USA House Republicans Changed The Rules So A Majority Vote Couldn't Stop The Government Shutdown

In its effort to extract concessions from Democrats in exchange for opening the government, the GOP has faced a fundamental strategic obstacle: They don't have the votes. A majority of the members of the House have gone on record saying that if they were given the opportunity to vote, they would support what's known as a "clean" continuing resolution to fund the government.

So House Republican leaders made sure no such vote could happen.

In the hours working up to the government shutdown on Sept. 30, Republican members of the House Rules Committee were developing a strategy to keep a clean CR off the floor, guaranteeing the government would remain shut down.

Though at least 28 House Republicans have publicly said they would support a clean CR if it were brought to the floor -- enough votes for the government to reopen when combined with Democratic support -- a House rule passed just before the shutdown essentially prevents that vote from taking place.

During a floor speech on Saturday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) drew attention to the quietly passed rule when he attempted to present a motion to accept the Senate's clean continuing resolution and reopen the government.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), presiding over the chamber, told Van Hollen that the rule he was asking to use had been "altered" and he did not have the privilege of bringing that vote to the floor. In the ensuing back and forth, Chaffetz said the recently passed House Resolution 368 trumped the standing rules. Where any member of the House previously could have brought the clean resolution to the floor under House Rule 22, House Resolution 368 -- passed on the eve of the shutdown -- gave that right exclusively to the House majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia.

"The Rules Committee, under the rules of the House, changed the standing rules of the House to take away the right of any member to move to vote to open the government, and gave that right exclusively to the Republican Leader," said Van Hollen. "Is that right?"

"The House adopted that resolution," replied Chaffetz.

"I make my motion, Mr. Speaker," said Van Hollen. "I renew my motion that under the regular standing rules of the House... that the house take up the Senate amendments and open the government now."

"Under section 2 of H.R. 368, that motion may be offered only by the majority leader or his designee," Chaffetz said.

"Mr. Speaker, why were the rules rigged to keep the government shut down?" Van Hollen asked.

"The gentleman will suspend," Chaffetz interjected.

"Democracy has been suspended, Mr. Speaker."

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) also highlighted the GOP's refusal to allow a clean vote on Saturday, using a novel parliamentary maneuver. Unable to shut Grayson down, Chaffetz postponed a vote on the bill.

"They can’t handle the truth," Grayson said.

Ryan Grim contributed reporting.


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This article is a very recent updated version of one posted earlier in the day. Earlier in the day I was afraid Obama might need to cave a bit in order to end this travesty. After reading the update I am left more convinced than ever that we are going to have to have a baptism by fire before Tea Party understands that they are the only ones who think there is a party.

U.S. fiscal talks stumble as lawmakers race against time

By Richard Cowan and Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON | Tue Oct 15, 2013 7:44pm EDT

(Reuters) - Efforts by lawmakers to stop a U.S. debt default were in disarray on Tuesday with just over a day before the government's authority to borrow money lapses, risking the Treasury's ability to pay bills and creditors.

Chaotic negotiations to end the U.S. fiscal impasse failed to produce a deal, and left Congress and President Barack Obama desperately searching for a way to reopen the government and raise the country's debt limit ahead of a Thursday deadline.

Both measures require approval by the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. In the Democrat-led Senate, leaders of both parties resumed negotiations, but the Republican majority in the House appeared to be even more divided than usual.

In a span of a few hours, two plans floated by Republicans in the fractious House collapsed for a lack of support and Senate negotiations that were close to an agreement were suspended to await a solution from the House.

But on Tuesday evening, spokesmen for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said their talks were back on. A spokesman for Reid said the two leaders "are optimistic that an agreement is within reach" but offered no timetable.

The uncertainty led Fitch Ratings to warn it could cut the sovereign credit rating of the United States from AAA, citing the political brinkmanship over raising the federal debt ceiling.

Fitch's action emphasized how close to an economically damaging default Washington has come, and sent U.S. stock futures lower.

House Republicans twice tried to come up with a new compromise but failed to satisfy Obama, Senate Democrats or Tea Party conservatives who are determined to win changes to the president's signature healthcare law before they will agree to concessions on the budget.

The first House Republican attempt was shot down in a closed-door meeting that had begun with members singing the hymn "Amazing Grace."

The second plan was scuttled hours before it was expected to hit the House floor for a vote after the influential Heritage Action for America, a conservative group, urged a "no" vote because it did not do enough to stop Obama's healthcare law.

Heritage said it would consider the plan a "key vote" in evaluating whether to back candidates in next year's congressional elections. Shortly after that warning, a committee hearing scheduled to set rules for the debate was postponed and the plan put in limbo.

This second plan from House Republicans dropped a provision to delay a tax on medical devices that would be used to pay for Obama's healthcare plan. Obama had objected to that proposal.

But the second plan, which would extend the federal debt limit until February 7 like the Senate, would only provide government funding until December 15, drawing fire from the White House and Democrats for opening the door to another potential government shutdown just before Christmas.

The Senate plan would keep the government open longer, until January 15.

The chaos raised questions about what the House will ultimately be able to pass and stoked 11th-hour uncertainty.

"We're going to continue to work with our members on both sides of the aisle to try to make sure that there is no issue of default, and to get our government reopened," House Speaker John Boehner told reporters after the closed-door meeting.

If Congress fails to reach a deal by Thursday, checks would likely go out on time for a short while for everyone from bondholders to workers who are owed unemployment benefits. But analysts warn that a default on government obligations could quickly follow, potentially causing the U.S. financial sector to freeze up and threatening the global economy.

The U.S. Treasury Department seized on Fitch's downgrade threat to press Congress. "The announcement reflects the urgency with which Congress should act to remove the threat of default hanging over the economy," a Treasury spokesperson said.

After the Fitch announcement, S&P 500 futures fell 9.6 points while Dow Jones industrial average futures sank 60 points and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 7.5 points.


In the coming hours, much of the focus will be on Boehner and whether he agrees to the demands of the more conservative wing of his party.

Conservative House members, driven by the Tea Party small-government faction, have continued to push for changes to Obama's healthcare law as part of any budget deal.

Those demands sparked the partial government shutdown that began with the dawn of the new fiscal year on October 1, temporarily throwing hundreds of thousands of government employees out of work.

Earlier on Tuesday, lawmakers expressed hope that the Senate could vote as soon as Wednesday on a deal being hashed out between Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

"We were on track and Boehner stepped in," Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told reporters. "McConnell is waiting on Boehner and Boehner is waiting on his caucus."

The House Republican proposal initially floated on Tuesday would have funded the government through January 15, and raised the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling by enough to cover the nation's borrowing needs through February 7, similar to the Senate plan, aides said.

But unlike the Senate, it would have included the two-year suspension of the medical
device tax included in Obama's healthcare law, and a requirement that members of Congress and the administration be covered under the law.

Mostly everything I did not post is old news.
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The Tea Party Representatives represent 58 million citizens, which is only 18 percent of the total population of the US and her territories. They constitute only 18 percent of all the representatives in the House of Representatives, and 36 percent of the total number of representatives.

Because the numbers of Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives are very nearly equal, these 80 can swing any vote in the direction they choose, or stop any vote from coming to the floor by parliamentary manoeuvre.

They are safe in their districts, which ethnically and racially are the total opposite of all other districts which won the presidential race for Barack Obama. 76 of the 80 are men; and 79 of the 80 are white. They don't look like the US looks. The politics of their districts is not consistent with trends and opinions throughout most of the US.

Because their number along with other House Republicans (who are now furious with the Tea Party) can stop any compromise they are invincible right now in the House. And when journalists write they are conducting a jihad, that is exactly what they are doing. The parallels are incredible, including suicide missions. One conservative columnist referred to them as the Suicide Caucus. That was Charles Krautheimer.
A friend just informed me:

" If US lawmakers don’t reach a budget consensus and raise the debt ceiling by Thursday October 17, the US will become the first Western power to default since Nazi Germany in 1933, and will send markets into uncharted territory. The rest of the world is bracing itself for what would happen if the bill is rejected, and the US inches closer to defaulting on its debts, which are largely foreign- held in the form of US Treasury Bonds."

This is no joking matter. "It can't happen here" was nullified when the Republicans took over sole command of the government on September 30. It can happen here. It has happened here.