As House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and a group of other House members continued their trip through Latin America, Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., took to the House floor on Tuesday in the second Democratic effort since Friday to embarrass House Republicans for not being in Washington working on the extension of the payroll-tax holiday and unemployment insurance.
But few Americans beyond the 25 people sitting in the House gallery saw what happened on Tuesday, which was much like what occurred on Friday when Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Assistant to the Minority Leader James Clyburn, D-S.C., staged a similar event, also during a pro forma session.
When Moran began seeking to be recognized to call for Republicans to return to Washington, Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala.--the designated speaker pro tem for the day--gaveled the session closed.
The stenographer was instructed to quit taking down the floor statements for the congressional record, and C-Span TV was instructed to stop broadcasting the events. The Democratic antics aim to show that the five House Democrats assigned to be conferees to negotiate unemployment insurance and the extension of the payroll-tax holiday are ready to go to work, while Republicans are away from the capital.
House Democrats were repeatedly relegated to the back seat last year when negotiations over the debt limit and the previous payroll extension became leadership-level discussions, and they have said they fear the same will be true in the latest conference committee. Moran said in an interview after his House floor action on Tuesday that Democratic leaders are afraid the debate will again be taken out of their hands when Congress reconvenes next week.
“If we can’t work, then it’s going to get kicked up to leadership,” he said, saying the Republican absence from Washington early this year is a deliberate stalling tactic. “They’re going to say there’s no time, that we’re not in session enough.”
Meanwhile, Boehner and other Republicans went about their own activities on Tuesday. Less than an hour before Moran took to the House floor, Boehner’s office released a statement updating his travels in Latin America, which started in Brazil and will continue in Colombia and Mexico through the end of the week. Joining Boehner on the trip are House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., and Reps. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Greg Walden, R-Ore. Joining these Republicans is one Democrat, Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma.
The Brazil visit included meetings with officials and representatives of U.S.-based companies in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, the nation’s capital, according to the statement. Members of the delegation focused on economic and energy-security issues, the statement said. Those discussions on energy come as House Republicans intend to take action when Congress convenes on a bill to remove what they say are government barriers to production of U.S.-produced energy and the use of the revenues from such production to pay for infrastructure improvements, the statement said.