Beauprez and Rep. Cole misled on Republican bipartisanship, support for minimum wage hike

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

On Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show, former Republican congressman and gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez falsely asserted that the GOP-controlled Congress always allowed amendments and debate on substantive measures. In fact, Republicans routinely obstructed Democrats from introducing amendments. Additionally, Beauprez and U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) failed to note that an increase in the federal minimum wage they voted for was tied to a cut in the estate tax.

During a January 18 interview with U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) on Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show, former Colorado Republican congressman and gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez -- who was guest hosting -- falsely claimed that on "substantive bills," the Republican-controlled Congress always allowed Democrats an opportunity to propose amendments and "erase, add, change, and send it right back to committee." In fact, the Republican majority routinely prevented the Democratic minority from introducing amendments or debating on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, according to several news reports.

In addition, Cole falsely claimed that the House Republican minority has been "absolutely denied" the motion to recommit. However, according to The Daily Digest of the Congressional Record, the first six bills of the Democratic majority's "100 Hours" agenda allowed Republican motions to recommit. In fact, each bill saw at least one motion to recommit, with eight motions total. All such motions were voted down and the bills passed.

Furthermore, referring to a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage (H.R. 2) passed by the Democratic-controlled House on January 10, Beauprez agreed with Cole's assertion that Republicans in the last Congress "passed a minimum wage ... with a balanced tax package ... that protected small business." However, both Beauprez and Cole failed to note that the Republicans' minimum wage increase was linked to an estate tax cut, which was sure to fail because most Democrats vehemently opposed the tax cut.

At the beginning of the interview, Beauprez told Cole, "I just had Congressman [Rahm] Emanuel [D-IL] on. He's talking about how all these Republicans who are voting for all these Democrat (sic) bills." Beauprez then asked Cole: "[I]s this partisanship that the general public was so critical of and concerned about, is that all gone? Are you guys ... sitting around cross-legged now, singing 'Kumbaya'?" Cole responded:

COLE: No, absolutely not. And, frankly, a lot of what you're seeing is extraordinarily partisan on the House floor. I mean, the whole concept behind the hour -- the 100 Hours -- which we're moving substantive legislation, you know, onto the floor without having gone through the committee; we're not allowing any amendments on the floor; we're not even presenting these things at Rules Committee where potential amendments can be heard. So you're seeing a very un-democratic process.

BEAUPREZ: So this is one-sided. This is something that I did admire when I was back there. We always on substantive bills, always allowed an amendment or, in most cases, what's called a motion to recommit. You can erase, add, change, and send it right back to committee if the majority voted that way. We always allowed the minority that. You're being denied that opportunity?

COLE: Oh, we're absolutely denied that.

However, The Washington Post reported in a June 16, 2003, article titled "Using the Rules Committee to Block Democrats," that Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) "rules the House Rules Committee with an iron fist." The Post also reported, "On many high-profile issues, Dreier, whose committee decides the rules for each debate, has refused to allow Democrats an opportunity to offer a substitute amendment on the House floor":

By preventing Democrats from offering amendments, Republicans virtually eliminate the possibility of the House passing legislation not endorsed or written by GOP leaders. As important, they eliminate a key opportunity for Democrats to divide Republicans by writing alternative bills that might appeal to moderate Republicans. Republicans also protect their members from swing districts from having to vote for or against some bills that could hurt them politically in the next election.

In April 2005, The New York Times (accessed through the Nexis database) reported Democrats' oft-repeated comments that "Republicans have tightened their control of the House, preventing amendments on the floor, limiting debate, excluding Democrats from conference committees and reorganizing panels to give the leadership more influence."

And, on March 27, 2005, in an article (accessed through the Nexis database) about the House Republican leadership's rules manipulation, The Denver Post reported:

Republicans once railed against such tactics. One target was the Democrats' use of "closed" rules of debate, in which amendments are not permitted on the House floor.

But under GOP control, the number of closed rules has more than tripled from the last Democratic Congress of 1993-94 to the 2003-04 Republican-controlled Congress, according to Donald Wolfensberger, who heads the Congress Project at the nonpartisan Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Following are a few specific examples of reported incidents of Republican obstruction of amendments and debate in the House during 2005 and 2006:

  • On February 10, 2005, House Republicans "were able to use the rules of debate to prevent a broader fight over immigration policy, but that approach could not happen in the Senate," according to the conservative Washington Times.
  • On April 14, 2005, Dow Jones' MarketWatch noted that, before passing a bill that placed tougher restrictions on bankruptcy filings for individuals, "[t]he Republican-controlled House Rules Committee, in a party-line vote Wednesday night, rejected Democratic calls for an 'open rule' on the debate, which would have allowed Democrats to bring amendments to the floor."
  • On April 28, 2006, The Washington Post reported that "House Republicans barred amendments that would have expanded oversight" of President Bush's controversial National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program.

During the same interview with Beauprez, Cole also said of the Democratic leadership in the House, "I think we're seeing right now both bad things done and a certain amount of showmanship." As an example, Cole pointed to the "minimum wage that we passed last week." Beauprez then agreed with Cole's assertion that "when you were here we passed a minimum wage too, but we put it with a balanced tax package."

However, as Colorado Media Matters has noted, the minimum wage increase for which Cole and Beauprez voted was linked to a cut in the estate tax. In July 2006, Beauprez and Cole voted in favor of the Estate Tax and Extension of Tax Relief Act of 2006 (H.R. 5970), which sought both to reduce the estate tax and to raise the federal minimum wage to $5.85 an hour in 2007, $6.55 an hour in 2008, and to $7.25 an hour in 2009. The Associated Press characterized the bill as a "Republican election-year effort to fuse a cut in inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates with the first minimum wage increase in nearly a decade."

The Los Angeles Times described H.R. 5970 as "controversial" and "hastily crafted," and reported:

Facing the prospect that they would be portrayed as obstacles on an issue popular with many voters [an increase in the minimum wage], nearly 50 mostly moderate Republicans this week appealed to their leaders to act.

The group threatened to vote against adjourning for the August recess until their party's leaders agreed to give them a chance to vote on a minimum-wage hike.

On Friday afternoon, GOP House leaders relented.

They announced they had tacked it onto a 180-page bill that would cut the estate tax and extend a host of temporary tax cuts -- moves that Senate Democrats have made clear they would block through a filibuster if necessary.

Thirty-eight Senate Democrats -- along with three Republicans and one independent -- successfully filibustered the bill, which Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) called "a cynical ploy on the part of the Republican leadership in an election year," according to the AP. An August 4 Washington Post article similarly reported that Democrats, who usually champion minimum wage increases, thought voters would "see the Republican-backed bill as a ploy to further enrich upper-income families while trying to usurp the Democrats' role as champions of the working poor." The Post quoted Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (NV), who led the opposition to the measure, as saying that, under the bill, "8,100 of the wealthy and well-off hit the jackpot, while millions of working families get $800 billion in [federal] debt."

Cole voted against the latest minimum wage increase.

From the January 18 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show, with guest host Bob Beauprez:

BEAUPREZ: Tom, in the time you've got -- again, thanks for joining us -- what is the mood back there? I just had Congressman [Rahm] Emanuel [D-IL] on. He's talking about how all these Republicans who are voting for all these Democrat bills. Is -- is this partisanship that the general public was so critical of and concerned about, is that all gone? Are you guys --

COLE: No. Frankly, actually --

BEAUPREZ: -- sitting around cross-legged now, singing "Kumbaya"?

COLE: You know -- no, absolutely not. And frankly, a lot of what you're seeing is extraordinarily partisan on the House floor. I mean, the whole concept behind the hour -- the 100 Hours -- which we're moving substantive legislation, you know, onto the floor without having gone through the committee; we're not allowing any amendments on the floor; we're not even presenting these things at Rules Committee, where potential amendments can be heard. So you're seeing a very un-democratic process, it's a railroad process --

BEAUPREZ: So this is one-sided. This is something that I did admire when I was back there. We always on substantive bills, always allowed an amendment or, in most cases, what's called a motion to recommit. You can erase, add, change, and send it right back to committee if the majority voted that way. We always allowed the minority that. You're being denied that opportunity?

COLE: Oh, we're absolutely denied that.

[...]

COLE: I mean, most of us come here to try to do the right things. I'm very proud of the things that you and I did when we were in Congress. We cut the taxes on the American people. Got the country moving in the right direction again. We've gone over five years without an attack on America, something that people didn't think could happen. And that's because of what we've done -- everything from the Patriot Act, homeland protection, to being aggressive and taking the war to the enemy. So there's a lot of satisfaction in getting the tough things done. I think we're seeing right now both bad things done and a certain amount of showmanship. And, take the minimum wage that we passed last week. Well, you know, of course, when you were here we passed a minimum wage too, but we put it with a balanced tax package --

BEUAPREZ: That 's right.

COLE: -- that protected small business. And, in the end, that's what we're going to do here. I don't think this stand-alone minimum wage will go through. I'm not against increasing the minimum wage. I'm on record for it.

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