Quote of the day...

"The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it" - Ayn Rand

Thursday, January 18, 2007

House of Blarney

"Comments on the past behavior of the speaker might be interesting, but they are not points of order!"

No doubt just about everyone has seen or heard this exchange on the House floor last Thursday. If you have not seen the footage, watch it. Please.

Some background for anyone who is not aware of the circumstances leading up to this funny, brilliant display of Congressmen behaving badly:

On Jan 10, in the 63rd hour of Nancy Pelosi's self-lauded "1st Hundred Hours" the house passed a bill to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour. This wage increase was seen as so critical to the well-being of millions of low-wage earners, that the House made sure to extend its reach beyond the 50 states (and the District of Colombia) to all outlying American territories, which has some of the lowest wages in the west. All outlying areas, except one: American Samoa.

American Samoa: Where the current minimum wage is $2.68 / hour! American Samoa: Where the citizens do NOT deserve the same living wage that the rest of us do, apparently. American Samoa: Where a certain tuna company in Madam Speaker's San Francisco district would be exempt from the minimum wage increase!

Whenever the House Republicans have pulled a stunt like this they were instantly subjected to at least 48 hours of public lynching by the main stream media outlets. But this shameless exclusion went largely unnoticed. Only a few marginalized voices attempted to make the hypocrisy of the "ethics reform" party known.

So a handful of House Republicans took matters into their own hands: during a "debate" of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina attempted, several times, to introduce an amendment that would exempt American Samoa from the new act. A lively discussion ensued, as you will see if you watch the footage.

Congressman McHenry deserves to be commended for his civil disobedience. Barney Frank deserves the same for sticking to the house rules and shutting the Republicans down using only the rules at his disposal to do so (even though his enforcement of those rules is hypocritical based on his tantrums on the floor when he was in the minority). The Republicans staged a protest, for the right reasons, during a parliamentary procedure. In doing so, they broke the established House rules. However, they were successful in making more of the public aware of the shameless amendment, and in getting Madam Speaker to correct her "oversight" and ensure that American Samoa would be subject to the same minimum wage increase as the other territories (too bad so many Samoans will lose their jobs as a result, but that's another post).

My eternal gratitude goes to Mr. Frank for his instantly classic, patently Bostonian rebuttal to McHenry's suggestion that the Speaker, in the past, had used Parliamentary Inquiries as a guise for protest: "Comments on the past behavior of the speaker might be interesting, but they are not points of order!"

Watch the video. Please. It's entertaining. But more importantly, it is very revealing. This was supposed to be a debate over the stem-cell bill. But Nancy Pelosi was nowhere to be found! Frank was sitting in for her. Apparently, Madam Pelosi does not take seriously her pledge to be "Speaker of the House", not "Speaker of the House Democrats". The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act passed 253-174.

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