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The controversy began on August 2, when Republicans were ultimately defeated over a procedural "motion to recommit with instructions" vote on the FY2008 agriculture appropriations bill (H.R.3161). The motion would have sent the spending bill back to the House Appropriations Committee, requiring the legislation to include provisions barring food stamps for illegal immigrants, before returning to the House floor.
GOP members contested the vote when the presiding chair, Rep. Michael McNulty (D-N.Y.), called the vote in favor of the Democrats prematurely. During the voting, three different vote tallies came up, due to members changing their votes, two having defeated the measure, and one having passed. When McNulty initially gaveled the vote to a close, stating that the motion failed 214-214, the public voting board showed a vote of 215-213, a GOP victory. Democrats then reopened the vote, persuading several colleagues to switch their votes, resulting in a final tally of 212-216, successfully blocking the measure.
After calling for the 215-213 vote to stand, House Republicans eventually marched out of the chamber around 11:00 PM August 2, shouting "NAY! NAY! NAY!" (video here)
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) attempted to work out an agreement over the proper way to deal with the contested vote, both agreeing to some sort of investigative action. Boehner, however, was apparently persuaded by more conservative members of his party and Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to seek confrontation through various parliamentary procedures.
The following morning, August 3, Republicans attempted to protest the previous night's vote with the daily routine of verifying the previous day's congressional record, but Murtha, as presiding officer, overruled a GOP request for a recorded vote on the approval procedure. Murtha apparently ignored that Republicans at the time had a majority of members then in the House chamber, which enables them to force a record vote. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) called on Murtha to explain his ruling, and Murtha responded by saying, "It is up to the chair. Let me tell you this, the vote will show that the approval would be approved by the House, as it has been."
Later on the 3rd, the House unanimously passed a Republican-sponsored privileged resolution (H.Res.611) creating a bipartisan Select Committee, with subpoena power, to investigate the August 2 contested vote. Three members would be appointed by the Speaker of the House, and three by the Minority Leader.
The controversy continued, however, when the House voting board, which displays the status and subject of an ongoing vote, blacked out during a vote, leading to continued suspicions and accusations, and delaying the work of the house by almost an hour. Republicans then tried to pass a second privileged resolution (H.Res.612) which would have rebuked Murtha for not showing the proper degree of respect as Speaker pro tempore to Rep. Sesenbrenner and misusing his power as chair. However, Majority Leader Hoyer sought a motion to table that second resolution. Minority Leader Boehner expressed outrage that the motion to table was brought to a vote without an hour of debate, which should have begun when Hoyer stated "Enough is enough" in response to the GOP resolutions. (video here) Democrats were able to table the resolution, claiming that Hoyer's remarks were not official since the presiding Speaker, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) had not recognized the Majority Leader. Republican members then shouted "Coverup! Coverup!" as a response to Hoyer's remarks being stricken from the record. The next day, on August 4, Democrats again tabled a resolution (H.Res.623) offered by Republicans that would have expanded the newly created Select Committee's inquiry to include the August 3 omission of Hoyer's comment.
Eventually the House was able to pass a number of pieces of significant legislation before adjourning for the August recess, however not without much delay resulting from the vote contention and confrontation.
On August 16, 2007, during the August congressional recess, the chairman of the House Administration Committee, Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) met with officials from the House Clerk's office to discuss the House voting board blackout on August 3. Democratic sources claimed that the failure occurred due to a disconnection of the board’s power plug. The newly created select committee to investigate the August 2 voting irregularities was scheduled to release an interim report of its findings to the House, after the recess, by September 30.
Originally posted by octotom
Clearly, the nos won. But, Murtha said that in his opinion, the ayes had won.
[edit on 9/4/2009 by octotom]
They counted a vote by all those in favor say "aye", all those against say "nay"? How dare they abide by Rules of Order and Parliamentary Procedure that has run our Congress for the past 222 years!
BuzzFlash: Thom Hartmann educated me about a court ruling in California in the late 1800s that bestowed what could be called "personhood" on corporations, setting a precedent for court rulings in the future. Was that the beginning of corporations emerging as a force unto themselves in the governmental process?
David Sirota: The short answer is yes. We went from a legal definition of the corporation as something that was subservient to society to something that has equal rights with human beings. We basically empowered big money interests with even more power than their money already gave them. These corporations live longer than humans - they can live for eternity. A corporation already has a lot of power, because it basically is a concentration of wealth, but it also has other extraordinary powers, like basically living forever, and never really being subject to being put in jail like a human. Thom Hartmann is absolutely right on the history of this.
But I will say this. There used to be a line between government and the business sector. They used to be two separate entities. The government was there to protect citizens from the excesses of corporate capitalism through economic policy. It was there to protect the integrity of a properly functioning free market system that corporations and human beings operated under. Now government and big business are one and the same.
The name of my book is Hostile Takeover. The premise is that the big money interests have performed a hostile takeover of our government to the point where business and government are literally one entity. The regulator is part of the regulated. The regulated controls the regulator. Once we understand that that’s what’s really going on behind all of the happy sounding rhetoric, we can better understand why we get the public policies we get, and, more broadly, why we are now living in a society where the middle class and the working class in this country are being crushed.
BuzzFlash: Many Republicans might be scared by David Sirota and basically say that you’re anti-capitalism, you’re a socialist or a communist, because you say that corporations shouldn’t be allowed to have this influence on the government. Is there a difference between a level playing field of the free-market economy and a basically oligarchic corporate control of the government?
David Sirota: I’m sure I’ll be called any number of things. But this book is about small "d" democracy. I consider myself a small "d" democrat before I consider myself a big "D" Democrat, or a progressive, or anything else. The fact is that a democratic society requires there to be a government that enforces laws objectively in order to protect its citizens. That, basically, is what the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are all about – we, the people.
The folks who endorse the current system, by which big money interests are able to essentially control and write public policy and manipulate our political debate in this country, are the people who are anti-democratic. Those people do not really believe in the ideals that this country was founded on. They think our society should be a "survival of the fittest" race to the bottom. I categorically reject that vision. Citizens are fighting to take back their own government, and this fight is really fundamentally all about democracy. People who are on the other side don’t believe in democracy.
BuzzFlash: We’ve returned to a robber-baron age with ever larger corporations. Halliburton and the oil companies basically are not for a free-market economy. They’re for monopoly control over their sectors.
David Sirota: That really cuts to what I assert in the book. One of the most important things the public needs to understand is that the terms of our entire political debate are artificially rigged. Just take the veneration expressed in our media and by our politicians of the "free market." We’re led to believe that we live in a truly free market, and our government is always working to protect free markets. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What our government works to do is to rig the market – to weight and to distort the free market by permitting monopoly power by, for instance, telecom companies; by permitting monopoly power by large oil companies; by passing all sorts of protectionist policies in our "free trade" policies that preserve unfair patent and copyright protections to create high drug prices in the Third World. So we don’t have a free market. That’s one of many very good examples of how big money interests deliberately skew our political debate with terms like this, and thereby make us think our government is doing exactly the opposite of what it is doing.
BuzzFlash: Let’s take one example relating to the Internet. We just saw a vote in a House committee against what is called Internet neutrality. In essence, even most of the Democrats on that committee went along with the telecom industry, allowing them to set up a two-tier Internet. The Internet is a great example of democracy in action, and it has had a huge impact because of its low barrier to entry. Already the industries that provide the pipes for it are starting to put up the barriers. They’ve got the money, which they give to the legislators who vote, and the legislators are voting to put up the barriers.
David Sirota: Meanwhile what’s absolutely lost, even beyond that, is the fact that the Internet was started in part, if not in full, with taxpayer investments.
BuzzFlash: The University of Illinois was kind of an incubator of the first wave of the Internet.
David Sirota: That’s right, and I assume the project there got federal funding. I know that the military had a lot of funding for creating the Internet back in the seventies, the point being that this is another example of something that has been papered over in our political debate – the idea that taxpayers, in many cases, are the original investors with high risk in major pieces of our economy.
Yet when those investments turn out to be profitable, taxpayers are immediately cut out of the deal. It gets privatized. And now Congress is going along with corporate America’s efforts to cut the public out of the democratic benefits of the Internet. It’s a perfect example of how there no longer is a difference between corporate America and the American government. That is to the detriment of society.
BuzzFlash: Does Jack Abramoff symbolize the hijacking of America by corporate greed?
David Sirota: Jack Abramoff shows just how permissive and out in the open the hostile takeover has become. Everyone pretends to be just totally outraged and surprised that something like this would be going on in Washington. Jack Abramoff is only the most public example of the kind of bribery that goes on in Washington every day. He really is a symbol of exactly how out of control our system has become, and exactly how undemocratic it’s become, and exactly how pervasive the hostile takeover of our government really is.