Abortion

HackWatch: Nancy Pelosi

|

Nancy Pelosi in 2004:

House Democrats' anger at heavy-handed Republican tactics reached a new level yesterday, with the chamber's top Democrat asking the House speaker to embrace a "Bill of Rights" for the minority, regardless which party it is.

[…]

Pelosi's document, which she vows to honor if Democrats regain the majority, says: "Too often, incivility and the heavy hand of the majority" have silenced Democrats and choked off "thoughtful debate." She called on the majority to let the minority offer meaningful amendments and substitutes to important bills; to limit roll-call votes to the normal 15 minutes rather than keeping them open to round up needed votes; and to let all appointees to House-Senate conference committees participate in meetings and decisions.

"When we are shut out, they are shutting out the great diversity of America," Pelosi said in an interview. "We want a return to civility; we want to set a higher standard."

[…]

Democrats and several analysts say recommital votes are largely meaningless. Hastert's leadership team portrays them as "procedural votes" rather than matters of policy, and unwritten parliamentary rules make it essentially treasonous for lawmakers to vote against their party's leadership on procedural matters.

The inevitable party-line vote that keeps Democrats from recommitting a Republican bill "is the whole ballgame," Ornstein said, because it prevents Democrats from having a debate and a vote on the substance of their alternative proposals.

Nancy Pelosi, 2008:

The spirit of bipartisan cooperation didn't survive the first day of the 111th Congress as House Democrats pushed through a package of rule changes Tuesday that the furious Republican minority said trampled their traditional rights to affect legislation.

[…]

The most contentious rule change places new restrictions on motions to "recommit" a bill for new amendments to the committee that approved it. In practice, that motion often meant a lengthy or even permanent delay in passing the measure. Motions to recommit would still be possible, but the new rules allow the full House to reconsider the bill almost instantaneously.

[…]

Because of the special rules regarding budgetary legislation, Republicans argued that the new restrictions on motions to recommit will hobble their ability to challenge tax increases that are included in larger, "must-pass" bills.

Unlike in the Senate, where the threat of a filibuster gives the minority strong bargaining leverage, the minority party in the House has relatively few tools to challenge the majority's will. Mr. Dreier noted that the recommit motion had been in place for 100 years, and he rejected Democratic claims that the new rules were a minor tweak to an obscure parliamentary proceeding.

In Congress, he said, "process is substance."

It's a somewhat complicated procedural issue, but the bottom line here is that while Pelosi demanded minority rights and decried GOP procedural chicanery while her party was in the minority, she's starting the new Congress by pushing through rules changes that would make it much more difficult for Republicans to have any influence on pending legislation.

Pelosi gets a 7 out of 10 on the somewhat arbitrary Hackery Index. 

HackWatch took on Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) here, and former White House Office of Legal Counsel honcho John Yoo here. If you see an example of a pundit, politician, major blogger, or other Beltway creature who's done a 180 on this or another issue, please send it to us, with links, and "HackWatch" in the subject line.

Advertisement

NEXT: Reason Writers Around Town: Radley Balko on Keeping Politicians Out of Sports for ESPN

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Is it “somewhat complicated” because the Democrats were never particularly obstructionist whereas the Republicans have used the motion to recommit and filibuster exponentially more than any Congress in history, most frequently to kill any bill that would tie Bush’s hands in the slightest on Iraq?

  2. Nancy Pelosi is the perfect villain. I almost can’t believe that she’s even a real person. It’s the whole package, I think: hypocrite, Fairness Doctrine, plastic face…

  3. Good question, Jack.

    Without a lot more inside-baseball knowledge of Congressional procedure and how it’s been used than is provided here, there’s no way to tell if this actually represents a flip-flop from Pelosi and an unreasonable restriction on the minority party, or if the Republicans are just ginning up a phony controversy.

  4. Yeah, Joe, you have to watch out for those Republicans at Reason…

    Favorite pass times: preventing your abortion, cheerfully waging the War on Drugs, absolutely loving current U.S. foreign policy, and voting for Sarah Palin.

    …idiot.

  5. Yeah, Joe, you have to watch out for those Republicans at Reason…

    No, dumbass, the Republicans in Congress, like the ones quoted in the damn…

    That whooshing sensation on your scalp? Don’t worry about it, idiot.

  6. joe,

    While it isnt surprising, the flip flop is not immediately passing the “bill of rights” she called for in 2004.

    Whether that is just playing the game or something to be concerned about is another issue.

    Personally, Im fine with the typical way things are:
    In the House, the majority pretty much rules all, much like in a parliamentary system.
    In the Senate, the minority has significant powers to shut things down.

    I see both as good things. Changing either is probably a bad idea.

  7. Oh, and just because Pelosi is acting in the expected manner and in a manner I am okay with doesnt make her not a hack. I think 7/10 is too low a score. Her hackery clearly goes to 11. Its one higher.

  8. Come on joe, this isn’t as complicated as you try to make us believe. For one hundred years the minority party has had the right to offer motions to recommit, now the Democrats have abolished it. When you know you don’t have a real argument to defend your sacred leaders, you try to obfuscate and imply that we don’t know the whole story. Yet in this case everyone but you and partisan Jack can see what’s going on.

  9. Where were any Republicans quoted? I see two massive Pelosi quotes and the argument (Pelosi’s hypocrisy) isn’t a Republican one, or at least not here. It’s being made by Balko.

    Sorry if I missed something, though I still can’t imagine what it was.

  10. Come on joe, this isn’t as complicated as you try to make us believe.

    Really, James? I guess the whole issue is so simple that you couldn’t come up with a single fact not taken directly from Rod Dreier’s press release.

    The Democrats have abolished the motion to recommit? Really? There isn’t going to be a “motion to recommit” procedure in the House of Represenatives next year? No, not so much. That the Motion to Recommit has been changed, rather than eliminated, is stated right in the blog post.

    Let me get this straight – the issue is so simple that you can’t accurately describe the change that was made.

    It’s such an obvious, neutral observation that you misrepresented it in exactly the same way as the Republican leader.

    But I’m the partisan here, echoing Congressional leaders.

    Whatever.

  11. See joe, you understood it better than you represented in your first post. Obfuscation.

  12. Michael Solana,

    First, the decent, honorable, and polite thing to do would be to apologize to me for hurling an insult based entirely on your misreading of what I wrote.

    But I won’t hold my breath.

    Second, do you know who David Dreier is? Had you bothered to RTFA before you spouted off at me, you would have seen his name attached to numerous quotes, and found out that he is a high-ranking member of the Republican House leadership.

  13. See joe, you understood it better than you represented in your first post.

    No, not really. That there have been changes made tells us very little. Are they meaningful changes which significantly impact the ability of the minority to offer amendments and have their position aired? I don’t know; and you sure as hell don’t know either, since you didn’t even realize that the Motion to Recommit wasn’t being eliminated.

    It’s so clear and obvious what the implications of this change are that noted Democratic shill Radley Balko wrote It’s a somewhat complicated procedural issue, and proceeded to tell us what the “bottom line” was, without writing up what the changes actually were and how the legislative process would be different. But only a partisan Democrat could consider this to be a complicated matter.

    Ho-kay.

  14. “Good question, Jack.

    Without a lot more inside-baseball knowledge of Congressional procedure and how it’s been used than is provided here, there’s no way to tell if this actually represents a flip-flop from Pelosi and an unreasonable restriction on the minority party, or if the Republicans are just ginning up a phony controversy.”

    “Here” ???

    And I’m still waiting for those Republican quotes you mentioned.

    I stand by my comment.

  15. Joe, with the full house allowed to immediatly vote on the motion, recommiting is now pointless. Eliminated? no, worthless, yes.

  16. “Here” ???

    Yes, here, in the blog post, or even in the stories linked to.

    And I’m still waiting for those Republican quotes you mentioned.

    RTFA = Read The Fucking Article.

  17. Michael, are you really so deterimined to put your back against the wall and refurse to back down that you’re going to pretend not to know how link works?

  18. Haha!

  19. Joe, with the full house allowed to immediatly vote on the motion, recommiting is now pointless. Eliminated? no, worthless, yes.

    So I read a little about this rules change. Let’s keep in mind what a motion to recommit actually is: a bill gets voted out of committee, after already having been debated internally and brought to a form that gets it sent to the whole House. A Motion to Recommit is then filed to send the bill back to committee, with some changes. Whether to send the bill back to the committee with those changes or not is then voted on by the House in short order, rather than there necessarily being a days- or weeks-long period of debate over that motion.

    I agree, this makes the use of the Motion to Recommit useless as a delaying tactic. If a poison pill or de minimus change is proposed, the House will be able to dispose of it quickly. On the other hand, amendments can still be offered on the floor, and amendments that have enough support to win a motion to recommit will be sent back to the committee.

    The only change I can see here is that motions to recommit that are doomed to fail will fail in short order, rather than there being an extended waiting period before they fail.

  20. Well, like all “good” rule changes, when the majority swings back Republican the Dems can curse Pelosi and the House Dems of this Congress, while crying fake ass tears.

  21. Distractions from joe aside, the real issue here is Reason’s attack on successful women.

  22. James Ard,

    I’m hardly and expert on this stuff, though. What is the danger you see in shortening the time for voting on Motions to Recommit?

    Can’t all of the debate on the whole-House floor over a certain amendment take place when an amendment is offer to the bill on the floor?

  23. I agree, this makes the use of the Motion to Recommit useless as a delaying tactic. If a poison pill or de minimus change is proposed, the House will be able to dispose of it quickly. On the other hand, amendments can still be offered on the floor, and amendments that have enough support to win a motion to recommit will be sent back to the committee.

    The only change I can see here is that motions to recommit that are doomed to fail will fail in short order, rather than there being an extended waiting period before they fail.

    But one of the greatest powers of the minority is to delay. Taking that away has the practical effect of strengthening the majority.

    Personally I’m with robc insofar as that the House is *supposed* to be dominated by the majority, with the Senate being the fundamental counterbalance to majoritarian rule.

  24. If there wasn’t an advantage to changing the rule why would Pelosi do it? Just to look mean and give Republicans something to gripe about?

  25. Off topic, boy it’s hard to watch Teddy Kennedy chair the Daschal hearing, knowing that if we had a single payer system he’d probably be dead by now.

  26. If you see an example of a pundit, politician, major blogger, or other Beltway creature who’s done a 180 on this or another issue, please send it to us, with links, and “HackWatch” in the subject line.

    Wouldn’t it be less work to just make a list of the ones who aren’t hypocrites?

  27. Elemonope, James Ard,

    Certainly, the effect of this change will be to reduce the minority party’s power vis a vis the majority.

    I don’t consider that, in and of itself, to be a sound basis on which to judge whether it’s a good idea. Even just looking at it in terms of that one measure, we’d need to consider the amount of power the minority wields.

    But even more importantly, not all delays are created equal. It would reduce the minority’s power if debate on all bills sent to the floor was limited to ten minutes, and I’d be aghast at that, because such a change would actually reduce the back-and-forth and minority input int bills.

    In this case, however, I’m having trouble seeing how the proposed change would actually reduce the amount of input the minority has into what gets into the bills. It’s purely a delaying tactic for delay’s sake, it appears to me. Everything that might get into the bill by the committee reconsidering the bill, with the changed language, can be hashed out before the committee sends the bill to the floor, or in amendments offered and debated on the floor.

  28. If there wasn’t an advantage to changing the rule why would Pelosi do it? Just to look mean and give Republicans something to gripe about?

    That would actually be *brilliant* if handled correctly, because she could use it to make the opposition sound like whiny tools.

    Not that I think she’s either that capable or that savvy.

  29. Why are the Dems doing this now instead of 2 years ago? It’s not like they just got a House majority yeseterday.

  30. It’s purely a delaying tactic for delay’s sake, it appears to me.

    Say that someone in the majority wanted to capitalize on exigent circumstances–say, a plane was just intentionally flown into a building, or a kid died some time after smoking some herb in the sage family–and used the political impetus of that exigency to cram through some legislation that might not otherwise pass under normal conditions.

    A delaying tool can neutralize the ridiculous excesses that can proceed from such exigent circumstances by distancing the legislative process, temporally, from the event.

    Not that I believe the congressional GOP would actually, you know, do that, but it is a legitimate reason.

  31. But she is capable of attracting the attention of my 101 year old great uncle. He told me as much over the holidays.

  32. Elemenope,

    I understand the argument for delays, but that’s certainly not the argument Dreier makes. He argues that it will reduce the minority’s ability to debate and offer changes, cutting them off from having substantive input into bills.

  33. democrats are good! republicans are evil! do i really need to say more

  34. joe,

    I refuse to have to rely on an idiot’s arguments instead of good ones. lmnop’s argument is much better than Dreier’s and is thus the real one, even if it isnt the one being made.

    The other good one is that delay allows times to rile up the public and melt the phone lines to congress. It is a rarity, but it has happened. That can kill a bill that would otherwise pass. If TARP had been delayed 2-3 months, I dont think it passes.

    That was under the old rules and didnt get delayed anyway, but as an example it still stands.

  35. I understand the argument for delays, but that’s certainly not the argument Dreier makes. He argues that it will reduce the minority’s ability to debate and offer changes, cutting them off from having substantive input into bills.

    Since many legislators have shown themselves to be (incompetently? malefactorally? psychotically?) willing to vote on bills they have not themselves read, is it at all crazy that it might be tempting to the majority to attempt to cram a bill *before anyone has a chance to read it and hence know what in it one should object to*?

    I would imagine in such circumstances, without a tool for delay, the minority would be at the absolute mercy of a majority willing to pull such stunts.

  36. lmnop,

    That has already happened far too many times under the old rules. At least then, the minority had the chance to delay things somewhat.

  37. The House leadership will be judged on its ability to (a) keep the majority in line and (b) overrule the minority as promptly as possible.

    As far as I’m concerned, the important thing for the minority is to have a roll-call vote on its proposals. A roll-call can be demanded by 1/5 of the members present, and then Congresscritters have to go on record for or against the pending proposal.

    The transparency benefits of a roll-call vote can be watered down by various methods. For example, say the leadership cooks up the Rainbows and Puppies for the Children Act, a bill providing federal funding for burn wards in childrens’ hospitals as well as allowing the FBI to search citizens’ teeth fillings without a warrant. If the House holds only a single up-or-down vote on the bill, it can look as if the “Nay” voters are against rainbows, puppies, and child burn victims.

    What needs to happen is for someone to offer an amendment taking the dental-search clause out of the bill, and then to have a roll-call vote on the proposed amendment. That creates a public record on the warrantless dental searches proposal, without clouding up the issues with children-and-puppies rhetoric. If the amendment is defeated, then the supporters of the amendment can vote against the bill as a whole, having made a record indicating that it’s the dental searches, not the children and puppies, that they object to.

    As I understand it, there will still be roll-call votes on Republican commitment motions, but the motions will be handled quicker. If that’s so, then there is still a public record, and the needs of transparency have been at least somewhat met.

  38. Or the minority can offer a commitment motion, ordering the committee to rewrite the rainbows-and-puppies bill to remove the dental-search clause. Same principle.

  39. Elemenope, robc,

    There are still all kinds of tactics the minority could use to delay and prolong debate on bills, such as amendments on the floor and in committee. In fact, those are BETTER methods for achieving what you want to see, because they actually involve argument over the substance of the bills in a public forum.

    As opposed to the way the Republicans have been using motions to commit, which involve proposing some language change, in order to take advantage of the bill just sitting there, without debate, for a period of time before the vote.

    The way this tactic is being used is to delay the passage of bills the Republicans don’t want to have public argument about.

  40. Mad Max,

    Wouldn’t actually offering the amendment to reomove the dental search clause on the floor of the House, and debating and voting on that amendment, achieve the results you describe better than a motion to recommit?

    You seem to understand this stuff pretty well. From what I’ve seen, it looks like the motion to recommit is a way to avoid that public fight over the substantive change.

  41. it’s hard to watch Teddy Kennedy chair the Daschal hearing, knowing that if we had a single payer system he’d probably be dead by now.

    Okay- I laughed out loud at that.

  42. it’s hard to watch Teddy Kennedy chair the Daschal hearing, knowing that if we had a single payer system he’d probably be dead by now.

    I agree that’s funny, but sad, too because the truth is there’s not a single nation on earth where the rich do not receive better health care than everybody else; there is no single payer system or government-supported health insurance system or whatever the hell you want to call it, the rich are not restricted to it and as a last resort, if they have to they can always fly somewhere else. If Teddy lived in Canada or France or the UK or Cuba or any other health care utopia, he’d still be able to pay for as much health care as he wanted.

    Single payer and other choice-limiting state programs fuck the poor and middle classes, which is why the rich and ruling classes (which are the same now, of course) have no problem with it.

  43. Boehner abused the “motion to recommit” clause so heavily in the last session of Congress, he can’t be surprised to see it taken out of his hands now.

    It’s fun to watch him whine, though.

  44. I just love the fact the “reforming” Dems are still using the rule whereby the most senile senior officeholder gets to be chairperson. At least the Repubs kept their word and rotated the incompetence around.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.