Much Ado About Tuna?
It's been a dozen years since they were in the minority, but House Republicans are quickly adopting the sort of legislative tactics needed to needle the all-powerful Democrats -- filing motions to adjourn the chamber before big votes, offering privileged resolutions claiming rules violations and, now, adopting Charlie the Tuna as a protest mascot.
Republicans used each of these maneuvers this afternoon on the House floor as they fought the Democratic proposal to allow delegates from the District of Columbia and other U.S. territories and commonwealths to vote on legislation. With a four-to-one edge in terms of those delegates being Democrats, Republicans labeled the bill a "power grab" -- an attempt to expand the Democratic majority in the chamber by giving votes to delegates whose constituents live outside the 50 states.
"They want to cushion their numbers," Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said in the floor debate.
Many supporters of the bill view this measure, first and foremost, as an attempt to right the wrong imposed on residents of the nation's capital. D.C.'s sole, non-voting representative in Congress, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), is leading the legislative battle (Norton and other delegates enjoyed limited House voting privileges during the 103rd Congress, the last time Democrats controlled the chamber).
In today's debate, Republicans pulled parliamentary delay tactics out of their bag of tricks, offering a privileged motion from Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). His resolution protested how the House Rules Committee set up the debate Tuesday afternoon -- a process ensuring the majority's will would carry the day..
As is almost always the case with such motions, it was tabled, essentially set aside by the majority almost entirely on party lines. Then came the Republican motion to adjourn and close the chamber in the early afternoon. Again, it failed almost entirely on party lines.
Republicans knew going into today's fight that their cause was practically hopeless, which might explain their effort to use the tuna gimmick to generate a little more press. Throughout the debate, many Republican lawmakers marched around the House floor with white stickers on their suit jackets, emblazoned with Charlie the Tuna, the mascot for StarKist tuna fish. That was a reference to the ongoing dispute over how Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) handled an earlier debate on raising the minimum wage by more than $2 an hour. The measure left the territory of American Samoa off of the wage hike while forcing other territories to abide by it.
In decrying the Samoa exception, Republicans pointed out that the territory's delegate, Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, is a Democrat who, instead of supporting a higher minimum wage, is bowing to the interests of his territory's biggest employer -- the tuna industry. Hammering home their point, the GOP noted that StarKist is a subsidiary of Del Monte, the food conglomerate based in Pelosi's hometown.
So today, with Faleomavaega getting a vote on the House floor, GOP aides passed out the Charlie stickers with a "Something's Fishy!" label.
Democrats laughed off the stickers and, as one aide said of the debate, "there's nothing there."
Of course, even Republicans admitted that the stickers weren't exactly the biggest hit. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) gave his sticker to his daughter Liza, who walked around the floor with her father eating an apple and playing with members.
Ryan admitted that the only reason he didn't pull the sticker off Liza was because Charlie looked cute on the toddler.
"I'm not really a sticker guy," he said.
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