Friday, November 26, 2004

Hastert Refuses Vote Without 'Majority of Majority'

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert has brought new lows to partisan politics.

In an inane new policy, Hastert has stopped the Intelligence Bill from reaching the House floor for a vote, because the majority of the Republican majority didn't support it. The Bill, based on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission was popular among the democratic minority. In a Washington Post article, Hastert is quoted as saying that Bills will reach the floor, after negotiations with the Senate, only if "the majority of the majority" supports them.

Earlier, Republicans barred Democrats from participating in the drafting of the 2003 Medicare revision and this year's Intelligence Bill.

Senators from both parties and the 9/11 Commission say the current Intelligence Bill would be law already, if not for Hastert's refusal to let the bill pass with a large bipartisan support.

Hastert's actions treat the House as if it is a one party organization. Democrats need not apply.

Tactics were not the same during the Clinton era, when Democrats controlled the House. The North American Free Trade Agreement was passed with largely bipartisan support. The Majority of House Democrats at the time did not vote for NAFTA. The official vote was 102 Democrats For and 156 Against. Without the support of the Republican minority, the NAFTA bill would have died.

One political analyst did say that similar tactics had been used before, but were not used on such far-reaching issues as NAFTA and the current Intelligence Bill.

According to the Post Article:

Some congressional scholars say Hastert is emphasizing one element of his job to the detriment of another. As speaker, said Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, "you are the party leader, but you are ratified by the whole House. You are a constitutional officer," in line for the presidency after the vice president. At crucial times, he said, a speaker must put the House ahead of his party.

Hastert chooses to put his party ahead of the House, and in doing so, he is putting his party ahead of the American people and the Constitution.