House Democrats on Tuesday afternoon waged what some Republicans called a "mini filibuster" at the beginning of debate on a spending bill for the rest of fiscal year 2011.
The delaying tactic started after the first of 400 amendments to the spending bill, H.R. 1, was offered by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). Flake's amendment would cut $18.75 million from various Defense Department advisory boards, and Flake said the proposal implements a request from Defense Secretary Robert Gates to trim DOD advisory boards.
Reps. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) and Bill Young (R-Fla.) argued briefly against the amendment, and were then followed by 24 Democrats, many of whom said they support Flake's amendment but object to the broader bill. Democrats made various arguments, including that the bill would hurt U.S. job creation. Each took the full five minutes allotted for speakers, extending the debate to about two hours.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) criticized the tactic.
"The goal of every member of the House should be to debate policy in a respectful and honest way," Boehner Press Secretary Michael Steele told The Hill. "This 'filibuster' by the left of the left in the Democratic Caucus will just make it harder for members on both sides of the aisle to offer amendments they believe will improve the bill."
Before the debate started, Boehner urged members to be brief so that all amendments could be considered this week.
Given that more than 400 amendments have been filed on the spending bill, a plan by Democrats to talk for extended periods of time would significantly delay action on the bill.
But Democrats appeared to stand down after the first amendment. When the second amendment was called up, just three Democrats debated it, and the House quickly moved on to the next amendment.
The House is expected to vote later Tuesday night on any amendments that are debated.
-- This story was updated at 6:03 p.m.