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Meltdown on House Floor Disrupts Lantos Memorial Service

The House had a meltdown today in the middle of the memorial service for the late Rep. Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor who was chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The service, in the Capitol's historic Statuary Hall, was disrupted when a Republican House member unexpectedly called for a procedural vote.

And that's when all hell broke loose.

House Democrats were furious, charging the procedural motion was disrespectful. "Very bad taste, very" as one senior House Democratic aide put it.

Republicans were apparently worried that Democrats were about to force debate on contempt-of-Congress citations against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) is the member who hit the panic button, so to speak, and called the procedural vote. His real purpose in calling the procedural motion was to protest the lack of a vote on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- before the contempt debate started.

He and his GOP colleagues who defended him said Democrats invited the disruption by breaking their agreement to keep the House in recess during the memorial service. When Republicans heard bells go off during the memorial service, alerting them that the House was in session, Diaz-Balart reacted by calling the procedural vote. And Democrats were irate.

To quell the uproar, Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) took to the floor to defend Diaz-Balart, infuriating Democrats further when he said Diaz-Balart, who fled Cuba with his family as a child, wanted a vote on the important eavesdropping legislation because he's a "fighter of freedom." In many ways, Dreier said, Diaz-Balart is "very similar to Tom Lantos."

The comment prompted a wave of groans and booing from Democrats on the floor.

But Republicans blamed Democrats for the chaos. Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, said the Democratic leadership invited the madness by calling the House back into session during the memorial service.

"They took this action despite clearly understanding that it would trigger a series of procedural motions," Steel said. "This cheap, cynical political move seems to have been designed to shut down one of the few procedural tools that can be employed by the minority party in the House. Playing this sort of game during the memorial service of a great and good man is beneath the dignity of this House and should be beneath the dignity of Democratic leaders."

Brendan Daly, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, disagreed, saying, "This is the height of disrespect and completely shameful." Daly added, "The idea that Republicans had no choice is preposterous, all they had to do was allow debate to continue for another 20 minutes and the service could have concluded in peace."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  February 14, 2008; 5:25 PM ET
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Was there a prior agreement or not? Track it down and then report, rather than just printing whatever the nearest person wanted to spout.

Posted by: GovFlack | February 14, 2008 7:37 PM | Report abuse

agreed. ms. akers doesn't read the comments on this blog, so she's not going to actually report on this instance. she comes from a traition of tabloid journalism, so it's really a stretch to believe that she would be out looking for and reporting on facts. juicy gossip--yes, facts--not so much.

Posted by: IMGoph | February 14, 2008 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Buncha eighth graders, the whole lot of them.

You too, Sleuthy.

Posted by: TeddySanFran | February 15, 2008 1:18 AM | Report abuse

Dimocrats, Republicrats.........sadly not much difference.

Mary Ann Akers, I'm shocked to see such an unbiased report from the Washington Post but THANKS !!

Posted by: Tom Boothe | February 15, 2008 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I resolve to vote for ANY incumbent and agaist anyone with Washington experience.

Go Obama! You've the least experience in Washington of anybody running!

Posted by: John Lison | February 15, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Ms Akers.
Please report the facts of who/whom. I would bet all was provoked. The Republicans hate the Democrats who hate the Independants who hate the Muslims who hate the Jews who hate the Christians who hate the Atheists who hate the Conservatives who hate the Liberals who hate...

Watch. Something will be said about Rep Lantos's Jewish heritage before it is all said and done.

Posted by: wyattpittman | February 15, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Does it matter what led to the interruption of a memorial service?
(Most) Republicans - when not protecting their own rears - are callous, partisan, and in this instance not only display a disdain toward events cherishing the sanctity of a human life (oddly enough given their 'pro-life' stance) but rush to defend the few that initiated this unheard of rancor.

Is nothing sacred? Is nothing above politics, procedure, and berating Democrats?

Posted by: Marc Feldstein | February 15, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

so democrats break an agreement (why they were trusted in the first place is beyond me) and the republicans are blamed?

it's time for permanent recess

Posted by: Anonymous | February 15, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Breaking agreements is older than the agreement George Washington broke with the Iroquois Nation, when he broke a written treaty that read, "the land shall be yours for as long as the grass grows green and the sun sets in the West." The US has broken just about every treaty it has made at one time are another. It is not inconceivable that the branches of broken national promises are rooted in the fertile soil of Americans willing to cheat and lie in order to win. A treaty, according to the Constitution, "has the force of law." Our problem lies in finding someone honest enough to enforce that law.

Posted by: truemikeh | February 15, 2008 4:15 PM | Report abuse

The only thing the Republicans are really good at is Disruption.
I am so tired of them shoving their will down my throat, if they were orators or distinguished debaters, they could explain issues. Instead they are clones of "The Hammer" DeLay.
All of us; Dems, GOP and Independents, will be paying for their stupidity for the next 40 years; so we had better join together as citizens and demand higher standards.
United, we citizens have power. Divided we have nothing.
We deserve more.

Posted by: J.M.G. | February 15, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Is there a way the Republicans can rework the surveillance law so when someone requires a warrant and timely information is missed that only Democrats get killed?

Posted by: OmarKhyam1951 | February 15, 2008 6:02 PM | Report abuse

I agree with omar.The next time we are attacked,we will make sure no one but democrats are killed. What a good day that would be.

Posted by: elmerck | February 15, 2008 8:54 PM | Report abuse

The term "Fighter of Freedom" by Rep. Dreier aptly describes Bush and the Republicans. They have been fighting American freedoms for years!

Posted by: Kacee | February 15, 2008 9:47 PM | Report abuse

As long as Americans buy the sizzle they will never taste the steak.

Posted by: Mike from Philly | February 16, 2008 10:29 AM | Report abuse

I am not surprised given his behavior during the Elian Gonzales fiasco. Typical hack.

Posted by: JU LO | February 16, 2008 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Let me guess, they had to drag Boehner out of his office where he was lighting cigarettes with tobacco company checks...and then they had to hunt down Dreier and coax him out of his closet.

What a mangy pack of hyenas.

Posted by: Cynical_Me | February 17, 2008 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Tom Lantos a man of peace?

Since when?

Meanwhile, the plutocrats lean back and smile while you squabble over who are goodies and who are badies; Democrats or GOP.

The plutocrats, led by David Rockefeller, own both; along with the Federal Reserve and the Trilateral Commission, which is the US's de facto foreign affairs nerve centre, and, no doubt, where Lantos received his briefings.

It is not much use lamenting lost American freedoms when you can't even see who you gave them to.

Posted by: Tony Ryan | February 18, 2008 4:53 PM | Report abuse

There is too much he said she said in this report for me to comment or take a side or form an opinion.

Posted by: Vicki Hampton | February 18, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

The individual responses to articles like this may be meaningful to the responder but who else cares. There was no reason to print the article other than to divert the readers' attention from the issues that really have some affect on their lives. This is an age old tactic that is repeated over and over again by the supporters of the status quo, our shadow government.

Posted by: Outrider | February 18, 2008 7:27 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: PETRA MACHAR | February 18, 2008 9:09 PM | Report abuse

The whole story gets lost in some strange spin, a man of so many years and such a hard life, with a honor of duty, has died and all I see is more spin. I think we do need hope, FISA is Spin, Iraq is Spin, Spin is spin!! Im sick of all the lies (spin) From were going to die keep me safe, to I called a vote vecause Im a freedom fighter? What a bunch of BS (Big Spin...)

Posted by: iou101 | February 18, 2008 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Congress is useless and should be abolished

Posted by: Anonymous | February 19, 2008 9:18 AM | Report abuse

What a dorky article. I really wish I had Mary Ann's job. I would just have to post dumb little articles and the fame will come naturally.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 19, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

The only reason Cuba stays in the craw of the American psyche, is because Fidel Castro beat the US, when the Bay of Pigs cluster F**K took place. And ever since that incident, every American Administration has sought to "beat" Castro.
Also, How could a Communist type of government be just 90 miles from US soil? And as for Rep. Diaz-Balart, you are not anything close to Rep. Lantos was and has stood for in the US House of Representatives. Rep. Drier, you are a sham of what I remember when we first meet, when you first attained the high office that you have now.
Ms. Speaker, by the way, any word on maybe, just maybe you are looking into IMPEACHMENT of Bush/Cheney? You are a Charlatan, if you keep saying you speak for the American People, and not SEEK IMPEACHMENT of Bush/Cheney.

Pox on both parties

Posted by: Old Man | February 19, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Cuba? WTF?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 19, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Huh...? Republican impeachment Dick Cheney shoved off the deamoncratic table by courtisane Pelosi ?

Posted by: jwh | February 20, 2008 10:00 PM | Report abuse

Why would oil pirates who chemically bomb defenseless oil reserves give a flying dead Fallujah baby about a memorial service? Republicans are paid to pitch a fit or just drop chemical weapons on Fallujah just before Christmas. As an Air Force veteran let me suggest you conduct a memorial service for Ray Hunt Oil company.

Posted by: bob | February 21, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

And by veteran, I mean they kicked me out after I stuffed an entire jeep up my rear (piece by piece of course).

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