A new House ethics panel, which for the first time includes non-House members, was approved last night. But the back story involves the same old dirty, above-the-rules double-dealing that Nancy Pelosi promised to end. Ethics? Cleanest House in history? Bah!
After a dramatic and controversial vote that included charges that Democrats broke their own rules, the House approved the creation of a new “Office of Congressional Ethics” Tuesday night. It marks the biggest change in House ethics rules in more than a decade: For the first time, non-members will be involved internally in reviewing the activities of sitting lawmakers and staff.
Republicans, backed by 18 Democrats, thought they had won a parliamentary vote prior to consideration of the new ethics office, a victory that would have derailed the proposal. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Democratic leadership held the vote open for 16 minutes beyond the alloted 15-minute deadline and, in that period, convinced several Democrats to switch their votes. The final vote on the parliamentary procedure was 207-206. The Democrats who changed their votes were Reps. Sanford Bishop (Ga.), G.K Butterfield (N.C.), Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.) and Bart Stupak (Mich.), according to Democratic and GOP members and aides.
The final vote, which changed House rules in order to implement the OCE, was 229-182. Almost 30 Republicans, fearing that they would be caught on the wrong side of the issue come Election Day, threw their support behind the Democratic plan at the last moment, giving Democratic leaders a solid margin of victory on final passage.
But Republicans, and some Democrats, charged that Pelosi and the Democratic leadership “stole” the vote on the parliamentary procedure, technically known as “ordering the previous question.” In response to GOP manipulation of votes during their years of control, Pelosi promised at the beginning of the 110th Congress that floor votes would last only15 minutes, and that “no vote shall be held open to manipulate the outcome.”
Pelosi, however, appeared to go back on that promise during the “previous question” vote, which was open for for a total of 31 minutes before it was gaveled closed. Republicans stood on the floor during the dramatic 16-minute period following the official end of the vote, clapping and cheering, occassionally breaking into chants of “Rules of the House!”
John Boehner’s office e-mails:
Boehner: House Democrats Don’t Live By Their Own Rules
Majority Blocks Investigation of Speaker Pelosi, Dem Leaders After They Violate House Rules by Twisting Arms to Ensure Passage of Faux Ethics Proposal
WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) today expressed disappointment after House Democrats turned back a resolution he authored to launch an immediate investigation of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other House Democratic leaders after they violated their own rules and refused to close a House vote on a faux ethics reform proposal until they had twisted enough arms to ensure its ultimate passage. The bipartisan investigation would have been conducted by the House Ethics Committee and a Select Committee created last summer after the Majority stole a vote last August in order to give illegal immigrants taxpayer-funded benefits. Boehner issued the following statement:
“The Rules of the House specifically state that the Majority cannot hold a vote open solely to change its outcome. This rule was clearly violated last night, and the Majority must be held accountable for it. The fact that Democratic leaders are not willing to own up to their behavior demonstrates to the American people that they simply aren’t willing to live by their own rules. In a Congress the Majority has promised would be the most fair, open, and honest in history, this is particularly disappointing – and hypocritical.
“The American people expect their leaders in Washington to work together on their behalf, without regard to party affiliation. Until we do that, the bonds of trust between Congress and the men and women we represent will never be repaired. What happened last night broke down those bonds even further, and the House is worse off for it. It’s another promise broken by a Democratic Majority that simply isn’t willing meet the standards it set for itself at the outset of this Congress.”
NOTE: The House Democrats faux ethics proposal, which creates a new outside congressional ethics panel to further sweep misconduct in the House under the rug, passed by a vote of 207-206 after Democratic leaders held the vote open for additional time beyond what House rules state is permissible in order to influence Democrats to change their votes in favor.
House Rule XX, clause 2(a) in part states “A record vote by electronic device shall not be held open for the sole purpose of reversing the outcome of such vote.” The rule was implemented by Democratic leaders at the beginning of the 110th Congress. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) campaigned on the rules change, including it in her 2006 campaign document “A New Direction For America” on page 24, which states that “Floor votes should be completed within 15 minutes. No vote shall be held open to manipulate the outcome.”
And natch: Congressional approval ratings down again.
David Freddoso reports: “Republicans have been protesting their behavior by holding dilatory votes on the House floor all morning — so far, the Clerk’s tally on the Internet includes two Republican motions to adjourn so far today and a privileged motion.”