Partisan tensions were so high on the first day of the government shutdown that a House Democrat forced the chamber to vote on the question of whether a GOP poster depicting Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer violated House decorum rules.
The poster pictured Schumer with a comment he made in 2013 saying that a government shutdown “is the politics of idiocy, of confrontation, of paralysis.” Republicans were using it as a prop as they gave floor speeches seeking to cast blame on Senate Democrats for the “Schumer shutdown.”
At the bottom of the poster was a link to the GOP website www.SchumerShutdown.com.
The decorum question, raised by Colorado Democrat Ed Perlmutter, surrounds a House rule stating that remarks in debate may include references to the Senate or its members but those references must be confined to the question under debate, avoiding personality.
Arkansas GOP Rep. Steve Womack, who was sitting in the chair when the question was raised, ruled the poster did not violate decorum. Perlmutter appealed the ruling of the chair, but Oklahoma GOP Rep. Tom Cole moved to table his motion.
The House approved Cole’s motion to table, 224-173, with a few Democrats joining Republicans in rejecting the stunt.
Perlmutter had earlier raised a point of order when House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions had referenced “Schumer shutdown” in a floor speech. Sessions was asked to sit down, and House debate stalled for roughly 15 minutes while Womack appeared to consult the House parliamentarian and GOP and Democratic leaders engaged in conversation. Perlmutter ultimately withdrew the point of order.
Later, Alabama Republican Bradley Byrne was asked to sit down when Georgia Democrat John Lewis raised a point of order against him for mentioning Nancy Pelosi’s name in a speech. Democratic jeers interrupted Byrne each time he tried to say her name, before Womack finally asked him to be seated. Lewis withdrew his point of order.
Notably, Republicans did not raise a point of order when Democrats, like Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, referred to the “Trump shutdown” in their floor speeches.
While such comments also violate the personality rule, only references to senators are supposed to prompt action from the chair, according to the Jefferson’s Manual on parliamentary procedure.
“The Chair has distinguished between engaging in personality toward another Member of the House, as to which the Chair normally awaits a point of order from the floor, and improper references to members of the Senate, which violate comity between the Houses, as to which the Chair normally takes initiative,” the manual reads. “The Chair may admonish Members to avoid unparliamentary references to the Senate even after intervening recognition.”
Watch: McConnell, Durbin Make Their Case as Shutdown Looms
Niels Lewsniewski and Amelia Frappolli contributed to this report.