House Democrats on Friday morning renewed their call for the House to return to work and pass legislation to fix the pending tax crisis, reduce the debt and make federal health programs more sustainable, but were again shut down by House Republicans.
The House reconvened for a short pro forma session on Friday morning, and in a surprise move quickly passed three bills, including one that would delay the implementation of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK) Act for federal workers, and another extending protections for federal "whistleblowers."
As Republicans were moving to pass these bills by unanimous consent, they were met by Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who said work should also be taken up on contentious tax issues.
"I do want to point out that we here in Washington ought to be doing our job," Waxman added. "We have our nation's urgent priorities. We need to increase jobs, strengthen our economy, prevent the fiscal cliff, protect Medicare from cuts, address our long-term debt.
"We should be fighting for the middle class, not preserving tax breaks for oil companies and millionaires."
Minutes later, when work on the three bills was completed, Waxman asked to address the House for one minute on the larger issues that he said the House should be addressing. But Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), who was managing the work of passing the bills, objected.
After that, Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), who was the presiding officer, ruled that the House was not going to take up any additional business.
"Recognition of members for such requests is done at the discretion of the chair. The House is limiting its debate today to the matters before the House, and such a request is not in order at this time."
That prompted Waxman to make a parliamentary inquiry:
"During pro forma session, can the chair entertain legislative business?" he asked. "Since we're taking up other items, I would like to know whether we can do business in the House of Representatives to address the priorities in this nation."
But Culberson dismissed Waxman's question and quickly gaveled the session of the House closed.
"The gentleman is asking a question regarding a matter of scheduling and not a question regarding the rules of the House," Culberson said. "The House is in session today to consider the business brought before it by the gentleman from California, and pursuant to section 3B of House Resolution 788, the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012."
On Tuesday, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) called for the House to return to work. The House plans to hold pro forma sessions twice a week until after the November elections.