After twelve years of absolute Republican rule of the House of Representatives, we have now experienced a blissful 27 days of Democratic control. Well, the control has been blissful for us. But, perhaps not so much for the Republicans. Sounding like three year olds who have the memory of fleas, the House GOP is pissing and moaning about how unfair Democrats are to them, not permitting them to amend bills or have extended floor debate.
One of the most distressed is David Dreier, the formerly autocratic king of the Rules Committee. In the House, the Rules Committee decides the rules by which bills come to the House floor, i.e., whether amendments are in order and, if so, how many and how long debate will be. For many long years, Democrats were shut out of the amendment process and were left to, well, whine and moan about the unfair process and resort to procedural tactics, such as privileged resolutions, to try to have their voices heard or to bring long-lingering legislation to the floor.
From almost the first day of this Congress, House Republicans have been carrying on about how they are not being given input into legislation and that bills are bypassing committees. Like a kid who killed his parents and then asks the court for mercy because he is an orphan, House GOP Members, who FAILED to complete the Fiscal Year 2007 spending bills are now screaming that House Dems did not, according to the GOP Members, consult them and are permitting only one hour of debate today when the tardy appropriations are brought to the floor.
According to the subscription Congress Daily AM:
"At a Republican Conference meeting Tuesday morning, Lewis urged its members to join him in opposing the bill, according to aides who were present. Later in the day testifying before the House Rules Committee, Lewis was clearly rankled at being left out of the negotiations.
"I regret that for the first time in nearly two decades I must testify in opposition to what the committee has filed for consideration in the House," Lewis said. "It's the first omnibus spending bill that I have seen during my time in Congress written and considered without the input of the chairmen or ranking members of any of the Appropriations subcommittees, without the input of any of the Republican or Democratic subcommittee members' and without fuller debate and amendments in the Appropriations Committee and on the floor."
What is shocking here is that while, in general, Jerry Lewis is one of the more bipartisan Republican Members and during his tenure as Chair of the California Republican Congressional Delegation, often reached across the aisle to work with California Democrats, it was he who chaired the House Appropriations Committee during the last Congress and it was ultimately his responsibility (along with his brethren in the Senate) to timely complete the FY07 appropriations by September of 2006.
If the GOP had completed the spending bills on time, none of this would be an issue.
The new House Appropriations Chair David Obey thinks that the reason the GOP-controlled House foisted the appropriations bills off onto the Democrats was to bog down the new House. Obey and his Senate counterpart Robert Byrd made clear that they think the Joint Resolution is imperfect, but that they have to fund the government for the fiscal year that began four months ago and need to get to new business.
The Joint Resolution crafted by Byrd and Obey strips earmarks and shifts money to Democratic priorities, such as housing, veterans, NIH research, census preparation and healthcare. While the GOP Members complain about the process, they are likely far more concerned with the content. And, it is worth repeating that had the Republicans passed the bills on time, they would have controlled the content.
In this case, turnabout is fair play and it sucks to be in the minority. However, it would be prudent of the new Congressional leadership, once they clean up the mess left behind, to provide some openness and a fairer process than they encountered during the twelve years of Republican rule. We are, after all, the DEMOCRATIC party.