Just As I Thought

He said they’d change the tone. He didn’t say in which direction

Rep. Nancy Pelosi is sick and tired of the way Republicans are using their power to keep the minority out of the loop:

House Democrats’ anger at heavy-handed Republican tactics reached a new level yesterday, with the chamber’s top Democrat asking the House speaker to embrace a “Bill of Rights” for the minority, regardless which party it is.

In keeping with the general atmosphere of the House these days, aides to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said he will not respond to the two-page proposal from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

For decades, the party in power has used House parliamentary rules to limit the minority party’s ability to amend bills and shape debates. But Democrats — in the minority for 10 years after four decades of control — say Republicans have gone to unreasonable lengths in recent years. GOP leaders dispute this, but congressional scholars and even some rank-and-file Republicans agree in whole or in part.

Pelosi’s document, which she vows to honor if Democrats regain the majority, says: “Too often, incivility and the heavy hand of the majority” have silenced Democrats and choked off “thoughtful debate.” She called on the majority to let the minority offer meaningful amendments and substitutes to important bills; to limit roll-call votes to the normal 15 minutes rather than keeping them open to round up needed votes; and to let all appointees to House-Senate conference committees participate in meetings and decisions.

“When we are shut out, they are shutting out the great diversity of America,” Pelosi said in an interview. “We want a return to civility; we want to set a higher standard.”

Pelosi and Reps. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) and John M. Spratt Jr. (D-S.C.) cited several examples of what they consider abusive treatment by Republicans, who control the House 228 to 206 (there is one independent). A proposed $9.6 billion tobacco buyout program went not to the Agriculture Committee but to the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, they noted, where Democrats’ questions and proposed amendments were ruled out of order because they did not deal directly with taxes.

… Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) said in an interview that Democrats are crying about the process because they are losing policy debates over job creation and progress in Iraq. His mission as chairman, he said, is “to move our [Republican] agenda, and to do it in the fairest and most responsible way possible. And I do it in that order.”

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