How is it that a bill with wide popular support that ultimately passed the House by a margin of 336 to 75 was almost derailed by a couple of Republican committee chairmen last week?
Answer: The Republican’s new rule that says that 49 percent of the people in the United States no longer matter.
”Speaker Dennis Hastert last week enunciated a policy in which Congress will pass bills only if most House Republicans back them, regardless of how many Democrats favor them.
Hastert's position is the latest step in a decade-long process of limiting Democrats' influence and running the House virtually as a one-party institution. Republicans earlier barred House Democrats from helping to draft major bills such as the 2003 Medicare revision and this year's intelligence package. Hastert (R-Ill.) now says such bills will reach the House floor, after negotiations with the Senate, only if "the majority of the majority" supports them.”
Yes, that’s correct. Under the new rules established by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and his puppet, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, the only votes that matter in the House from now on are Republican votes. If you have a Democrat representing your interests in Congress then you do not matter.
How does this work? Simple. As Speaker of the House, Hastert can control which bills will be allowed to come to the floor of the House for a vote. The new DeLay/Hastert rule says that only bills with majority support among Republicans will pass that threshold. Isn’t that swell?
So even if a bill has broad support across the House - like the Intelligence Reform bill did - it can be held up by a handful of Republican chairmen and their little cadre of supporters. A bill that has the support of a majority of Democrats and a minority of Republicans would easily pass the overall House with a wide majority, but those bills will never see the light of day under the new rule.
If the Democrats had used this kind of petty partisanship when they were in the majority we would not have a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which passed with more Republican votes than Democratic votes.
As congressional scholar Norman Ornstein notes, the new "majority of the majority" maxim, is a disastrous recipe for tackling domestic issues such as entitlement programs and the deficit. But this is what we have to look forward to until the grownups can finally take charge again.
In the meantime, welcome to our new and improved Republican-style democracy. Yippee!