House Republicans Mount Procedural Protest Over War Spending Bill

Posted May 6, 2008 at 4:17pm

Angry that House Democratic leaders are preparing to bypass the committee process to bring the war spending bill straight to the floor this Thursday, Republicans have begun a weeklong protest by using procedural tactics to stall business in the name of foul play.

Republicans spent Monday requesting recorded votes on bills set for the suspension calendar, which typically is reserved for noncontroversial legislation that passes by voice vote.

Several of those bills were bumped over to Tuesday’s agenda as a result of GOP delays. But the reality remains that the minority has limited ability to actually hold up the House calendar.

During Tuesday’s debate, Republicans continued dragging out business through a mix of procedural maneuvers, such as requesting a recorded vote on approving the journal, seeking motions to adjourn and objecting to Democratic motions to suspend rules on the grounds that a quorum was not present.

House Appropriations ranking member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) pledged to continue standing up to Democratic attempts to “jam a $200 billion-plus spending bill through the Congress with absolutely no oversight or scrutiny” at the committee level.

Republicans will “use every procedural option available to object to this underhanded process,” Lewis said. “Never in my 30 years in Congress has there been such an abuse of the processes and rules of the House.”

Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), said that the success of the tactical maneuvers —returning the bill to the Appropriations Committee — depended on “their Members being offended by the abuse of this institution.”

Democratic leaders crafted the supplemental in a “backroom deal” and it is now “being jammed through without any committee action or proper consideration on the floor,” he said.

In addition, to say that Democrats “used a parliamentary maneuver would be kind” when it comes to how they appear to be setting up the limited parameters for debate on the supplemental, Steel said.

Republicans also object to the Democratic plan to insert domestic spending into the supplemental measure.

“If House Democrats want to ramp up spending on other government programs, those items should be considered separately. A troop funding bill should fund the troops, period,” Boehner said.

While Democratic leaders have kept mum on what the final package will look like, sources in both parties are speculating that they may be planning to use a never-enacted fiscal 2008 military construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill as the vehicle for advancing the war spending measure.

In this scenario, Democrats could bring the supplemental directly to the floor while limiting the types of amendments allowed on it. That maneuver also would prevent Republicans from using their typical motion to recommit, the one tool normally available to the minority allowing them a shot at sending a bill back to the committee.

“We won’t have our usual opportunity to improve the legislation through a motion to recommit,” Steel said.

However, Republicans still have one procedural move available to them: a previous question motion, which is used to proceed directly to a vote on a bill versus using the entire time allotted for debate on a bill first.

Steel said to expect GOP leaders to seek to link a vote on the previous question to a vote on a separate issue: a resolution calling on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to reveal her plan for lowering gas prices.

Republicans have ramped up attacks on Pelosi in recent weeks over what they call her “broken promises” on skyrocketing gas prices.

On a daily basis, GOP leaders have been sending out press alerts lambasting Pelosi for failing to reveal her “commonsense plan” for lowering gas prices, something she proposed two years ago but Republicans claim she has failed to do.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) was less than sympathetic to “Republicans and their crocodile tears” on the issue of subverting the system. He pointed to instances where Republicans inserted entire bills into conference reports when they were in the majority.

“I’m not moved to great empathy with their complaint,” Hoyer said. For the past year and a half, GOP leaders have used procedural motions “almost exclusively for political gotcha amendments, as opposed to substantive policy amendments.”

The Majority Leader asserted that the decision by Democratic leaders to bring the war spending bill directly to the floor is within the rules and allows them to “consider priorities that we feel are important.”