Funny little hypocrites

Congressional Republicans are funny little people. 

Once obsessed with “nuclear options” and “up-or-down” votes, they have set new records of obstructionism via the filibuster, refusing the majority party any leeway in delivering on its promises to the American people. 

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Once happy to use the reconciliation process as a tool to pass costly and complex legislation, they now scream about the “unprecedented” nature of the perfectly appropriate parliamentary procedure.

Once eager to deliver outrageous lies about the Democratic agenda — such as the whopper about “death panels” out to murder grandma — they now whine about the lack of “comity” in Congress and its effect on the majority party’s future plans. “If they do this [pass healthcare reform], it’s going to poison the well for anything else they would like to achieve this year or thereafter,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). 

Yet after a year of spreading fear, uncertainty and destruction, healthcare reform is on the brink of becoming reality. And as Democrats plan to adopt yet another common GOP parliamentary tactic to finish the job on healthcare, Republican hysteria is reaching new heights. 

At issue is the “self-executing rule,” also known as “deem and pass.” Rather than have House Democrats vote on the unpopular Senate health reform bill, with its Cornhusker Kickback and other unpopular measures, the House would vote on the more popular fixes. A vote for the fixes would “deem” the Senate bill passed without directly voting on it.

Republicans are spitting mad. The Wall Street Journal editorial page called it a “brazen affront to the plain language of the Constitution.” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) told a crowd, “They want us to pay for this? Because we don’t have to. We don’t have to. We don’t have to follow a bill that isn’t law.” Rush Limbaugh claimed Democrats were employing a “twisted scheme” to “bend the rules,” while prominent conservative blog Hot Air ridiculously claimed Democrats were using the procedure “for the first time in U.S. history.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) declared this “procedural gimmick” was invented by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the Rules Committee. And Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), ranking member of that Rules Committee, claimed the procedure was “very painful and troubling.”

Except, of course, it wasn’t that painful or troubling when Dreier used that exact same procedure in 2006. Actually, that’s not true — Dreier’s version of the self-executing rule was so audacious that it had three self-executing rules, not just two, as is commonly the case. 

Obviously, this is a common procedure. “There were 38 and 52 self-executing rules in the 104th and 105th Congresses (1995-1998), making up 25 percent and 35 percent of all rules, respectively,” wrote Don Wolfensberger, former chief of staff for the House Rules Committee under Republicans. “Under Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) there were 40, 42 and 30 self-executing rules in the 106th, 107th and 108th Congresses (22 percent, 37 percent and 22 percent, respectively). Thus far in the 109th Congress, self-executing rules make up about 16 percent of all rules.” 

As with reconciliation, Republicans have made far more use of these procedures to “ram through” their agenda when in power, and the rules certainly gave them the luxury to do so. Yet they apparently believe that Democrats should use a different, far more restrictive rulebook. What’s good for the GOP becomes unacceptable, unprecedented and unconstitutional when it involves Democrats.

But peel back the bluster, scrape off the hysteria and buff out the outrage, and you’re left with a perfectly mundane and legal procedure that Republicans were never shy to employ.

Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos (dailykos.com).