August 1, 2008
First Class Political Theater
Even though it is a totally useless gesture, it cheered my heart when I read this piece in Politico about how House Republicans are still on the floor 2 hours and counting after the Democrats adjourned for vacation:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Democrats adjourned the House and turned off the lights and killed the microphones, but Republicans are still on the floor talking gas prices.
Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders opposed the motion to adjourn the House, arguing that Pelosi's refusal to schedule a vote allowing offshore drilling is hurting the American economy. They have refused to leave the floor after the adjournment motion passed at 11:23 a.m. and are busy bashing Pelosi and her fellow Democrats for leaving town for the August recess.
At one point, the lights went off in the House and the microphones were turned off in the chamber, meaning Republicans were talking in the dark. But as Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz..) was speaking, the lights went back on, and the microphones have been turned on as well.
But C-SPAN, which has no control over the cameras in the chamber, has stopped broadcasting the House floor, meaning no one is witnessing this except the assembled Republicans, their aides, and one Democrat, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who has now left.
Since the House is officially in adjournment, Capitol Police were sent to the press gallery and told to kick reporters out. Quickly, Roy Blount of MO went up to the gallery and agreed to be interviewed - just so that the press could stick around and watch the show.
And what a show it is turning out to be:
Update 3 - Democrats just turned out the lights again. Republicans cheered.Update 4 - Republican leaders just sent out a notice looking for a bullhorn and leadership aides are trying to corral all the members who are still in town to come speak on the floor and sustain this one-sided debate.Also, Republicans can thank Shadegg for turning on the microphones the first time. Apparently, the fiesty Arizona conservative started typing random codes into the chamber's public address system and accidentally typed the correct code, allowing Republicans brief access to the microphone before it was turned off again."I love this," Shadegg told reporters up in the press gallery afterward. "Congress can be so boring...This is a kick."
Meanwhile, Dem staffers are beside themselves with rage.
Democratic aides were furious at the GOP stunt, and reporters were kicked out of the Speaker's Lobby, the space next to the House floor where they normally interview lawmakers."You're not covering this, are you?" complaing one senior Democratic aide. Another called the Republicans "morons" for staying on the floor.
Visitors - mostly staffers from Republican offices - are filling up the seats normally taken by House members and cheering lustily as each Congressman digs in and pummels the Democrats:
Uodate 5 - Republicans are literally hugging each other on the House floor. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.), not normally known as an distinguished orator, just gave a rousing speech, accusing Democrats of stifling dissent. He referenced President John Quincy Adams, who returned as a House member after being defeated in his bid for re-election as president. Waving his arms and yelling, Manzullo brought the crowd (including a lot of staff shipped in by GOP leaders to fill up the place), and he left the floor to hugs from his colleagues. You don't see that up here every day.Update 6 - Rep Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) just pretended to be a Democrat. He stood on the other side of the chaber and listed all of the GOP bills that the Dems killed.
He then said "I am a Democrat and here is my energy plan" and he held up a picture of an old VW Bug with a sail attached to it. He paraded around he house floor with the sign while the crowd cheered.
Nobody in the country can see this little show. The press is covering it probably only to make the GOP look bad later. And let's face it - it won't do a damn bit of good as far as shaming the Democrats into coming back and voting on lifting offshore drilling restrictions.
But as political theater, it is a First Class show. And I guess it also proves that the Republicans have a little fight in them after all.