Lawmakers settle scores by going after sports teams

Petty politics on the House floor related to a resolution congratulating the University of Maryland men’s basketball team gives a whole new meaning to March Madness.

Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.), still miffed over Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) decision to kill a measure honoring the national champion men’s volleyball team at the University of California at Irvine, demanded a roll call vote on Hoyer’s resolution honoring Maryland for making the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Campbell came within 15 votes of denying Hoyer what is traditionally a non-controversial moment. The resolution, which would normally pass on a voice vote, was approved 279-132 under suspension of the rules, which requires 264 votes for passage.

Campbell explained that demanding a vote on Hoyer's bill was one of the remaining tools in his belt and served as payback for Hoyer’s move last fall to scuttle his resolution honoring his hometown volleyball team. Hoyer did so, Campbell said, at the request of Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.).

At the time, Miller reportedly told Campbell, “There has to be a price to pay” for the Southern California lawmaker's vote against Miller’s water bill.
Campbell explained, “I voted against a water bill that he had … which shouldn’t have surprised him because in Southern California we never vote for Northern California water bills.”

Miller’s bill failed.

To this day, Campbell says, he hasn’t seen a vote on his bill congratulating the U.C.-Irvine men's volleyball team for winning last year's national championship.

But Campbell said his protest of Hoyer’s resolution to honor Maryland was about more than payback for the slight.

Pointing to an article in The Washington Post, Campbell noted that the University of Maryland Terrapins basketball team had the lowest graduation rate of the 65 teams in the NCAA tournament.

“Of all the NCAA tournament teams, we’re recognizing the one with the lowest graduation rate? Is that what [the] Education and Labor Committee should be doing?” Campbell said in an interview with The Hill.

Further, he questioned the legitimacy of honoring any one particular team for making it to the tournament.

“So, when I saw (Hoyer’s bill) coming today, that they didn’t have a national championship, they have the lowest graduation rate — but he’s the majority leader. I’m going to bring this issue to the floor,” Campbell said.

This article was originally published at 3:07 p.m.