Republicans love power. And when they get power, they will do anything and everything to make sure that the people who vote for them will continue to do so, in order to remain in power.
We have seen a number of instances of Republicans using their power to appeal to their base, with things like the ongoing investigations of Hillary Clinton, and the continuing attacks on Planned Parenthood. We’ve seen it in the ever-increasing restrictions being put on abortion by many GOP controlled state legislatures. And we’ve seen it in attacks on LGBT Americans, thanks largely to a number of new laws designed to discriminate against those citizens under the guise of “religious liberty.” But we have seldom seen Republicans execute the kind of raw power play that happened in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, May 19.
The House was voting on the Defense Appropriations bill. In that bill is a provision saying that federal contractors cannot discriminate on the basis of religion. Democrats said that such language could result in discrimination against LGBT citizens under the pretext of “religious freedom.”
New York Democrat Sean Maloney put forward an amendment to the bill which would have added language barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Maloney’s amendment appeared to be heading for passage. As time ran out to vote the measure had 217 “aye” votes — just barely more than the 213 needed to pass. Those yes votes included 35 Republicans. But then the Republican tradition of cheating to win came into play.
Instead of gaveling the House to order and announcing the outcome of the vote, Republicans kept the vote open for over seven minutes while they twisted arms to get some of those 35 GOP members to switch their votes. That was upsetting enough to Democrats. But what infuriated them even more, was that the members who changed their votes were not required, as is typical, to come to the well of the chamber to request that their vote be changed. As soon as the amendment had received 213 “nay” votes, the chair declared the vote was closed.
Democrats let their displeasure be known, with chants of “Shame! Shame!” as they watched a victory turn into a defeat. Maloney, who is gay, said, “This is one of the ugliest episodes I’ve experienced in my three-plus years as a member of this House.”
The Hill says that the House Democratic Whip’s office identified the Republicans they believe were pressured to switch their votes. Because members did not have to go to the well, there is no way to know for sure.
According to the office of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), at least seven Republicans changed their votes, including Reps. Jeff Denham (Calif.), Darrell Issa (Calif.), Bruce Poliquin (Maine), David Valadao (Calif.), Greg Walden (Ore.), Mimi Walters (Calif.) and David Young (Iowa).
When asked about whether Republican leaders pressured members to change their votes, House Speaker Paul Ryan played dumb. “I don’t know the answer. I don’t even know,” he said.
California Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier let her displeasure be known on Twitter.
Browbeating colleagues to change House votes & support fed discrimination is scandalous and more akin to the Russian Politburo. #Shame
— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) May 19, 2016
And the House LGBT Equality Caucus expressed their opinion about the power play with a clip from Game Of Thrones.
— LGBT Equality Caucus (@LGBTEqCaucus) May 19, 2016
We have seen events like this time and again, at any and all levels of government where Republicans are in control. Remember the arm-twisting that the GOP engaged in to pass George W. Bush’s unpaid-for Medicare prescription drug bill, that was not much more than a huge sellout to big pharma? And if it’s this bad now, what kinds of things will Republican leaders twist members’ arms over if they have to appease the desires of a President Trump?
Here’s a clip from C-SPAN, showing the final moments of the vote:
Featured image via C-SPAN screen capture