In yet another ugly display of arm-twisting, bribery and threats, House Majority Leader Tom “The Hammer” DeLay assured passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) last night by holding the vote open 47 minutes past the traditional 15-minute deadline.
The 217 to 215 vote came just after midnight, in a dramatic finish that highlighted the intensity brought by both sides to the battle. When the usual 15-minute voting period expired at 11:17 p.m., the no votes outnumbered the yes votes by 180 to 175, with dozens of members undeclared. House Republican leaders kept the voting open for another 47 minutes, furiously rounding up holdouts in their own party until they had secured just enough to ensure approval....
This sounds awfully similar to the bribery and threats that the GOP used to pass its Medicare boondoggle last year.
We may not know right away (or ever) if House members were threatened the way they were during the Medicare vote, but it is clear that bribery was on the table.
The last-minute negotiations for Republican votes resembled the wheeling and dealing on a car lot. Republicans who were opposed or undecided were courted during hurried meetings in Capitol hallways, on the House floor and at the White House. GOP leaders told their rank and file that if they wanted anything, now was the time to ask, lawmakers said, and members took advantage of the opportunity by requesting such things as fundraising appearances by Cheney and the restoration of money the White House has tried to cut from agriculture programs. Lawmakers also said many of the favors bestowed in exchange for votes will be tucked into the huge energy and highway bills that Congress is scheduled to pass this week before leaving for the August recess.
Remember how Republicans were supposed to restore integrity and honesty to government back when they took control away from entrenched Democrats? Yeah, me neither.