Weissman School of Arts and Sciences

Examples of Legislative Politics from CSPAN

 
Legislative Day vs. Calendar Day

In 1987, after the rule for the budget reconciliation and deficit reduction bill was unexpectedly defeated, the Democratic leadership employed an unusual procedure. A new rule, revised to get more support, would have to wait a day before it could be taken up by the House and pass with a majority vote, or a 2/3 vote could be used on the same day. To avoid waiting (and keeping members through Friday), the Democratic leadership -- represented here by Majority Leader Tom Foley (D-WA) -- adjourned the House and reconvened seconds later. This, in effect, created a new legislative day on the same calendar day, thus permitting the House to adopt the revised rule by a simple majority without waiting.

 
Holding a Vote Open in the House

Only hours after the clip shown above, the revised rule on the bill had passed and members voted on the bill itself. However, Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX) was again surprised to find the bill down by one vote as the traditional 15-minute period for voting expired. Within seven minutes, Wright persuaded fellow Texan Jim Chapman (D-TX) to change his vote and then declared the vote closed. This clip begins with Republicans initially celebrating their apparent victory, then shows the aftermath.

After Republicans took control of the House in 1995, Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) (shown questioning Speaker Wright in the clip above) declared that votes would no longer be held open. Years later, however, Republicans found themselves going even further. The most notorious example occurred on November 22, 2003. To help pass President Bush's Medicare Prescription Drug bill, the Republican leadership, under the direction of Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) (heard in the background here), held open the vote for 2 hours and 51 minutes -- the longest vote in House history. As this clip begins, the "Time Remaining" clock has already been at 0:00 for 2 hours and 50 minutes. After the vote is closed, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer voices disapproval, noting Republicans' previous complaints.

After taking over in 2007, Democrats changed the rules to prohibit holding open a vote to "change the outcome". So, Republicans were understandably angry on August 2, 2007 when the Democratic leadership denied the minority party an apparent 215-213 victory on its motion to recommit, first declaring a tie, and then holding the vote open for seven minutes until Democrats could defeat the measure outright, 212-216. This time, Steny Hoyer (D-MD), now Majority Leader, is directing events. After the vote is closed, Hoyer moves to reconsider the vote (defeating this motion is the last step to finalize a vote). After a pause, the end of the clip shows Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) futilely attempt to adjourn before the vote is finalized. At various points Republicans are heard yelling "Shame!" and "Cheaters!"

 

Minority Rights & the Right to Object

Just after midnight on July 18, 2003, Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee walked out of the markup into the adjoining library in protest to being excluded from the markup process. Angered, the Chairman of the Committee, Bill Thomas (R-CA) called the Capitol Police to remove Democratic members on the Committee from the library. In this clip, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) speaks later that day on the House floor in favor of a resolution disapproval of the Chairman's actions.

 

After most Democrats had walked out of the Committee markup, the one Democrat remaining in the room, Pete Stark (D-CA), had continued to object to the expedited nature of the proceedings. In this clip, a Republican member reads on the House floor a transcript of what happened next.

 
Quorum Calls

Quorum calls can be used as a delay tactic in the Senate. In the course of (unsuccessfully) attempting to break a Republican filibuster of campaign finance reform legislation, on February 4, 1988 around 1 am, the majority voted to instruct the Sergeant at Arms to compel the attendance of absent senators in order to ensure a quorum. In this clip, Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd (D-WV) apologizes to Senator Bob Packwood (R-OR), who was injured while being dragged from his office to the Senate floor (note Packwood's bandaged wrist).

Filibuster

On October 5, 1992, Senator Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY) conducted a 15 hour 14 minute solo filibuster to stop the passage of a tax bill because a provision was removed by the conference committee -- whose Senate delegation was headed by Texas Democrat Lloyd Bentsen -- that would have helped preserve the jobs of 875 employees from his home state. In this first clip he gets in a musical dig at Bentsen and provides the rationale for his actions.

In this next clip he attempts to drag out proceedings by reading a list of the 875 names (10 minute clip).

More than 12 hours later, during the same speech, D'Amato is still going strong. In this clip, he sarcastically breaks into song again:

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