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On October 1st, House Republicans rigged House rules to hamstring Democrats

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Although most of the moves House Republicans have been making to completely wreck the country, attempt to foist unrealistic and unpalatable demands down the throats of the White House and Democrats, and crash the global economy, a sneaky little maneuver by House Republicans somehow managed to stay below the radar. But Democratic Rep. Chris van Hollen blew it wide open (see video). Van Hollen's closing comment - "I think democracy has been suspended, Mr. Speaker" - is reminiscent of the comment made by Joseph Welch during the Joseph McCarthy hearings, "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

The answer to that, in 1954, and now, in 2013, is a resounding, "No." There is no sense of decency to be found among Republicans. And this spear in the heart of the Democratic process by House Republicans proves that as little else can.

The "Clause" this and "Rule" that and "advisory opinion" over there is a little confusing, but the upshot is that on October 1st, House Republicans quietly trashed the Standing Rule of the House - which permitted any member, Republican or Democrat, to bring a motion to the floor - and instead passed a resolution allowing only House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, or his designee, to bring a motion to the floor.

"Mr. Speaker," Maryland's Democrat Rep. Chris van Hollen addressed Republican Jason Chaffetz, House Speaker Pro Tempore, "Pursuant to Clause 4 of Rule 22, I move that the House take from the Speaker's table the Senate Amendment to the House Joint Resolution 59, recede from its amendment and concur in the Senate Amendment to open the government now."

Speaker Chaffetz: "Under Section 2 of House Resolution 368, that motion may be offered only by the Majority Leader or his designee."

van Hollen: "Parliamentary inquiry . . . the Standing Rule of the House reads, Mr. Speaker, 'When the stage of disagreement has been reached on a Bill or Resolution with House or Senate Amendments, a motion to dispose of any amendment shall be privileged.' Mr.Speaker, my question is, is this parliamentary status of the bill, does it meet the requirements of 22/4?"

Speaker Chaffetz: "The House has altered that operation of that Standing Rule."

van Hollen: ". . . This Standing Rule of the House, which I have here, has been altered by the House, is that what the Speaker is saying?"

Speaker Chaffetz: "The House adopted a resolution altering."

van Hollen: "Parliamentary inquiry, Mr.Speaker, when was that alteration made?"

Speaker Chaffetz: "House Resolution 368."

van Hollen: "House Resolution 368 . . . Parliamentary Inquiry . . . October 1st, resolved and Section 2 of that says any motion pursuant to Clause 4 of Rule 22 relating to the House Joint Resolution may be offered only by the Majority Leader or his designee, is that what you're referring to, Mr. Speaker?" (Emphasis added).

Speaker Chaffetz: "That is the resolution."

van Hollen: "So, Mr. Speaker . . . Parliamentary Inquiry. H. Res. 368 changed the Standing Rules of the House to take away from any member of the House the privilege of calling up the Senate bill to immediately re-open the government, is that right?" (Emphasis added).

Speaker Chaffetz: "It did change the operation of the Standing Rule, right."

van Hollen: "So just, parliamentary inquiry, a privileged motion . . . would have allowed any member of this House, Republican or Democrat, to call up the Senate bill to open the government, is that right?"

Speaker Chaffetz: "The Chair did not give an advisory opinion on that."

van Hollen: "But Mr. Speaker, a privileged resolution as cited in Rule 22/4 of the Standing Rules of the House would allow any member of the House to offer that resolution, is that right?"

Speaker Chaffetz: "The Chair will not give an advisory opinion."

van Hollen: " . . . You just . . . said that was changed so that it would no longer be a privileged motion for any member, but it would be exclusively the right of the Republican leader or his designee, am I right about that?"

Speaker Chaffetz: "The House will follow House Resolution 368."

van Hollen: ". . . I want to be absolutely clear that H.Res 368 changed the Standing Rules of the House so that only the Republican leader or his designee . . . Parliamentary Inquiry . . . Is the majority leader or his designee . . . on the floor of the House today? Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Speaker . . . the Rules Committee under the Rules of the House changed the Standing Rules of the House to take away the right of any member to move to vote to open the government and gave that right exclusively to the Republican leader, is that right?"

Speaker Chaffetz: "The House adopted that Resolution."

van Hollen: "I make my motion, Mr. Speaker. I renew my motion that under the regular Standing Rules of the House, Clause 4, Rule 22, that the House take up the Senate Amendments and open the government now."

Speaker Chaffetz: "Under Section 2 of House Resolution 368 that motion may be offered only by the Majority Leader or his designee."

van Hollen: "Why were the rules rigged to keep the government shut down? Well, Mr. Speaker, I think democracy has been suspended, Mr. Speaker."

As George Bernard Shaw once said, "When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty." It is, apparently, Republicans' "duty" to rig the rules so that they, and only they, are allowed a seat at the table. Self-implosion among Republicans is already beginning. We can only hope that when the top finally blows off, we can be well and truly rid of stupid fools who have arrogated power to themselves when, given that elections have consequences, they should be slinking to the back of the line with their tails tucked between their legs.

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