GOP blocks Dem floor speeches

For the second time this week, Republicans blocked Democrats from engaging in a debate on the House floor about the need to return to work on issues such as taxes, healthcare and the budget deficit.

In a very brief pro forma session Friday morning, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) tried to raise a parliamentary inquiry, a procedural move that Democrats have used as a chance to make speeches protesting the time off the House is taking between now and the election.

But Cummings was ignored by presiding officer Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), who gaveled the session closed and noted that the next pro forma session will be held Tuesday morning.

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Republicans this week have been much quicker to close down the pro forma session than they were last week. On Tuesday, for example, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) gaveled the session closed as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was trying to speak.

Democrats had better luck last week. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) was able to speak for several minutes during the Sept. 25 pro forma session, and on Sept. 28, Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) were able to talk for several minutes, in part because the House actually approved three bills by unanimous consent.

The fight for airtime on the House floor is likely to continue throughout October, as pro forma sessions are scheduled twice a week right up until the November election.