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The House Fades into "Blue Screen" as Chaos Reigns

The House is back to "blue screen" - the picture of the Capitol dome with the blue sky above it shown on the internal Capitol television system with the words "recess subject to the call of the chair" across the bottom.

And blue screen often means something has gone terribly awry inside the chamber, which is in chaos this afternoon. This follows a walkout of Republicans last night over a disputed vote on a farm spending bill and technical problems today with the voting board.

Shortly past 2 p.m. this afternoon, Republicans offered a motion to adjourn the chamber, a normal protest vote that the minority, regardless of party, has been using for decades. However, in the middle of this protest procedure, the voting machine that keeps the tally went dark, prompting House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to call for a recess in order to fix the voting machines.

But Republicans are staging the adjournment vote merely as a protest, a delaying tactic. So they tried to force an actual hand counted vote, which would take a long time in the 435-member body. After 20 minutes of back-and-forth arguing, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) went along with Hoyer's call for a recess so that the voting machines could be fixed. This is at least the second time today the chamber has gone to blue screen for an extended recess.

The entire atmosphere in the chamber has turned utterly toxic. Republicans are threatening all sorts of procedural tactics to blow up action on the floor and thereby delay the chamber's August recess, which is much needed in terms of the way cranky tempers have flared the past few days.

For now, House Republicans, in a statement from Boehner and Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), have said they will only allow an easy path toward passage for legislation allowing Minnesota to receive $250 million for reconstruction of the I-35 bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis this week and for a reformed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Republicans are likely to play shenanigans with the remaining bills that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would like to approve before leaving town, including the Defense appropriations bill and an energy bill.

This afternoon's adjournment vote is itself a reaction to the still-disputed "motion to recommit" offered last night by Republicans on the Agriculture appropriations bill. "In our view, this was an astonishing and unprecedented abuse of power, defying the will of the people and trampling on the very fabric of American freedom and democracy," Boehner and Blunt said in a joint statement after a morning meeting with Hoyer. At the meeting, according to the Republicans, Hoyer apologized for the mistakes the night before.

But Pelosi remained defiant today that nothing went wrong and vowed to plow straight ahead. "There was no mistake made last night," she said. Pelosi said the allegations of running rough-shod over minority rights - an accusation she lobbed repeatedly at Republicans during her four years as minority leader - will fall flat.

"They have plenty of minority rights, and if you compare the record, you will see that they have many, many, many more opportunities than we ever had ... I am proud to say that many of the bills that I've bragged about came through with strong bipartisan support," she told Capitol Briefing.

Hard feelings have been building all year as Democrats have denied Republicans the right to offer amendments on many pieces of legislation. The dispute hit its apex around 11 last night. As the minority is always allowed to do, Republicans offered a "motion to recommit" the Agriculture appropriations bill to the Appropriations Committee -- to add an explicit prohibition on illegal immigrants receiving food stamps. As the vote was about to be gaveled shut, members of both parties started changing votes back and forth as it appeared Republicans might actually win the vote.

Rep. Michael McNulty (D-N.Y.), sitting in the chair as the presiding officer, banged the gavel at the moment when it appeared the Republicans were winning, 215-213. As turmoil ensued, more votes were switched and the Democrats finally declared that they had won the vote, 216 to 212.

Thanks to Wonkette, the action can be seen here.

When the floor opened this morning, McNulty offered an emotional apology. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a young firebrand the Democrats love to hate, called Democrats "cheaters". This prompted an effort to "take down" McHenry's words as inappropriate, leading to another bout of fighting and the first long period of blue-screen action.

By Paul Kane  |  August 3, 2007; 4:25 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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Comments

For twelve years the Republicans found it impossible to get a budget to the President before the end of the fiscal year. Now that the Democrats are in charge, the Republicans don't seem to want to allow the Democrats the chance to do the budget on time.

If Republican stalling tactics lead to yet another late budget, how will the voters react?

And if they try to do it twice, what will the result be come November next?

Posted by: ceflynline | August 3, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

the republicans are such sore losers. now they are stonewalling just like the sunnis in iraq. all they seem to want to do is to enforce some type of minority rule and blame everything on someone else. beyond that, they aren't getting to line their buddies pockets with cash and subsidies so they continue to stonewall every process they can. just like the upcoming election in '08, they are building another bridge to nowhere.

Posted by: lonewolf | August 3, 2007 5:12 PM | Report abuse

I understand the Republicans getting angry about having to suffer the consequences of their corrupt practices.

But it's wrong for them to just get up and walk off the job like that. It shows not only that they are corrupt, but that they are unwilling to do the job honorably.

Posted by: Sanders Kaufman | August 3, 2007 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Damn I HATE THE LEFT. ALL OF YOU.

Posted by: Time to get it on... | August 3, 2007 5:38 PM | Report abuse

The GOP better call in our Herr Dictator and his side kick ( Mr Ugly-Battery Charged-Dead Eye) Cheney and Nazi Crafty Rove to help straighten out the boys in the back room. This Govt. is being handcuffed and stalled by the Rat Faced Finks we all know as Bush's Brains

Posted by: lynn parker | August 3, 2007 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Ironic that Republicans who are so opposed to such things as the Right To Strike would go on strike themselves after being soundly repudiated in the midterm elections.

I think we should let the Republicans go out on strike and hire REPLACEMENT workers for them. Given the urgent need for a working government during a time of war, I suggest we hire the replacements immediately instead of waiting for the 2008 elections.

Posted by: peter vos | August 3, 2007 5:42 PM | Report abuse

To: Damn! I HAT ETHE LEFT ALL OF YOU!

Hmmm, to the comment, when asked by the press,"Why did Karl Rove not appear for his Congressional subpoena, and why did his assistant plead 'Executive Priviledge', our 'vice' president, the ever-smiling DICK, answered, "The *&^%$$! people and their courts can go %$#! themselves." Hate us, but even though YOU deserve this entirely corrupt administration, WE have to suffer through their obscenities, arrogance and lies. Tough all the way around, ain't it, Cookie?

Posted by: dutch | August 3, 2007 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Tell PELOSI what a sham vote 814 was:

http://speaker.house.gov/contact/

Posted by: OUTRAGED | August 3, 2007 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Republicans are a bunch of liars and cheats. And sore losers, it now appears.

I just can't wait till the next Congressional and Presidential elections, when we can give these corrupt, arrogant bastards the boot.

Of course, I'm sure that when the Presidential election rolls around and it's clear that the Republican candidate is going down like a lead balloon, Bush will (at the prompting of Cheney and Rove) declar a state of emergency (due to terr'rists, don'tcha know! heh heh!) and himself to be El Presidente for Life.

Posted by: Burn, baby, burn | August 3, 2007 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Democrats are anti American!!!!

Posted by: Marc | August 3, 2007 7:27 PM | Report abuse

I could not agree more. The liberal democrats are ruining our great country

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 7:28 PM | Report abuse

Here's what happened with 814 in a nutshell:

Seems dems passed legislation to prevent holding votes open in order to prevent getting votes changed, in the name of ETHICS.

Representatives are free to changes their vote until the gavel falls and the vote is closed and FINAL.

There is no provision for closing a vote early...so here's the game that the dems were playing.

House bill 814 was being voted on, several members on both sides went to change their votes, and were in the process of doing so, McNulty tried to gavel the vote when it was favorable to the democrats.

But opps, he misjudged and gaveled when the republicans won the vote...so...instead of accepting a rather insinigficant lost vote, what do the democrats do?

They CHEAT, holding the vote open past the time when it was closed by themselves, ERASE the record in the voting computer, and keep the vote they wanted.

ETHICS INDEED!

Posted by: WTF | August 3, 2007 7:30 PM | Report abuse

The dems called a "do-over" when they realized their mistake, a step unprecedented in U.S. Congressional history.

And many of you folks blame Republicans for walking out after this rule violation by the Dems?

Why have rules then? Oh yea, you libs call rules like the constitution a "living breathing document" that is subject to the subjective whims of a bleeding heart. "Rules shmules" you say, when it is inconvenient to your priorities.

Posted by: sgt_bilko | August 3, 2007 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Interesting to note that all the Bush supporters are foaming at the mouth. Not a one who can write a coherent sentence, much less martial a coherent argument.

Not sure what the chicken and egg relationship is between their intellectual shortcomings and their support for Bush but I have a pretty good idea.

Posted by: Chris Fox | August 3, 2007 9:21 PM | Report abuse

The House apparently has adjourned as of 9:39 PM.

Posted by: Chris Baker | August 3, 2007 10:09 PM | Report abuse

If the GOP wants to play high-school canteen games in the House chamber, it would help if Boehner didn't sound like he'd come in from the nearest bar. For the GOP posters here, 'ethics' apparently means letting bullies beat you up.

Posted by: Nick S | August 4, 2007 2:10 AM | Report abuse

What a bunch of whiny babies Republicans are. Such silly little tantrums. "I hate the left." or "Democrats are anti-American." Wah wah wah. Punks and babies, schoolyard bullies who get slapped down. Boehner should man up do and something right for the American people instead of just blocking and obstruction.

Posted by: Tom Joad | August 4, 2007 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Gee, how quickly they forget! How about the
arm twisting that went on over the Medicare Bill? How about how the Republicans kept the voting open HOURS after the rule said it should end? Maybe when they say 'I hate the Democrats' they are actually saying 'Only we get to make the rules. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! I'm no fan of EITHER party but if them Dems used dirty tactics, they learned them from the Republicans!

Posted by: steppenRazor | August 4, 2007 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Face it , amerikas liberalist govt has degenerated into a 3rd world quagmire, no different from a backward anarchist african country we see today. Our so called democratic rulers in DC are immune from prosecution for serious crimes against the american citizen and our constitution. The president, whoever he is, forces legislation onto the congress who "caves in from the pressure" and passes it.
Since when did the congress have to "cave" into presidential pressure. Cheney/Bush is not the king of amerika. The wimpy little puss and his fat grumpy toad do not yet have imperialistic power [do they?]. We are not the subjects of a dictatorial govt [are we?].
Our justice dept is a shambles. It does not function in the interest of the US citizen. It is run by a mexican nationalist sympathizer who takes his orders from cheney thru bush, doesnt he.
Using the "war powers" excuse, the cheney/bush white house is steadily encroaching on the liberties of american citizens by using the excuse of GWOT. Bullchit!!! Its a power grab!!!!
Will CHeney/bush, Rove, Gonzo and their band of thieves stop the 2008 election and declare themselves rulers for life? Well? What do you think?
Where is our media? ALL of it!
These people are suppose to report the TRUTH. What is wrong with them? Are they so terrified for their jobs, safety and lives of their families that they bend to the will of the administratlions strong men [cheney/gonzo].
If they think its bad now, let them continue to support the tyrants that are screwing us all and see what we get in the future.
Yet you are content to sit on your hands and let the mental cases run the asylum. Its going to get worse in this country long before it gets better.
Wait until you are forbidden to do the things you are accustomed to doing because it violates 'security' regulations drawn up by cheney/bush/rove/gonzo, to control your job/travel/ and rights to ownership.
No I'm not ranting or flaming, its all happening now and expanding a little bit more each day. Keep an eye on what cheney/bush is "forcing" congress to do. Watch what our legislators are doing, for themselves, and how they are 'getting away' with things that are jail time for you.

Posted by: vger1 | August 4, 2007 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Everyone has failed to mention that the United States House of Representatives can't seem to decide whether or not we should give benefits to ILLEGAL ALIENS! All of you people just engage in partisan bickering like a bunch of babies while both sides destroy our country. Get a glove and get in the game!

Posted by: Tom | August 4, 2007 9:39 AM | Report abuse

It's ironic how the liberal Democrats complained about the monority having "no rights" or say in legislative matters and now they run things even more heavy-handed than the GOP did. The vote stealing by the Democrats though was a new low. Shameful!

Posted by: Rambo | August 4, 2007 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Again and again this year we hear the poor, helpless Republicans whine how those meanie Dems are denying them their voice in both Chambers of Congress...

This, after 6 years of total Republican domination where no Dem was allowed to sponsor a bill, and any bill that they didn't like never got out of committee...

The level of hypocricy involved, and the storm of nasty invective coming from the Republican sides of the aisles are simply astounding.

If the Republicans really believed in Bipartisanship, they would have made more of an effort to include the Democrats during their Imperial Reign!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 4, 2007 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Once you invent the idea that the Constitution is a living document (it doesn't mean what it says), rules, laws, or even principles are likely to fall by the wayside. To the Democrats, anything the Democrats do is right, regardless of rules or laws. To me they seem to be more like a religion and less like a political party.

Posted by: Chris | August 4, 2007 3:58 PM | Report abuse

The facts of this story are clear. The democrats lost the vote, fair and square: the board read "215-213, Final". The dems then violated House rules to reverse the result, and tried to cover up what they had done.
After all the promises the democrats have broken--e.g., preserving hidden earmarks after promising to abolish them--this stands as simply the most egregious betrayal of their supposed convictions: a violation of the House's own rules for partisan purposes.
I will now await some hysterical ad hominem smearing me as an extremist and Bush-worshipper, which will be presented without any effort whatever to dispute the established facts. The democrats cheated, and blatantly; the republican walkout was a perfectly proper response.

Posted by: Charles Norman | August 7, 2007 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Sir:

I would like to suggest we investigate a constitutional amendment. Specifically addressing the issue of the growing disconnect between our fighting forces, and our citizenry. As a growing number of people are realizing the people who serve and the people who are protected no longer talk to each other in a constructive, open manner.

One of the issues is that the people who order our troops into harm's way, have in most cases never served a day in the military. It's easy to be a hawk, when you don't have to worry about being shot with arrows. I feel it is incumbent upon the legislative and executive branches to put their children where their policies lie. As a result, my amendment would make it a requirement for all member of congress and the executive branch to compel their children to volunteer for military service. Preferably infantry, or special forces duty.

As a result our leaders will think twice, and three times before sending troops into combat, and hopefully insure the deployment of our forces, and subsequent re-deployments, will truly serve a strategic, and security mission, and not a merely political, or economic agenda.

This would allow our leaders the opportunity for real photo opportunities, in which they would truly feel the pain of their constituents, since they too would have children in a forward combat position, or God forbid have lost a son or daughters to the conflagration.

Gouverneur Mitchell

Posted by: Guv Mitchell | August 26, 2007 2:26 PM | Report abuse

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