But don't sweat it. I'll fill you in on the juicy details that this paper does a lousy job of illuminating.
I've had a civil back-and-forth with jesselee of the DCCC about the 147-page document (of which only 46 pages are actual report, the rest are appendices), where I argue that this potentially explosive report was a media relations failure.
In short, the thing was a Lakoff nightmare.
Among other failings, the "meat" of the story was buried, the writers managed to frame themselves as whiny democrats, and the media was given an "out" if they didn't want to cover the story, which most didn't. (The notable exception being this WaPo story that actually came out prior to the release of the report.)
On the flip, I'll provide some of the cool stuff that you DIDN'T read, complete with the requisite F-bombs here and there.
But just what exactly does that mean? What does it entail?
Well, for starters, it means House Republican leadership has managed:
to systemically abused the House "rules" for parlimentrary procedures and, along with other even more blatant and underhanded tactics, managed to virtually shut out Democrats (and moderate Republicans, I might add) from debate;
to severely limit the ability to amend bills;
to force members to read bills in what amounts to, in some cases, 40 seconds per page prior to a vote;
to abuse the "emergency procedure" designation for hundreds of bills, solely for the purpose of stunting debate.
Furthermore, the House Republican leadership convened the 108th Congress for the LEAST amount of working days (243) then at any time since becoming the majority in 1995 (a full EIGHT weeks less than the 104th Congress), while at the same time, INCREASING the number of days used to consider so-called "suspension day" bills, which are nothing more than glorified ribbon cuttings:
In other words, Republicans rewrote the rules in a way that allowed them to transform Wednesday from a day when the House debates and amends major legislation into a day when it names post offices and congratulates sports champions and foreign governments.
In short, the Republicans have not only shortened the working session by nearly 8 weeks since they took over leadership, but they've dedicated a MAJOR portion of that time to debating bills that there is ALREADY A CONSENUS on!
Let's put it another way: This tactic is nothing short of a systematic shutting off of debate by "debating" non-controversial bills. Republican leadership made time for nearly a thousand non-controverisal bills, but the House was given only 4 HOURs to debate the Medicare prescription drug bill, which involves literally hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars!
Some other lowlights from the Republican leadership during the 108th Congress:
1) In a blatant gambit to avoid giving committee members the required 48-hour notice prior to a meeting (under Rule 2), the leadership has willfully exploited a provision that allows a Chair to call an emergency meeting "at any time on any measure or matter which the Chair determines to be of an emergency nature."
Let me get this straight. Sixty percent of Committee business is "emergency in nature?" Wow. A lot of hair on fire, up there on the hill, me thinks. Well, I did some checking. Here's a quick sampling of some of these "emergency" bills, as listed in the report's appendix:
H.Res. 168 H.R. 743 - Social Security Protection
H.Res. 239 H.R. 1904 - Healthy Forests Restoration Act
H.Res. 449 Providing for a suspension day on November 20, 2003 - with consultation with
Not sure what constitutes an "emergency" up there on the hill, but "providing for a suspension day" seems to me to fall somewhere OUTSIDE that category. WTF?
2) Here's another beauty: If only getting 24 hours notice is not enough to keep members from participating in committee, how about a little late-night love. Yes, you're a committee member interested in debating "H.Res. 383 Conference Report on S. 3 - Partial Birth Abortion Ban." You wanna play? Okay. Tell `em what they won Don Bardo!:
So are you with me so far? To recap: The session is shorter by 8 weeks, debate on ribbon cuttings is extended, the vast majority of rules are "emergencies," which means that virtually no notice is given, and some 40 percent of all rules were reported after 8 p.m. Shit, all that's missing is a blindfold, some salt, a shot of tequila and a secret handshake and we can close these fuckers off completely.
You think that's it? Oh contraire, Lisa Simpson. A bill doesn't become a law quite that smoothly.
3) House Leadership makes a mockery of the House/Senate conference process by providing "blanket waivers" to all House rules regarding bills coming out of conference.
The final details of a bill are hammered out in a joint conference between the House and the Senate, after which time an up or down vote is taken by the full body on the revised bill. It is at this point that conference conferees have the opportunity to "amend" the bill, essentially behind closed doors.
House rules exist to protect against abuses in conference. For example, changes should not fall outside the scope of the house-approved version, there's to be at least one public meeting on the changes, and the conferees must "attach a joint explanatory statement to the report that is `sufficiently detailed and explicit to inform the House of the effects of the report on the matters committed to conference.' "
But most importantly, a three-day layover is required for such conference bills in order to ensure House members can read the changes prior to an up or down vote. Now, under special circumstances, sometimes these rules are waived. No one, including Democrats, has a problem with the occiaisonal exception.
Now, can you guess where this is going? You guessed it. The Republican leadership of the 108th Congress granted "BLANKET WAIVERS" to every single one of the 28 rules, effectively eliminating "points of order" on all considered bills coming out of conference.
Which, of course, means members did NOT get the three days to review the bill. And guess what? All of our previous rat fuckings still apply: 24 of the 28 rules were drafted as "emergency" measures; 12 of the 28 were reported after 8 p.m., and 6 of those 12 were brought after 6:30 a.m. the following day and brought to the full House for an up or down vote, just hours later!
This, folks, is how we nearly got saddled with the infamous "Istook Amendment," which would have given Congressional staffers access to the confidential tax returns of U.S. citizens.
Guess what else all these rule waivers mean? They mean that House members NOT part of the conference get virtually no time to review the final draft a bill prior to an up or down vote.
For example, members were granted exactly 40 seconds per page to review the 288-page dividend tax bill. Members had 20 hours to review the 852-page final draft of the Prescription Drugs/Medicare prior to voting. Hey, I'm all for pimping Evelyn Wood, but this is ridiculous.
And we wonder why we're being rat fucked?
The Prescription Drugs/Medicare bill deserves it's own wing in the "usurping the democratic process hall of shame." The report details this abomination in nice detail:
It is not surprising the Republican leadership jammed this conference report through the House over the objections of Democrats. More surprisingly, they rushed it through despite the protests of a significant part of the Republican Conference. On October 29, 2003, 41 Members of the Republican Study Committee wrote a letter to Speaker Hastert, Majority Leader DeLay, and Majority Whip Blunt requesting that the Medicare conference report lay over for three days, in accordance with Rule XXII. These Members made their request for the following reason:
"The general public will evaluate not only what Congress does regarding Medicare
and prescription drugs, but the way in which it does it. A bill proposing such
substantive changes to the Medicare system and costing an estimated $400 billion
over the next decade deserves the careful and thoughtful consideration of all Members.
Allowing Members adequate time to properly evaluate the Conference Report will
avoid a needless and difficult internal fight on the Rule, and allow Leadership to
concentrate its efforts on final passage of the Conference Report. It will also lead to more public confidence in the legislative process and greater acceptance of that
process' final product."
The House leadership apparently decided it would be too risky to let House Members (including their own Republican Members) have three days to consider the bill as regular order would require.
Instead, they opted to jam the legislation through the House as quickly as possible, relying on their arm-twisting abilities rather than the merits of the bill. The infamous 3-hour vote on this conference report, plus the accusations that the Republican leadership offered bribes and threatened Members for their votes, could not have improved the "public confidence in the legislative process," as the Republican Study Group had hoped.
Other blows to the public's confidence in the process that produced the new Medicare law came from revelations that the Administration withheld from Congress an analysis showing the cost of the bill to be more than $500 billion; that Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin was negotiating for a $2 million-a-year job with the drug industry during the conference negotiations; and that the new law gave a $139 billion windfall for the pharmaceutical industry.
For a nifty little synopis of how little Tom Delay thinks of democrats, take a look at this cute
anecdote from the back cover of Lou Dubose's book on Delay, The Hammer.
4) Finally, let us not lose sight of the utter hypocrisy of these Republicans;
Here's our dear friend Joe Scarborough, writing recently in the Wall Street Journal:
Washington outsiders promising to balance the budget and pay off the federal debt.
We campaigned against the Imperial Congress and promised Americans that if we
got elected, we would be different. We lied."
Rules Chairman David Dreier made several statements when the Republicans were in the minority, essentially condemning Democrats for using tactics, which by today's standards, would have looked like a veritable model for "deliberative democracy.' Dreier sings a different tune now:
Well isn't that special.
A large, important portion of this report details the nature of Open and Closed and Restrictive rules and how the current Leadership is using the "closed" rules for the vast majority of bills. You can read it if you're so inclined, but I think you get the gist:
As far as Democrats and moderate Republicans are concerned, the United States House of Representatives is CLOSED for business.