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ISSUE #115
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Features

ArrowPresident Rubber vs. Speaker Glue
Pelosiís scarf and GOP barf

Allan Uthman

ArrowIn Defense of Ann Coulter?
Conservatives have a right to be assholes, just like real people

Paul Fallon

ArrowWithdrawal Symptoms
Iraq timetable’s a political fix

Matt Taibbi

ArrowJesus Christ!
People will believe anything

Ian Murphy

ArrowWhat, Me Worry?
Iranians aren’t scared of a U.S. attack

Russ Wellen

ArrowLandslide of Failure
The battle for election integrity is led by... the Governor of Florida?

Brad Friedman

ArrowDeregulation Killed my Cat
Food contamination: the Bush legacy

Allan Uthman

ArrowThe Whining Minority
Republican congressman turns from bully to baby

Matt Taibbi

ArrowIt's tax time again and I want to maul you
A.Rabid Dog

ArrowContradictum
Self-refuting quotations from the world of politics

ArrowBonobos vs. Chimps
A Debate for Lemur Philosophers

A. Monkey

Departments

ArrowThe Beast Page 3
Censored Chocolate Jesus

ArrowKino Korner: Movies
Are We Done Yet?, Grindhouse, Blades of Glory, Pride, Reign Over Me, The Lookout, The Reaping, Perfect Stranger, Vacancy, Fracture

ArrowBEAST-O-Scopes
As divined by your ethereal guide

Arrow[sic] - Letters
A Very Thin Hope, Classy, Mile High Club, Equal Rights Harassment, Kiwi Fruit and more

  The Whining Minority
Republican congressman turns from bully to baby
Matt Taibbi

DiazI turned on C-Span the other morning, expecting to watch the latest chapter in the purification-by-fire of Alberto Gonzales, and saw an amazing thing. It was so amazing and so hilarious that I coughed hot coffee all over my new laptop. Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida, was howling on the House floor about the lack of "openness" demonstrated by the new Democratic leadership.

"In bill after bill after bill," he shouted, "the minority is closed out!"

Diaz-Balart ... you really have to see this guy to believe him. His public speaking method is something truly awesome to behold. Imagine a Mummenschanz dancer trying to pass a drunk test after downing a bottle of strychnine, and you've got Diaz-Balart explaining himself in congress. He waves his hands and head spasmodically as he talks, and sometimes actually adds words to match his twitches and gestures that make no sense and do not necessarily relate to the subject at hand.

"It's not theory, not height, not almost closed -- it's a closed rule!" he shouted, demonstrating the nonsensical added word "height" by making a "high-low" gesture with his hands.

The issue at hand -- the reason the esteemed Florida congressman was addressing the House floor -- was the failure of the Democrats to allow an "open rule" in the matter of the Gulf Coast Recovery Act, an aid package directed to hurricane victims. An "open rule" is a bill that is sent to the House floor without any restrictions on the number or type of amendments majority or minority members might want to tack on. For instance, a few years ago, when the reauthorization of the Patriot act was sent to the House floor, Vermont's Bernie Sanders submitted an amendment to restrict government access to citizens' library records. The Republicans who controlled the Rules committee at the time rejected that and other amendments, and sent a closed rule to the floor.

They did that a lot in those years. In the two years of the 109th congress, the Republicans allowed only one completely open rule. This was a reflection of a decades-long general evolution in congressional procedure away from bipartisanship and in the direction of unilateralism. The trend really began with the Democrats -- in 1977, when the Democrats were the majority party, eighty-five percent of all bills went to the floor as open rules. By 1994, when the Democrats were kicked out of power, that number had dropped to thirty percent. Particularly during the Reagan years, congressional Democrats had turned the House floor into something of a bully pulpit. And guess who led the Republican charge in bitching about it? You guessed it, Mr. Strychnine-Mummenschanz himself, Lincoln Diaz-Balart. This is the congressman's remarks on the subject back in 1994:

You know what the closed rule means. It means no discussion, no amendments. That is profoundly undemocratic.

The Republicans then swept into power on Newt Gingrich's coattails, pledging to usher in a new era of openness. "Instead of having seventy percent closed rules," then-new Rules chairman Gerald Solomon said in 1994, "we are going to have seventy percent open and unrestricted rules."

Except it didn't work out that way. Particularly in the Bush years, under the direction of sartorial Jedi-master David Dreier -- a very mean man who wears very nice ties -- the number of open rules dwindled down literally to nothing. That's not a joke -- in the first session of the 109th congress, there were, for the first time in congressional history, no open rules. And guess who was sitting next to Dreier the whole time as the number two guy in the Rules Committee? Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

I spent a good deal of time in the Rules Committee in the past few years and I watched that cocksucker sit there with a gloating, cat-who-has-just-eaten-mouse smile as the likes of Jim McGovern, Louise Slaughter, and Alcee Hastings begged, literally begged to have this or that amendment allowed (or "made in order," as they say in congress) so that it could be voted on by the whole congress. Since Dreier for the most part couldn't be bothered to show up at the committee hearings, it was usually Diaz-Balart who sat in the chairman's chair and chided the Democrats or their witnesses to shut the fuck up.

And it was Diaz-Balart who at the end of the afternoon would gently stack his papers and disappear behind the majority office door so that the bills could be bastardized, clipped and/or rewritten in the middle of the night. In the 108th congress, for instance, 78 of the 191 rules were reported after 8:00 p.m., and 21 of those were reported at 7:00 a.m. the next day. It was during those years that Rules earned the nickname "Vampire" or "Dracula" congress -- bills would go in reading one way, then come out at 7:00 the next morning with completely different meanings. In 2001, for instance, a health insurance bill reworked in the middle of the night went to the floor with a few minor changes that drastically limited the liability of HMOs who denied coverage to patients. This kind of shit was commonplace back when Diaz-Balart and his buddies were running things.

 

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