Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Majority of the Majority

Progressives have been mightily unhappy with the performance of the newly elected Democratic Congress. While there have been some successes such as the minimum wage increase, ethics reform and the expansion of SCHIP, the children's health care program, there have been some notable failures and setbacks.

The failure to change course in Iraq and the miserable kneel down to Bush on warrantless wiretapping are two of the biggest failures. And yet these things happened with majorities of Democrats voting against them.

When Dennis Hastert was Speaker of the House, he had a rule. He called it the Majority of the Majority. What was this rule and how could it help the Democrats legislate as Democrats? Follow me below the fold...

In a little noticed speech in 2003 Hastert said:
The job of speaker is not to expedite legislation that runs counter to the wishes of the majority of his majority.
What is the significance of this rule? How did Hastert use it? The rule first gained wide spread notice in late 2004. That is when the House scuttled a vote on a Conference Report on the Intelligence Reform Bill. Here is what the Washington Post had to say:
Hastert elected to keep it from reaching a vote, even though his aides said it could have passed with a minority of GOP members and strong support from the chamber's 206 Democrats.
Hastert was, of course, roundly criticized by House Democrats back then. Then Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:
(Republicans) like to talk about bipartisanship. But when the opportunity came to pass a truly bipartisan bill -- one that would have passed both the House and Senate overwhelmingly and would have made the American people safer -- they failed to do it.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has apparently not changed her opinion of the Majority of the Majority rule. After the Iraq supplemental funding bill was passed without withdrawal time lines in May, despite 61 percent of House Democrats voting against it, Pelosi said:
I’m the Speaker of the House. I have to take into consideration something broader than the majority of the majority.
Something broader than the majority of the majority? Suppose the Democrats enforced the majority of the majority rule back in May? No supplemental Iraq funding bill without time lines would have been brought to the House floor for a vote. This would have necessitated a decrease in troop levels or a complete withdrawal, something 66 % of Americans support.

Something broader than the majority of the majority? How about the Constitution of the United States? 77% of Democrats opposed the so called Protect America Act giving the Bush administration more warrantless wiretapping powers. Under the majority of the majority rule, this bill would not have even come up for a vote.

Democrats have it within their power to make change in America. They were elected to the majority in 2006 to make change in America. If they would use the majority of the majority rule, we would have change in America.

No comments: