Chutzpah watch

CHUTZPAH WATCH…. Let me get this straight — the single biggest story in the political world yesterday was over consideration of a House procedure, used many times before by both parties? Republicans decided they don’t like “self-executing rules” anymore, so the matter dominated the discourse?

Pretty much. We talked yesterday about how “deem and pass” became more common after Gingrich’s Republicans took over, but AEI’s Norm Ornstein delved into this in more detail, expressing dismay over the “level of feigned indignation” coming from GOP lawmakers and their media allies.

In the last Congress that Republicans controlled, from 2005 to 2006, Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier used the self-executing rule more than 35 times, and was no stranger to the concept of “deem and pass.” That strategy, then decried by the House Democrats who are now using it, and now being called unconstitutional by WSJ editorialists, was defended by House Republicans in court (and upheld). Dreier used it for a $40 billion deficit reduction package so that his fellow GOPers could avoid an embarrassing vote on immigration.

I don’t like self-executing rules by either party — I prefer the “regular order” — so I am not going to say this is a great idea by the Democrats. But even so — is there no shame anymore?

I’ll assume that’s a rhetorical question. Of course there’s no shame anymore. Republicans who are scandalously abusing legislative procedures have found that the media will play along if they accuse Democrats of abusing legislative procedures. The GOP relied on reconciliation when they were in the majority, but raise hell about reconciliation now. The GOP relied on self-executing rules when they were in the majority, but are apoplectic about the same procedure now.

And news outlets just keep deeming routine steps as “controversial” because Republicans say so.

To be sure, Democrats complained about “deem and pass” when Republicans used it, so the hypocrisy isn’t exactly scarce on the Hill right now. For that matter, there’s a reasonable case to be made that Dems moving forward on health reform using this procedure complicates the political implications in unhelpful ways.

But the larger freak-out reminds us of how silly our discourse can be sometimes.

Indeed, hearing Republicans whine incessantly yesterday about the need for an “up-or-down vote” on the Senate bill was especially amusing yesterday. If GOP lawmakers would allow both chambers to vote up or down on important legislation, procedural alternatives wouldn’t be necessary in the first place.