Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A great way to celebrate America.

"I don't fashion myself a clever man. I don't really care to do clever procedural maneuvers. I'd rather us have straightforward, civil policy debates to recognize the difference and then to let democracy take hold."
                                                            House Majority Leader Mike Turzai
                                                            January 4, 2011 Swearing In day

There will be plenty of time over the course of the next few months to discuss in great depth the truly detrimental cuts to schools and services in this year's Republican budget. There will be an endless of supply of negative consequences that result from the plan endorsed solely by the GOP, and its effects will be felt this year...and for years to come.

But this past weekend's Independence Day celebration provided the perfect time to reflect on the governing style and choices made by the current Republican leadership in Harrisburg, policies which would surely cause the founding fathers to turn over in their graves, or make the new generation of revolutionaries around the world question what they're fighting for.

The words spoken by the House Majority Leader on swearing in day (example posted above) were cast aside almost immediately.

Under their Leader, House Republicans have "called the previous question" (a means to shut off debate) a record-setting 8 times in the past 6 months, eclipsing every YEAR since 1961. This procedure used to be employed sparingly, a total of 30 times between 1961 and 2010 -- 30 times in 50 years. At the current rate, the House GOP will call the previous question 32 times in this 2 year session alone.

This and other overused combative tactics endorsed by the GOP are an abomination to the democratic principles our Commonwealth and nation were founded on. As a result House Republican leaders have tarnished our institution; the oldest in the nation and one where Ben Franklin once stood at the helm.

Even with near-guaranteed passage of their politically-motivated agenda (think Voter ID, limiting women's health centers, eliminating adultBasic) they have acted in a way to silence the Democrats, and the millions of Pennsylvanians who elected them.

They've made a mockery of House rules by over-utilizing questions of germaneness and the previous question, and by establishing new precedent setting interpretations of the rules to make amendments out of order. They have limited transparency by holding meetings in tiny rooms without broadcast capability when larger rooms are available. And they've destroyed the civility of the chamber by not allowing every member to debate a bill.

The Majority Leader said himself during his Swearing In remarks that by being elected members are given the privilege " be able to vote and be able to introduce bills and be able to debate in a setting like this [House chamber] on public policy."

And that there is "Nothing more important than participating in debate."

And finally that, "We need to be respectful, professional, civil. We need to focus more on the policy at hand; less about the show....To move the agenda forward we need the participation of everyone."

If nothing, in fact, is more important than the ability to debate, how can someone defend shutting off debate so consistently?

A Democratic colleague noted it's is a good thing the House Republicans were not in Philadelphia in 1787 to call the previous question during the four-month debate on independence, or the Constitutional Convention would have had a dramatically different outcome.

In the end the GOP achieved what it desired at all cost, an on-time budget, regardless of the detriment to the institution, its governing principles and most importantly Pennsylvanians. In the end, this budget is so bad it can't be justified by any means...but the means used to get to it aren't justified under any circumstance...not in a democracy.