Wash. Post reported that House Dems plan to break pledge, limit debate, but omitted that Republicans also did so in 1995

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

A January 2 Washington Post article reported that House Democratic leaders plan to limit floor debate and amendments during action on their "100 Hours" agenda, despite their earlier pledges to the contrary. But the article failed to point out that in 1995, Republicans broke the pledge they made in the "Contract with America" to have a "full and open debate" on each of the contract's elements so they could fulfill another promise: acting on the entire contract within the first 100 days of their majority.

The Post reported that "House Democrats intend to pass a raft of popular measures as part of their well-publicized plan for the first 100 hours." The article continued: "But instead of allowing Republicans to fully participate in deliberations, as promised after the Democratic victory in the Nov. 7 midterm elections, Democrats now say they will use House rules to prevent the opposition from offering alternative measures, assuring speedy passage of the bills and allowing their party to trumpet early victories." The Post also reported that "in attempting to pass laws key to their prospects for winning reelection and expanding their majority, the Democrats may have to resort to some of the same tough tactics Republicans used the past several years" and that "House Republicans have begun to complain that Democrats are backing away from their promise to work cooperatively."

But the Post article did not mention that the Post itself reported in 1995 that Republicans reneged on their "Contract with America" promise to "bring to the House Floor" 10 specific measures, "each to be given full and open debate, each to be given a clear and fair vote and each to be immediately available this day for public inspection and scrutiny." An April 9, 1995, Post article on the House's completion of the Contract with America reported that "[t]he contract also promised 'fair and open rules' for floor debate and amendment of its legislative proposals ... only about one-third of the bills came to the floor under such conditions." The phrase "fair and open rules" does not appear in the contract itself. But Rep. Richard Armey (R-TX), who became the House majority leader when Republicans took control in 1995, said in a September 27, 1994, interview on PBS' The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour that the contract was, in part, a "promise to bring [the 10 already-written elements of the contract to] the floor in an open Congress, with an open rule, fair debate, and a square vote."

From the January 2 Post article titled "Democrats To Start Without GOP Input":

As they prepare to take control of Congress this week and face up to campaign pledges to restore bipartisanship and openness, Democrats are planning to largely sideline Republicans from the first burst of lawmaking.

House Democrats intend to pass a raft of popular measures as part of their well-publicized plan for the first 100 hours. They include tightening ethics rules for lawmakers, raising the minimum wage, allowing more research on stem cells and cutting interest rates on student loans.

But instead of allowing Republicans to fully participate in deliberations, as promised after the Democratic victory in the Nov. 7 midterm elections, Democrats now say they will use House rules to prevent the opposition from offering alternative measures, assuring speedy passage of the bills and allowing their party to trumpet early victories.

[...]

The episode illustrates the dilemma facing the new party in power. The Democrats must demonstrate that they can break legislative gridlock and govern after 12 years in the minority, while honoring their pledge to make the 110th Congress a civil era in which Democrats and Republicans work together to solve the nation's problems. Yet in attempting to pass laws key to their prospects for winning reelection and expanding their majority, the Democrats may have to resort to some of the same tough tactics Republicans used the past several years.

Democratic leaders say they are torn between giving Republicans a say in legislation and shutting them out to prevent them from derailing Democratic bills.

"There is a going to be a tension there," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the new chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "My sense is there's going to be a testing period to gauge to what extent the Republicans want to join us in a constructive effort or whether they intend to be disruptive. It's going to be a work in progress."

House Republicans have begun to complain that Democrats are backing away from their promise to work cooperatively. They are working on their own strategy for the first 100 hours, and part of it is built on the idea that they might be able to break the Democrats' slender majority by wooing away some conservative Democrats.

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The Washington Post
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