House Actually Does Something During Pro Forma
Friday's pro forma session got just a tad bit spicy after a few Senate amendments brought up by Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., passed under unanimous consent.
The amendments, one from Sen. Olympia Snowe dealing with military driver's licenses, and Sen. Daniel Akaka's Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, didn't face any opposition. But the only other members on the floor, Democratic Reps. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Henry Waxman of California, weren't about to let that be the end of it. They continued Democratic drumbeat that began at Tuesday's pro forma session, when Rep. Donna Edwards blasted Republicans for going into recess after eight legislative days and with a heavy load of bills not yet passed.
"I do believe that we should adopt this measure," Van Hollen said of the whistleblower act. "I also believe that the House should reconvene to conduct the other business in the House."
Waxman pushed Speaker Pro Tempore John Culberson of Texas to take up a laundry list of items, including the Violence Against Women Act, and asked whether "we can take up legislation on jobs and to avoid the fiscal cliff since we're taking up other items?"
Culberson pretty much shut him down, saying that such requests were at the discretion of the chair, and then gaveled out.
Before heading to recess, House Republicans essentially threw the blame back on Senate Democrats for not moving on House-approved legislation. The Senate approved a measure extending Bush-era tax cuts for those making less than $250,000, while the House version extended those cuts for all Americans.
"The House passing a bill does not produce a law. That's just a way of giving an excuse to the American people that when their taxes go up, that we fought cuts," Waxman told reporters on Friday. "It does not satisfy anybody because it doesn't solve the problem. The Democrats can stop the Republicans, the Republicans can stop the Democrats. Adults, responsible people have to work together. We can't work together unless we're here, working."
The do-nothing-Congress line is one that Democrats are trying to hammer home and they're doing it now with pro forma sessions, typically low-key, quick and uneventful. Waxman told the Alley that he made the trip from L.A. to D.C. to make that point. "I just came in for these few days. I'll be heading back out, and if there's no further session, that's called, I'll be there for the rest of the campaign."
Waxman did some fundraising while in Washington, too. He's facing his first real contest since the 1970s with a redrawn district and a well-heeled opponent, independent Bill Bloomfield. The DCCC held "Breakfast with Rep. Henry Waxman" fundraiser earlier in the day at Charlie Palmer Steakhouse, where tickets ran from $1,000 to $2,500.