff director and general counsel to the Rules Committee and has served as general counsel to the House. He also is a former partner at Shaw Pittman.

“These individuals bring a significant amount of experience to this committee,” Delahunt said in a statement. “Their longtime service to the House of Representatives, impressive institutional knowledge and demonstrated commitment to the integrity of this body will serve us well.”

Republicans selected Mark Paoletta, an attorney at the law firm Dickstein Shapiro, who previously served as chief counsel to the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

“He brings an extraordinary reputation for professional and investigative work,” Pence said.

Republicans also add Andrew Snowdon to the staff, who also previously served as a counsel to the same Energy and Commerce subcommittee before moving to Dickstein Shapiro earlier this year. In addition, Pence’s legislative counsel Josh Pitcock also will assist the committee staff.

The committee is expected to reconstruct the events of Aug. 2 and even could go as far as to examine where and when each Member voted in the chamber, according to electronic voting records maintained by the Clerk of the House.

Pence acknowledged that the investigative phase of the probe could become more divisive as Members dispute the course of events.

The investigation will focus on an Aug. 2 vote on a GOP-authored amendment to the Agriculture spending bill that would have prohibited illegal immigrants from accessing certain federally funded programs.

Republicans allege that the Democratic majority mishandled the vote, resulting in the defeat of the measure. GOP leaders assert that a tied 214-214 vote — rending a defeat — announced by McNulty was inaccurate and that the motion had in fact passed 215-213 as Republicans changed their votes.

But Democrats dispute that version of events, noting that their own Members were changing votes on the House floor, resulting in the final tally of 212-216. McNulty later apologized for prematurely calling the vote.

In particular, Pence said he would like the panel to focus on the lack of a tally sheet for the vote — a document that typically is provided to the Speaker Pro Tem to announce the final vote count.

In an earlier hearing, House Clerk Lorraine Miller testified that no such document was created for the disputed vote.

Miller said at that time that the document is created by the tally clerk only when he or she believes the vote is about to be called.

But Pence called the missing paper “disturbing.”

“This vote was called once, maybe twice, without a tally sheet,” Pence said. “It’s not a small administrative matter.”