Feehery: The tyranny of the House majority

Maybe it is the fear of the cicadas that made House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) decide to keep the House out of session for the next three weeks.

But control is more likely the reason. When the members aren’t around, the Speaker has the ability to exert even more tyrannical control over the House as an institution.

It used to be that while members would disagree over policy matters, when it came to running the operations of the complex, the majority party and the minority party would seek consensus.

But over the last year, comity has broken down totally. We now live in a world where the Speaker rules completely, arrogantly and with a purposeful desire to destroy the minority’s ability to serve in their role as the loyal opposition.

Let no crisis go to waste is the organizing principle of the slim Democratic majority.

As COVID-19 hit America, the Democrats took extraordinary steps to isolate the public from their elected representatives. They shut down the Capitol complex, making it impossible for concerned citizens to petition their government in person. And then they implemented an outrageous and likely unconstitutional proxy voting scheme that allowed mostly Democrats (and some Republicans) to vote remotely.

Congress, by definition, means the act of coming together. You don’t come together by Zoom, nor do you come together when you actually don’t come together.

Democrats took up Pelosi’s offer to avoid travelling for work and largely stayed home, legislating from their collective basements, following the lead of their party’s presidential nominee, who campaigned from his basement. For decades, proxy voting has been well-known to be a power grab by legislative leaders, giving them the ability to increase their power over backbenchers and subvert the legislative process to their ends.

Speaker Pelosi understands that if you can keep your majority from gathering together, you can pick them off one-by-one. She does this very effectively. It was how she has kept an iron-grip on a party that is ideologically all over the place.

At the start of this legislative session, Pelosi passed extraordinary measures to limit the ability of the minority party to participate fully in the legislative process. She weakened the ability of the Republicans to offer meaningful amendments, gutted pay-as-you-go rules, and made members personally liable for frivolous lawsuits.

All of these actions were taken before the regrettable Jan. 6 mostly peaceful protest.

Perhaps a commission could be useful in establishing why House Democratic leaders told the Capitol police to not send in for more reinforcements when it was clear that a large and boisterous crowd was coming to the west front of the U.S. Capitol. It could also be useful to ascertain why we still don’t know who shot and killed Ashli Babbit or what role John Earle Sullivan, a noted member of antifa, played in the so-called “insurrection.” We do know he got well-compensated by CNN for videotaping Babbit’s death because the Feds demanded that he give them the money.

The problem with commissions like this is that they frequently turn into political footballs, and this one will be no different and probably a lot worse.

But for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose grip on the House majority has a seemingly definite expiration date, keeping her focus on that first week of 2021 is her best and only hope to keep the majority.

She has become increasingly more determined to make life miserable for House Republicans. She fines them for not wearing masks in the House chamber, as she insouciantly hugs all her friends maskless at a public White House. She fines them for not going through metal detectors in the House chamber. And on a routine basis, she calls them racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, transgender phobic, anti-American and insane.

Republicans need to stay together so they can restore democracy to the House of Representatives. Promise to open the House back up to the people. Promise to restore rights to the minority. Promise to rid the chamber of the odious precedent of proxy voting. Promise to let members be members, so they can enter the chamber without those stupid masks and without having to go through the insulting metal detectors. Promise to treat all members with respect as they try to represent the many disparate constituencies in this great country.

Stop the tyranny. Embrace democracy. And get this country back on track. That should be the agenda for House Republicans. 

Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) when he was majority whip and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).

Tags Dennis Hastert House Democratic leadership Nancy Pelosi Proxy voting tyranny

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