Wednesday, January 05, 2005

House Removes Gag on Senate Talk

The LA Times, via RawStory:

"WASHINGTON — It has been one of the mainstays of congressional decorum since the early days of the republic: House members could not criticize the Senate or its members, by name, during floor debate.

But Tuesday, the muzzle came off.

On the first day of the 109th Congress, the Republican-led House revised its rules to allow lawmakers to finally say their piece about senators — a change seen by some as further eroding comity on Capitol Hill.

'The distance between 'Crossfire' and the House floor is shrinking all the time,' said University of Pennsylvania political scientist Don Kettl, referring to the contentious CNN talk show.

The prohibition on criticizing the Senate dates to the Jeffersonian era, and was designed to promote good relations between the two chambers.
Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), who proposed the change, said it was only fair since there was no comparable gag rule for senators.

He also said it made no sense to him that he could criticize a senator on television talk shows but not on the House floor. And he noted that the rule prohibited him and his colleagues from saying nice things about senators, such as offering a 'Happy Birthday' resolution.

The change was part of a package of rules drafted by the House's GOP majority and approved by the chamber Tuesday on a party-line vote of 220 to 195.
Some congressional observers questioned whether the rule change was a good idea.

Charles Cook, an independent political analyst, said, "As ugly as that place as gotten, attacking senators by name takes it to a whole new level."
Several incidents in recent years have illustrated a lessening of the unspoken rules of decorum that once were practiced on Capitol Hill.

Last year, for example, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) broke from tradition and actively campaigned for the defeat of his Democratic counterpart, then-Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). Daschle lost his reelection bid in November.

Also last year, Vice President Dick Cheney directed an obscenity at a senator on the Senate floor."

This is right up Tom Feeney's alley, the Gentleman from Florida who is fast establishing himself as being a Swiss Army Knife among the Republican Tools in the House. Of course, you still recall Feeney's involvement in last month's scandal regarding the development of vote-rigging software in Florida.

However, Representative Enlightened also thinks that Iraqis should foot the bill for the unholy mess we made over there (and when he made the argument, the projected US budget deficit was only $400 billion. No doubt he's petitioning Germany and Japan for repayment of WWII reconstruction costs by now).

He's also taken the oh-so-modest step of giving himself the nickname "Pork Buster" over at his web site, by which he means voting against funding for the NEA, homeless assistance grants, renewable energy programs, unemployment insurance compensation amendments, HIV/AIDS funding and Section 8 housing programs.

All this, and he still had time to introduce resolutions "Expressing the sense of the Congress regarding the importance of motorsports" and "Concerning the national cheerleading championship of the University of Central Florida Varsity Cheerleading Team." Whatta guy.


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