Privileged Resolution Condemning House Process During Medicare Debate
D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi introduced a resolution
in the House today condemning the House Republicans' tactics during
the debate and vote last month on the Republican Medicare bill.
The resolution failed by a party line vote of 207 to 182. A copy
of the resolution is attached below. The following are Pelosi's
remarks on the House floor:
more than 200 years ago, our Founding Fathers designed this House
of Representatives to serve as the Peoples House. In The Federalist
Papers, James Madison wrote that, 'it is essential to liberty' that
this House have 'an intimate sympathy with the people.'
centuries since, this body has earned its status as the greatest
legislative body in the world.
never before have the actions of this body fallen so far short of
both the ideals envisioned by the Founders and 'the sympathies of
the people' as during last months vote on the Medicare Prescription
Drug Conference Report -- a vote that will surely be remembered
as one of the lowest moments in the history of this august institution.
"The American people expected a fair and open airing of issues
affecting 40 million older Americans on Medicare -- our mothers,
our fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers. Yet Republicans locked
House Democrats out of the conference negotiations, and in so doing
locked out the 130 million Americans we represent.
is a diverse country, but ours, the Democratic Caucus, is the only
diverse caucus. By shutting out the Democrats, they denied the conference
negotiators the benefit of the thinking of representatives of the
African American community, our Hispanic community, our Asian Pacific
American community, the whole diversity of philosophy within our
caucus, from the Blue Dogs to New Democrats to our progressive Democrats.
people expected genuine debate. Yet Republicans limited floor discussion
on one of the most dramatic changes to Medicare in its history to
a mere two hours. Two hours. And this behavior was not limited and
confined to the vote on Medicare. For some reason, and I think it
should be obvious what it is, the Republicans insist on having votes
that are of great import to the American people, where they are
clearly on the wrong side of the issue, taken in the middle of the
Friday in March at 2:54 a.m., the House cut veterans benefits by
three votes. At 2:39 a.m. on a Friday in April, House Republicans
slashed education and health care by five votes. At 1:56 a.m. on
a Friday in May, the House passed a leave no millionaire behind
tax cut bill by a handful of votes. And at 3:38 a.m. on a Friday
in June, the House GOP passed a Medicare privatization and prescription
drug bill by one vote. At 12:57 a.m. on a Friday in July, the House
passed a Head Start bill by one single vote, and that Head Start
bill was to undermine and unravel a very successful Head Start initiative.
And then after returning from a summer recess, at 12:12 a.m. on
Friday in October, the House voted $87 billion for Iraq, an issue
that Democrats and Republicans were on both sides of the issue,
as were the American people. They deserve to hear the debate in
the light of day.
our democracy when Democrats have no role in the legislation. This
legislation affects millions of Americans -- but we had no role
in conference negotiations, no chance to offer amendments, no alternatives,
and limited debate or discussion.
our democracy when secret negotiations -- such as those on energy
legislation -- rip up provisions supported by both Houses and insert
new provisions approved by neither House.
"Mr. Speaker, this is not the House our Founders envisioned.
Such behavior is unfair. It is un-American. And it is unacceptable.
It is not for this that our Founding Fathers sacrificed their lives,
their liberty, and their sacred honor, so that we could have government
of the few, by the few, for the few, behind closed doors. Why are
Republicans so afraid to subject their agenda to the normal rules
are afraid of fair and open debate because they know that the American
people reject their radical agenda. As President Kennedy said, 'A
nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood
in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.' So
afraid of the people were they, that again this went into the dark
of night when we even took the first vote at three o'clock in the
of the majority in the other body, that would be a Republican in
the other body, warned recently: 'f you have to twist people's arms
over and over to vote for you on issue after issue, then you would
be wise to reevaluate your position.' Of course, Republicans have
no intention of reevaluating their reckless position.
newspaper editorial observed recently, 'It appears the Republicans
want to govern the nation by themselves.' Government of the few,
by the few, for the few.
Greeks had a word for such audacity -- hubris. Hubris, the wanton
arrogance that leads to the violation of accepted rules of conduct.
In the tragedies of antiquity, mortals who defied the Gods in this
manner were punished for their hubris.
if there ever there was an argument for why Republicans must get
their punishment at the polls and be defeated at the polls next
year, we need only look to their unprecedented abuse of power and
their neglect of the will of the people.
Democrats will not stand by while our democracy is denigrated. We
will not be silenced. We will not be rolled over. And as we preach
democracy to the rest of the world, and we talk about in glowing
terms about our own democracy, we must also speak about the power
of example. The example we set and the conduct of our legislative
business for the rest of the world. The Republicans are not setting
a good example of democracy for the rest of the world.
must know -- we will fight this abuse in the committees. We will
fight this abuse on the floor. We will fight every day in every
way we can. We will carry this fight all the way to Election Day.
that day, the American people will reject the Republican special
interests and their shameless abuse of power. With all the regard
I have for my distinguished colleagues on the other side of the
aisle who appear to be at the microphone -- and I know that the
time will be led by the gentlewoman from Connecticut -- why is not
a member of this House leadership on the Republican side on the
floor to respond to this privileged resolution about how the leadership
has conducted its business?
a great deal of respect for the Speaker of the House. The Majority
Leader is a forceful personality. The two of them orchestrated what
happened that night. We would like them to at least extend the courtesy
to Members to be present on the floor as the leaders of their party
to respond to the people's need to know as to why, why the will
of the majority is not respected here.
will return the 'Peoples House' to the American people. And
we will once again make this the revered institution worthy of its
status as the greatest legislative body in the world."
November 22nd, the Republican Leadership held open the vote on Roll
Call #669 on H.R. 1, the Prescription Drug Conference Report, for
nearly three hours, the longest period of time in the history of
electronic voting in the U.S. House of Representatives;
normal period of time for a recorded vote is 15 minutes, and the
Speaker of the House reiterated that policy on January 7, 2003 saying
The Chair wishes to enunciate a clear policy with respect
to the conduct of electronic votes
The Chair announced, and
then strictly enforced, a policy of closing electronic votes as
soon as possible after the guaranteed period of 15 minutes,
and in addition the Speaker pro tempore on November 22nd announced
prior to the vote on Prescription Drugs that it would be a 15-minute
amount of time for the vote on H.R. 1 went far beyond any time considered
reasonable under established House practices and customs, and was
a deliberate attempt to undermine the will of the House;
opponents of H.R. 1, both Republicans and Democrats, were on the
prevailing side for more than two and one-half hours and proponents
never once held the lead during this period of time, and the sole
purpose of holding this vote open was to reverse the position that
a majority of the House of Representatives had already taken;
to press reports, a Member of Congress who is retiring was told
on the House floor during this extended vote that business
interests would give his son (who seeks to replace him) $100,000
in return for his fathers vote. When he still declined, fellow
Republican House members told him they would make sure Brad Smith
never came to Congress, and such an act is in violation of
Section 201 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which prohibits
bribery of public officials;
actions impugn the dignity and integrity of House proceedings, bring
dishonor on Members of Congress, and were a gross violation of the
rights of Members who opposed this legislation;
be it resolved that:
The House denounces
this action in the strongest terms possible, rejects the practice
of holding votes open beyond a reasonable period of time for the
sole purpose of circumventing the will of the House, and directs
the Speaker to take such steps as necessary to prevent any further