House GOP shuts down Dem speaker in pro forma session

House Republicans on Tuesday declined to recognize a House Democrat who was trying to speak about the need for Congress to quickly resolve its differences about how to extend the payroll tax cut.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) gaveled today’s pro forma session to order at about 2 p.m. After the House prayer and Pledge of Allegiance, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) sought to be recognized, but the session was gaveled to a close.

{mosads}Moran spoke for about four minutes on the House floor on the need to hold a conference on the bill, although none of it was captured by House gallery cameras or C-SPAN.

Moran’s effort is the second Democratic attempt in five days to speak on the floor about the need to hold a conference on the payroll tax bill. The efforts are essentially stunts meant to score political points against Republicans by calling attention to the light work schedule this month, which is typical of January.

Indeed, many Democratic conferees to the bill are not in Washington at all, making Moran’s request a tough pull for both parties. For example, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) was known to be in New Hampshire, where he was campaigning against GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Still, Moran argued afterwards that his inability to be recognized is a “new low” from Republicans.

“Speaker Pro Tempore Robert Aderholt refused to recognize me on the floor and in a dramatic show of Republican authority, leadership cut off the microphone during the Pledge of Allegiance and kept them off afterwards when I asked to be recognized,” he said.

“The 160 million Americans who need an extension of the payroll tax cut deserve to have their voices heard. The temporary extension expires in just a few weeks. The American people have a right to hear from Members of Congress on the House floor.”

Republicans noted last week that GOP conferees to the bill are discussing it by phone, and the two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday agreed to in December means conferees can meet through February on the bill.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) tried unsuccessfully to speak during Friday’s pro forma, but it was gaveled shut. While the House cameras are generally cut off moments after the session is gaveled to a close, Clyburn and other House leaders spoke for 15 minutes on the floor on Friday, and later held a press conference.

— This story was updated at 3:02 p.m.

Tags Jim Moran Robert Aderholt Xavier Becerra

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