Dust-up over delegate voting

The latest dust-up in the Democratic-run Rules Committee occurred Tuesday when Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) introduced an amendment to a resolution giving the U.S territories and the District of Columbia a ceremonial vote in the House. The committee accepted the Kirk amendment, which requires that the clerk of the House certify that the territories be subject to federal tax laws.

“He waited at the Rules Committee, testified and the committee found that his amendment had merit,” committee spokesman John Santore said. “We were explicit that he did not have to present this on the floor.”

However, when Kirk tried to withdraw the amendment, Republicans said he was not allowed to do so and that the letter requesting the withdrawal, which he had sent to the committee, was unavailable or lost.  

“Who is their chief of staff? Sandy Berger?” a House GOP aide quipped.

In response to what Republicans perceived as an abuse of the rules, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) introduced a privileged resolution criticizing the Democratic majority and instructed Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) to “undertake practices to prevent future occurrences.”

“When the issue of the withdrawal of the amendment was being debated by the committee, the ranking member (David Dreier, R-Calif.) attempted to obtain a copy of the letter … and the majority willfully refused to produce a copy of the letter after repeated requests,” Boehner wrote in the privileged resolution, which was filed on the House floor yesterday.

Santore said that whether the letter was misplaced or not, Kirk was not required to present the amendment.

However, Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) made a motion to move for the consideration of the withdrawn Kirk amendment.

Kirk declined to comment for this report and was the only Republican to vote for the rule governing the bill.

Republicans characterized the Kirk incident as an example of continued abuse by the Democratic majority, a charge Democrats have rejected and answered with examples of perceived rules violations in the 12 years the minority held the House

“This resolution is not about a simple procedural disagreement. … The Rules Committee incidents referenced in this resolution are only the latest symptoms of a disturbing pattern of disrespect for the rules and procedures of the House,” Boehner said in a statement. “Since the start of this Congress, major pieces of legislation have repeatedly been moved to the floor without committee debate or vote.”

The House voted 223-189 to table Boehner’s resolution, with only Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) crossing party lines.

Republicans have maintained a consistent drumbeat against the Rules Committee since the first day of the 110th Congress, when Democrats began their 100-hour agenda, effectively locking the minority out of the decision-making process for the first weeks of the Congress.