Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) recently revealed that House Republicans had changed a rule effectively allowing only Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) to end a looming government shutdown — but two weeks ago, it was Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) who had the foresight to grill the Rules Committee chairman for what she called an “atrocity.”
In a clip that turned up online on Monday, Slaughter takes on Rule Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) after sensing that something didn’t smell right with the rule change.
The new rule allowed only Cantor or his designee to bring up Senate legislation for a vote if the Senate rejected a motion to work out the two chambers’ differences in conference committee.
A GOP aide told CNN that the rule “basically prevents [Minority] Leader [Nancy] Pelosi from hijacking the floor since the Senate refused to go to conference.”
Session responded to Slaughter by saying that Republican leadership had made the change “to get our people together… We’re trying to actually have a conference.”
He added that under the old rule, “there could be a privileged motion at any time.”
“I think you’ve taken that away,” Slaughter observed.
“That’s what I’m saying,” Sessions agreed. “We took that away.”
“Oh, Mercy,” Slaughter sighed. “It just gets deeper and deeper. I want to tell you the resolve that I think you’ve got. And despite the fact that every one of you said, over and over ad nauseam, that you didn’t want to shut the government down, we spent some time down in my office watching so many of your members — right after they were elected in 2010 — saying how much they would like to shut down the House to great applause.”
“I think it is really shortsighted, I think it is an atrocity to the Rules of the House,” she added. “And I think you’re putting the whole country through this angst and this aggravation that we did not need to go. This one we could have done without.”
“And I must tell you that I’m more and more angry now that I understand what you have done is take away our ability is to really make a motion for that Senate vote.”
As it turned out, Slaughter’s instincts were correct because Republicans shut down the government the next day. And 15 days later, the government remained shut down and the Senate bill had still not been brought up for a vote in the House.
Watch this video from C-SPAN, broadcast Sept. 30, 2013.