GOP refuses to let House Dems speak

There was a bizarre scene on the House floor a couple of weeks ago, when Democratic lawmakers tried to bring up a bill, and House Republicans simply shut down the chamber. When Dems tried to at least have their say on the issue, GOP leaders shut off the cameras.

This morning, we saw a nearly-identical display.

The House is holding pro-forma sessions, apparently in the hopes of blocking President Obama’s recess-appointment power (which he’s choosing to exercise anyway). Since the chamber would be open for business anyway, Assistant House Minority Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) decided he’d make some remarks about the payroll tax break.

But like two weeks ago, House Republicans refused to let him speak, banged the gavel, left the room, and again turned off the cameras.

The result is an odd GOP argument. When President Obama wants to raise the debt ceiling, congressional Republicans respond, “You can’t do that; we’re not in session.” When the White House wants to make recess appointments, congressional Republicans respond, “You can’t do that; we are in session.” And when James Clyburn wants to say a few words from the House floor, congressional Republicans respond, “You can’t do that; we’re not in session.”

I realize there have been some interesting legal, procedural, and semantics debates this week over what is and is not a “recess.” But if Republicans could just pick a line and stick with it, the discussion would be far more coherent.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.