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Maryland b-ball bill stirs up partisan trouble on the Hill

Updated 1:41 p.m.
By Ben Pershing
Are House Republicans rooting against the Terps in the Big Dance?

That's one possible interpretation of an odd saga that has unfolded on the House floor over the last 24 hours, culminating with a vote minutes ago on a resolution "Congratulating the 2009-2010 University of Maryland Men's Basketball Team, Greivis Vasquez, and Coach Gary Williams on an outstanding season." The measure passed, which seems normal enough, but with 132 members -- all but two of them Republicans -- voting against, which is not to normal for such routine symbolic bills.

The controversy started Tuesday evening, when House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D), who represents Prince George's County, offered the seemingly innocuous resolution, just as the Maryland men prepare to play the University of Houston in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday night.

Hoyer and fellow Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards (D) spoke in favor of the bill. But then California Rep. John Campbell (R) got up, and he was not happy.

While emphasizing that he didn't want "to cast any aspersions on [Maryland], nor on any Terp fans or anything like that," Campbell complained that back in October, he had offered a resolution congratulating a school in his district -- the University of California, Irvine -- for winning a men's volleyball championship, but Hoyer had "pulled that resolution from the floor."

"Therefore, those kids who won that national championship were not able to get the same recognition that apparently today these players for Maryland, who are just in the playoffs, are going to receive," Campbell said, adding: "In the past, we have done these for teams that win national championships. This is for a team that's making the playoffs, one of 65."

Then Campbell went for the kill.

"Finally, Mr. Speaker, I have here the sports section from today's Washington Post," he said. "I will read from the front page where it says that according to a study, Maryland had the lowest graduation rate, 8 percent, among the 65 NCAA tournament teams. Given that this is being put forth in the Education and Labor Committee, if we were going to look at all the 65 teams in the NCAA championships, should we be considering the academics of the teams that are in or not in?"

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.), who was on the House floor for the whole exchange, decided to stay out of it. "I will keep myself totally neutral as a graduate of the University of New Hampshire," she said.

Hoyer's office suggested the GOP's opposition wasn't surprising. "Republicans are staying true to their 'Party of No' doctrine: Whether it's health care, job creation, or basketball, Republicans aren't for anything," said Hoyer spokeswoman Stephanie Lundberg.

According to a report in the Orange Country Register from last year, it was actually Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) who had the Irvine volleyball resolution pulled, because he and Campbell were feuding over a Bay Area water recycling program as well as a broader controversy surrounding water rights in California's Central Valley.

When the Maryland measure came up for a vote Wednesday, 129 of Campbell's fellow Republicans stood with him against the bill. Two Democrats -- Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.) and Nick Rahall (W.Va.) -- also voted no, and six more voted present, for reasons that aren't clear.

Perhaps they're Duke fans.

By Ben Pershing  |  March 17, 2010; 12:48 PM ET
Categories:  Capitol Briefing  
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If Congress didn't pass these bills, we wouldn't have Youtube video of the incoherent Congresswoman from Florida trying to congratulate the Florida Gators.

Posted by: cheno | March 19, 2010 6:52 AM | Report abuse

they need to stop honoring athletes at the White House/Congress..

how bout' honoring the regular joes struggling everyday, not these overhyped and overpaid athletes.

this is a major problem in our country, false idols.

these clowns do what they want - sometimes illegally, when they want - and the college players own the campuses, and then our elected officials waste our tax dollars by honoring everyone from each sport, including NASCAR.

-it's a waste of time and money.

invite the poor and downtrodden, or unemployed to the house for a decent meal.

Posted by: ObamaisFraud | March 18, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

It doesn't waste any time or effort to do these bills. They run through several and voice vote them after the main business of the day or they schedule a noncontroversial vote to round up all the Members from their offices to get them to the Capitol for a caucus meeting or to whip them about an upcoming vote.
If this jackass from Irvine hadn't objected, the whole thing would have been done in 10 minutes by voice vote. His objection was not against such resolutions or about Maryland's graduation rate - he was mad because George Miller blocked his UC-Irvine volleyball resolution last year. He should learn not to pick an unnecessary fight with the chairman of a committee that has jurisdiction over a bill you want to pass.

Posted by: jbmindc | March 17, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the bill was silly and a waste of time, but for all of those who are complaining about the morons and idiots in office, please go look in the mirror. YOU ELECTED THESE morons and idiots.

Sometimes voters get what they deserve.

Posted by: tzj20874 | March 17, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

I actually have to agree that this was a complete waste of time. Why would you congratulate one of the 65 teams in the tournament in the U.S. House? This is not the MD House...I could think of a couple reasons Altmire (D-PA) and Rahall (D-WV) did not vote for the bill....WVU is a #2 seed in the tourney...Villanova is a #2 seed and Pitt is a #3 seed. Why should any member vote for a school not in their state unless the team wins the championship?!? Just STUPID....

Posted by: DCJUSTICE | March 17, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm a huge Terps fan, but when I spied this bill on suspension list (generally noncontroversial bills to be considered under suspension of certain House rules)I had to laugh. I said to a co-worker and fellow UM alum that Hoyer must have so little faith in the Terps that he wants to congratulate them before they have a chance to lose to Houston.

But this bill is not all that unusual, except for the fact that the Terps haven't done anything really notable like winning a national championship. The House votes on trivial congratulatory and "recognition" bills that don't actually do anything all the time - and the amount of time they spend naming post offices you would not believe.

Posted by: dc-native | March 17, 2010 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Who screwed up the almost perfect illiterate rate and graduated?

Posted by: sportsfan2 | March 17, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

While I would be the first one to admit that the graduation rate at most division 1 universities for atheletes is shocking it might help to understand what the figures really mean. Let me give you and example.
Year 1: basketball tean starts with 10 players. 4 freshmen, 2 sophs, 2 jrs, and 2 seniors.
Year 2: 2 seniors gradurate, both jrs go to the NBA, 1 soph transfers to another ACC school.
If you think the graduation rate is 100% based on both seniors gradurating you would be wrong. The number NOT gradurating is 3 (the two who went to the NBA and the transfer). The rate would be stated as 70%.

Posted by: Jimof1913 | March 17, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

oh sure,after the riots on rt 1...wonder what the gpa's are for the bb team...i want my tax dollars back if these congressmen have nothing better to do!!

Posted by: ksowa | March 17, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: ntlekt | March 17, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

This is disgusting.

This is the Congress that can't pass basic funding bills until after the workers have been sent home unpaid.

This is the Congress that has dithered on health care for an entire year while tens of millions are unemployed.

This is the Congress that let the housing credit expire during a housing crisis.

But they have time to vote to congratulate just one of hundreds of college basketball teams in America, one of 65 to make the playoffs.

Shame on them. What a pathetic waste of life.

Posted by: corrections | March 17, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

This whole Congress and Senate are a bunch of stubborn, egomaniac idiots!!!!!!!!
With all that ails this country these jackaz#@ have nothing better to do

Posted by: BeatDontStop | March 17, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Boy, I'm sure glad to know there's nothing else important happening on which these folks need to vote...

Posted by: SteadyState | March 17, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Agree with all commenters here--hasn't Congress got anything better to do, on either side of the aisle? I do want to come to a partial defense of the Terps, though--the graduation rate report was based on data from the late 90's and early 2000's, not the current team. As woeful as the figures are, Gary Williams says the team has made great strides since then and puts a lot more effort into academic support--and he says, I think, that 10 out of 12 4th year players in the last couple of years have graduated or will this spring.

Posted by: MCFinArl | March 17, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Taxpayers money hard at work!

Posted by: golfhokie | March 17, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the previous posts. I'm a lifeline Dem and big Obama supporter. But taking time to actually write this bill and proposing it is an absolute waste. I'm sure our congressmen have more important things to do and the Maryland team probably doesn't care anyway.

Posted by: wmwilliams14 | March 17, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

As terp grad and fan - I am embarrassed that this was proposed on the hill. Is having a good year so far (and losing in their first ACC tourney game) ammo for a resolution on the hill??????

As a MD resident, I am embarrassed that MD Rep Steny Hoyer proposed this on the hill and made a fool of himself and OUR STATE.

As a republican, I am embarrassed that Rep Cambell made such a big stink and a fool of himself and the Party.

Insulting to everyone all around.

Posted by: fink09 | March 17, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

WTF?! They actually propose and vote on resolutions like this in real life?? That's disturbing. I wonder what other ultimate time wasters do they engage in? I mean seriously, I wonder if all these mofo's do this dumb ish. If so they probably spend a smooth 75% of there time talking about total irrelevant nonsense. Disturbing....for real.

Posted by: tjackson05 | March 17, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Why the hell don't they do something useful? Balance the budge maybe? Work on the healthcare situation? But no, they're debating whether to congratulate winning college basketball teams.

These people couldn't lead a parade. They can't be allowed to lead our proud nation any longer.

Revolution now.

Posted by: Matte | March 17, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

It's such a small thing! You didn't support mine so I won't support yours! These guys are 4th graders. The bigger question is: Who gives a s**t?

Posted by: largetony86 | March 17, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Pat them on the back because there Special/Different?

Maryland had the lowest graduation rate, 8 percent, among the 65 NCAA tournament teams

Like saying you can read really well
for a kid from the projects

Its an insult to them

They are there because who they are

and not from where they came from

let them be equals they earned it

Posted by: Donald03 | March 17, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

To be PERFECTLY clear... I am a reformed Democrat turned Independent.

A. Hoyer needs to pull his ego out of his backside. Offering up a bill of this sort when our financial system is plummeting into the dirt, the Healthcare bill has been bargained off to any lobbyist with a few dollars to shell out, and last but not least - our fellow Americans are dying in the middle-east... and Hoyer finds it
appropriate to be turning our Federal
Law-Making body into a locker room squabble
grounds. REALLY?!

B. For all the reasons above that make Hoyer
a bonehead--- the Republicans are even
more childish for igniting this into
what it is!

C. Do the Republicans really need to lie
about their reasons for putting up a stink?

No matter how corrupt the Democrats behave,
the GOP and their habitual nature to flip
out a blatant fib... it just makes the
Republicans look irresponsible and pathetic.

Posted by: theman_in_black | March 17, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Absolute joke and complete waste of time for Congress to be doing this. And this is a Maryland fan talking.

Posted by: Barno1 | March 17, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

When Republicans vote against something, they ALL vote against it.

Posted by: JohninMpls | March 17, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget, Maryland is a Democrat stronghold.

Posted by: jckdoors | March 17, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I mean don’t we have real issues that need to be debated and legislated in Congress. This is why nobody, I mean like nobody, likes Congress. 8% approval rating? Hoyer I’m a Dem but you’re tool!

Posted by: doesntmatter | March 17, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Oh yeah, and we voted for these people. It's like 3rd grade in there, baby!

Posted by: mattR5 | March 17, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Oh yeah, and we voted for these people. It's like 3rd grade ib there, baby!

Posted by: mattR5 | March 17, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

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