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September 10, 2003

House Republicans Disrespect CBC

By Byron LaMasters

I've been very disturbed recently with the Republican make-the-rules-up-as-we-go / abuse of power tactics. We've seen it all over the place. In redistricting in Texas and Colorado, In changing the Texas Senate 2/3rds rule, in trying to end the Senate filibuster rule, in heavy handed House Committee tactics where Democratic objections are ignored and the police are called, in an unprecendented recall election in California (nothing illegal about it, but its part of the general theme of Republicans doing everything in their power to undo the results of democratic elections).

Now there's another item to add to the list. Illegal? No. But it's completely shameless (and I wouldn't dare say racist, would I? I won't, but someone could see it as such). House Republicans scheduled the revote of the D.C. voucher bill during the Congressional Black Caucus debate last night. The bill passed 209-208 with both Rep. Dick Gephardt and Rep. Dennis Kucinich absent:

House Republican leaders scheduled the vote to begin after 8 p.m., coinciding with a debate among Democratic presidential candidates in Baltimore that several House members who oppose vouchers -- including debate participants Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) and Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio) -- had planned to attend.

Republicans then held open the vote for roughly 40 minutes in a frantic effort to round up the last votes needed to overcome anti-voucher forces. They prevailed at last when Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R-Ky.), who had voted against the voucher plan on the House floor last week, cast a "yes" vote on the measure, breaking a 208 to 208 tie.


Gephardt and Kucinich missed last night's 8:23 p.m. vote so they could participate in the 90-minute Democratic presidential debate at Morgan State University, which began at 8 p.m. Also attending the debate was Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), a voucher opponent who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, which sponsored the debate.

GOP leaders declined requests by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and the black caucus to reschedule the vote, Democratic aides said.

Gephardt campaign spokesman Erik Smith said Republican leaders "clearly" created the scheduling conflict in an effort to deplete the opponents' ranks. Opponents had nearly succeeded in killing the House measure Friday, but Norton's motion to strip the voucher funds from the legislation failed on a 203 to 203 tie.

"Look, this is a tie vote. . . . They knew the [presidential] debate was tonight. They knew there would be a couple dozen [black caucus] members that wanted to attend," Smith said. "It's not rocket science. This is the way this Republican House leadership operates."

I could be upset with Cummings, Gephardt and Kucinich for skipping the vote. It would have forced three more Republicans to change their vote and possibly cause them some political harm. That's not the point, though. The vote was deliberately scheduled during the debate (which was planned well in advance) so that Tom DeLay wouldn't have to round up another three votes. What's even more ironic about all of this is the issue, vouchers for D.C. is an issue that obviously the Congressional Black Caucus, the sponsor of the debate, has a significant interest in (either for or against, that's beside the point). Again, I won't call it racist, but to me, the Republican House leadership showed a profound lack of respect for the CBC by scheduling a vote of importance to the Black community during the first ever CBC sponsored debate.

And Howard Dean shares my outrage. Kudos to him.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at September 10, 2003 03:43 PM | TrackBack


Don't forget that Eleanor Holmes Norton who represents the District of Columbia in the House wasn't even allowed to vote on this issue.

Posted by: Mike Thomas at September 10, 2003 04:55 PM

Don't forget that the Mayor of D.C., the most Democratic city in America, supported the bill.

Shameless of him not to stick with the Party line, I know.

If it's racist than call it that, don't drop innuendo. If the CBC is just a wing of the Democrat Party (they weren't too kind to J.C. Watts as I recall) than there's nothing disrespectful about this. Shrewd but defensible politics.

Posted by: TX Pundit at September 10, 2003 06:17 PM

Fine, but the majority of the D.C. council opposes vouchers, as does Holmes Norton. The purpose of my post was to focus on the draconian GOP House leadership tactics, but its an outrage that D.C. will be forced to impliment a policy (if the bill passes) in which they had no voice in implimenting.

Posted by: ByronUT at September 10, 2003 11:26 PM

Regarding the "dropping [of] innuendo"--the Dems are always accused of playing the race card by Republicans who are the ones making it an issue. Republicans always cry 'race!' and then accuse the Dems of making everything racial. It's sad, really. Pathetic and sad.

Posted by: Andrea at September 15, 2003 10:34 PM
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