GOP to Employ Mass Procedural Mischief

Posted June 23, 2008 at 4:06pm

House Republican leaders are planning to employ procedural tactics to repeatedly call attention to a GOP-sponsored alternative-energy bill before lawmakers head home for the July Fourth recess on Friday.

GOP leaders will seek to link a routine procedural motion to a vote on legislation by Republican Study Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) that would allow the government to procure alternative fuels derived from oil shale, tar sands and coal-to-liquid technology.

Republicans are planning to seek a vote on Hensarling’s bill every time Democrats request a previous question on other bills.

A vote in favor of this motion typically means that Members agree to bypass the allotted debate time on a bill and move to a vote on it. But Republicans have sought to tie these votes to other bills, a strategy that at least creates the appearance that Members are voting for a given bill along with the previous question.

Since germaneness does not apply to these motions, Republicans have the added ability to tie the Hensarling measure to other, unrelated bills set for debate this week. These could include bills dealing with the alternative minimum tax, the Americans with Disabilities Act and, of course, a mix of Democrat-sponsored energy bills that House leaders hope to pass before heading home for the recess.

The Hensarling bill “will probably be the [previous question] for everything,” according to a senior House GOP aide.

Separately, Rep. Randy Kuhl (R-N.Y.) also will file a discharge petition on Hensarling’s bill.

Both parties feel pressed to act before the recess to show that they are responding to skyrocketing gas prices. Republicans, who have called for more offshore oil drilling and drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, largely oppose the Democrats’ proposals because, they argue, they would produce no new energy and not lower gas costs.

But Democrats are expected to bring forward as many as four energy-related bills this week, one of which would lower fares on mass transit in an effort to encourage people to drive less.

Republican leaders will probably “be more creative” when it comes to tying votes to procedural motions on that bill, said the aide, referring to that measure as the “bus tickets for bureaucrats bill.”

A more tedious vote for Democrats could come when Republicans put forward a motion to recommit on the mass transit bill after debate has occurred. This is the one shot the minority has at sending a bill back to committee to make a change. Unlike the previous question motion, however, this motion must be germane to the bill.

Plans for making use of these motions “haven’t been decided yet” for the week, the GOP aide said.