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House Republicans have successfully sunk a Democratic jobs bill using an anti-porn provision. The bill, called COMPETES, would have increased investment in science training and research programs. Republicans proposed an amendment that would have blocked any federal money from "salaries to those officially disciplined for violations regarding the viewing, downloading, or exchanging of pornography, including child pornography, on a federal computer or while performing official government duties." In other words, it would have permanently banned from the federal government and its contractors anyone who viewed pornography on a government computer. Democrats voted for the provision because they didn't want to be seen defending porn. But because the amendment contained other provisions that Democratic leaders don't want passed into law, they pulled the entire bill from consideration. What does this mean for our political system?


  • What the GOP Snuck In  The Hill's Jared Allen and Russel Berman explain the non-porn provisions in the amendment. Here's what Republicans tricked the Democrats into voting for: "The GOP motion also stopped all funding authorizations in two years as opposed to the five years contained in the original bill, abolished each new program established through the legislation, and froze all existing programs at their current funding levels until the federal budget is balanced."
  • Do Dems Have Any Backbone at All?  Outside the Beltway's James Joyner shakes his head. "Despite a 39-seat margin and rules that ordinarily allow the majority party to pass bills with impunity, the Democrats are finding themselves hamstrung with brazen parliamentary maneuvers. ... one would think, in the House at least, it would be easy enough to get something through the Rules Committee to block such obviously non-germane amendments."
  • Republican Nihilism Strikes Again  The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen sighs, "Just another day on Capitol Hill, where mature lawmakers, given enormous responsibilities, shape federal policy for 310 million people. ... I often wonder what Congress would be like if Republicans were serious about lawmaking and public policy. Maybe someday we'll find out, but I don't imagine that day will come soon."
  • The Much-Abused Parliamentary Tactic  Liberal blogger BooMan explains "Motion to Recommit."
As a general matter, the rule was probably intended to provide an opportunity to dot an 'i' or cross a 't' that had been overlooked by the committee that had marked up the bill. In other words, it's always possible for someone to find some flaw in the language of a bill at the last moment and the 'motion to recommit' allows for last second corrections to be made. However, over time the minority in the House realized that the procedure could be used to kill a bill that could not be killed in any other way. For example, they could say that the bill is a very fine piece of legislation but it neglected to condemn child molestation and, also, to phase out the departments of Education and Commerce.

The majority party is then faced with the choice of voting in favor of child molestation or voting for the abolition of the departments of Education and Commerce. The normal response is to vote against child molestation and then pull the entire bill off the floor. 

  • Why GOP Opposes COMPETES  National Journal's Juliana Gruenwald reports, "[Key GOP Congressman Ralph] Hall and other Republicans have complained that while they support the bill's goals, the reauthorization was too expensive. Hall also raised concerns about the bill's shift in priorities and what he said was the inappropriate use of federal funding in some of the bill's programs.
  • How The Simpsons Explains This  The New Republic's Jonathan Chait reacts with a relevant Simpsons segment:
Kent Brockman: With our utter annihilation imminent, our federal government has snapped into action. We go live now via satellite to the floor of the United States congress.
Speaker: Then it is unanimous, we are going to approve the bill to evacuate the town of Springfield in the great state of --
Congressman: Wait a minute, I want to tack on a rider to that bill: $30 million of taxpayer money to support the perverted arts.
Speaker: All in favor of the amended Springfield-slash-pervert bill?
[everyone boos]
Speaker: Bill defeated. [bangs gavel]
Kent Brockman: I've said it before and I'll say it again: democracy simply doesn't work.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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