House Democrats Wednesday passed a resolution allowing them to rapidly bring any bill without normal procedural delays until Dec. 18, arguing the move will help them speed passage of their ambitious agenda for the remainder of the lame duck session.
Republicans slammed the move as Democrats instituting “martial law” in the House.
“It’s really martial law rule,” said Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, blasting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for “not fulfill[ing]” her vows to usher in the most ethical, open and transparent Congress in history.
Republican floor staff warned GOP members of Congress in an e-mail that under the resolution, H. RES. 1752, “the Democrat Majority can bring up any bill, at any time, through December 18, 2010, with very little notice.”
Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado said the rule change was crucial for Democrats to pass numerous bills before Christmas, including the immigration-related Dream Act and repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays.
“I could stand up here…for hours talking about the many bills I would like to take up,” Polis said.
The rule will allow “flexibility to act in a timely fashion,” Polis said.
Polis said without the rule, the government might shutdown because Democrats won’t be able to quickly pass spending bills, perhaps foreshadowing a frantic last few days of Democratic control of the House.
“If the Senate sends us a spending bill on Dec. 18 [without the rule], we would have to literally shut the government down,” Polis said.
Diaz-Balart vowed that Republicans would offer more time to debate key bills in the next Congress. Incoming Speaker Rep. John Boehner has made an open process a top prority in the Republicans’ transition into power.
When Republicans take power, “open rules will make a triumphant return to the House floor,” Diaz-Balart said.
One key Democratic aide dismissed concerns. “Republicans are being dramatic,” he said.
“We just want to make sure we get all the bills we have in the queue,” the source said.
But a GOP aide complained bitterly about the closed-door process under Pelosi’s rule over the past four years.
“I’d say under the Dems, this has become normal when we are coming up to a deadline. They are very dictatorial – zero respect for the minority. The funny thing is you can bet your job they’ll be whining about our rules in the 112th even though they are bound to be more open,” the source said.
“The Speaker has closed rule after closed rule, because she’s afraid to have her caucus take votes on Republican amendments,” the source said.