By now, you probably have seen the video of Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) excoriating the GOP for "suspending democracy" with their craven changes to House rules. That's only half the story.
The rule change Rep. Van Hollen focused on, H. Resolution 368, was introduced in the wee hours of the night on Sept. 30th, 2013 and voted on at 1:10 AM on Oct. 1st, 2013. As you probably know, the pernicious aspect of this rule is that it prevents EVERY member of the House from putting the shutdown to a vote because it reserves that right solely to John Boehner or someone of his choosing.
While Van Hollen makes it clear what happened, that raises another question. How could this have happened, in the first place? It's never happened before, why now? There's a reason this hasn't happened before. There is another rule in the House, specifically, clause 6(a) of Rule XIII. That clause is a rule REQUIRING A TWO-THIRDS VOTE TO CONSIDER A RULE CHANGE ON THAT SAME DAY IT IS REPORTED FROM THE RULES COMMITTE
On it's face, clause 6(a) of Rule XIII makes sense. If you are going to change the rules of the House, you have to give people a chance to think about it, otherwise you get Calvinball. Of course, there may be times when speed is of the essence. However, speed and haste are not the same thing. If some rule change needs to be done with alacrity, it should be easy to achieve overwhelming support. After all, everyone agrees swift action to avoid a clear and present danger is in everyone's interest.
But the rule change that Van Hollen highlights clearly failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority, even with the near party-line vote (I leave the matter of the seven Quisling Democrats who supported this for others to discuss). Furthermore, it was not allowed to lay over for a full day. How could such a breach of protocol happen? It was no accident. It was premeditated.
During his parliamentary inquiry, Van Hollen asked a very important question the chair refused to answer. When did the House vote on this? I was not able to find any reporting on this, so I decided to go look for myself. It turns out, H.Res 368 did not appear, immaculately conceived, out of thin air. The sole sponsor of H. Res 368, Pete Sessions (R-TX) had paved the way for this abomination when he sponsored H. Res 367, which passed a few hours earlier by a simple majority at 7:15 PM on Sept. 30, 2013 with zero Democratic votes.
H.Res.367 - Providing for consideration of the Senate amendment to the joint resolution (H.J. Res. 59) making continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2014, and for other purposes, and waiving a requirement of clause 6(a) of rule XIII with respect to consideration of certain resolutions reported from the Committee on Rules.Here's the nasty bit of H. Res. 367:
Section 2 of the resolution waives clause 6(a) of rule XIIIPete Sessions and his cronies basically passed a resolution waiving this safeguard. To protect themselves from having to ever worry about someone turning their weapon against them, this waiver expired on October 7, 2013. In other words, it was around just long enough to prevent anyone from stopping their shoving H. Res. 368 down the throats of the House.
(requiring a two-thirds vote to consider a rule on the same day
it is reported from the Rules Committee) against any resolution
reported from the Rules Committee through the legislative day
of October 7, 2013.
To really make sure this nasty piece of work achieved the desired goal of subverting democracy, they added this "Explanation of Waivers" clause in the enabling legislation:
EXPLANATION OF WAIVERSBy waiving all points of order against consideration of the motion you couldn't argue against this resolution if you wanted to. But then why would you? "The Committee is not aware of any points of order" worth considering. The reality is that is a bold-faced lie, as clearly demonstrated by the fact they inserted this "prophylactic" waiver. They knew exactly what they were doing. They knew that Democrats would raise objections to this procedural throat-cutting. But they didn't care.
Although the resolution waives all points of order against
consideration of the motion, the Committee is not aware of any
points of order. The waiver is prophylactic in nature.
Now that you see the whole story, it is impossible to deny the kind of men we are dealing with. These are men who have no respect for the institutions of government. These are men who have no respect for the democratic process. These are men who are hell-bent on destroying the foundations of this republic. Negotiating with them is about as useful as negotiating with Somali pirates. We don't negotiate with pirates. Jefferson made that pretty damn clear, "Paying tribute will merely invite more demands".