January 10, 2005

And the hits just keep on coming.

Guess what the Republican-controlled House of Representatives did while everyone was watching it gut the rules about ethics investigations? It passed a rule that, in the case of 'catastrophic circumstances,' would allow the the House make decisions by a majority vote of however many members showed up, instead of the usual 218-vote majority. The rule defines catastropic circumstances as 'natural disaster, attack, contagion, or similar calamity rendering Representatives incapable of attending the proceedings of the House.'

As we read this, whoever makes it to the House in the first 72 hours after a quorum is called constitutes the entire House for purposes of passing laws. So, if only 30 members are available, only 16 votes are needed to pass legislation. As a report in the Boston Herald points out, a small group of legislators could conduct business for months on end. And, as Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) points out, the new rules violates Article I, Section 5 of the US Constitution, which provides that 'a Majority of each [House] shall constitute a Quorum to do Business.'

You can find a PDF file containing the full text of the House 'doomsday' rule here. (Scroll down to the heading, 'PROVISIONAL QUORUM.')

Suspicious magpie that we are, we looked carefully at the rules to find the clause that allows a small number of House members to do business if all of the other members are under house arrest or unable to perform their duties because of a fire at the Reichstag Capitol, but it appears to be well-hidden.

Posted by Magpie at January 10, 2005 03:41 PM | US Politics | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |
Comments

As I was reading, I thought no way this passes Constitional muster. Then you pointed that out. It would not.

Still, this is typical Republican rule. Constitution? What Constitution? Rule of law? The hell with that, too! Civil Rights ... the list goes on and on.

Posted by: Scott at January 10, 2005 05:19 PM