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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.

Charlie Tuna
House Republicans on Wednesday embraced a cartoon fish as they tried to raise a stink about Democrats' minimum-wage and territorial voting proposals.

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.

By Paul Kane  |  January 24, 2007; 4:22 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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Next: House GOP Retreats ... to the Eastern Shore


I wondered if there has been any reaction to Senator Webb's speech Tuesday night. I mostly had the mute button on for Bush, however I very much liked the speech that Senator Webb gave in rebuttal or whatever. Webb's use of language is obviously superb.

Posted by: Chris Baker | January 24, 2007 5:30 PM | Report abuse

"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."

I wonder if Mr. McHenry can bring himself to admit that if the situation had been reversed - that this action would've improved the recent Republican majority - that it would've happened years ago and in the blink of an eye. Tommy Delay would've been all over that like white on rice. Heck, he would've CREATED additional commonwealths/territories to add to the R majority. And Mr. McHenry would have gone along without a peep.

Admiring comments regarding Webb's rebuttal can be found at

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | January 24, 2007 5:50 PM | Report abuse

"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." (Emphasis added)

So DC is now "outside" the 50 states? So are Alaska and Hawaii "inside". Or let me guess the Republicans are not talking litterally? sort of like the internet... "It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes." DC needs to find a way to show their congressional oversight and non-voting plight to the rest of the country.

Posted by: MIKE | January 24, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

If the territories and commonwealths are given voting rights, will they have to start paying taxes? As far as I know they currently do not.

Posted by: AK | January 24, 2007 7:25 PM | Report abuse

What, the GOP selling out to corporate special interests (no doubt fueled by lobbyists)?! What a SHOCK.

This is why they are in the minority. They will continue to dig themselves a hole until they realize that they were elected to represent their constituents in their home districts and not special interests like massive non-sustainable corporations like Starkist.

They are against raising the minimum wage, they are against negotiating for prescription drugs and they are FOR sending America's best and bravest into a "MEAT GRINDER" urban civil war.

Not to mention our country's what is it now $8 or is it $9 TRILLION DOLLAR DEBT? Is that Conservative? Gimme a break.

I hope they keep up these ridiculous tactics so they don't assume power again in my or my children's lifetime. Good riddance to the GOP.

Posted by: F&B | January 24, 2007 8:20 PM | Report abuse

It's important to note that the delegate vote would only be allowed when the House is in "Committee of the Whole," and when the rule was in place in the 103rd Congress, the delegates did indeed have the vote, but in roll calls where the delegate votes swing the actual outcome, there would be a revote. I may be wrong, but that's why this particular maneuver is being described by most analysts as "symbolic" by its supporters.
The Samoa exemption, however, is harder to justify if they're going to make the Marianas pay $7.25 an hour.

Posted by: Deuce | January 24, 2007 8:39 PM | Report abuse

As long as we have the best democracy that money can by things will remain the same. People keep their heads in the sand just hoping "it doesn't happen to them". It should be required that any politicians voting for war should be required to send somone from their family to be where the fighting is taking place. I don't see George W's kids in Iraq or many other politicians relatives there for that matter. Don't forget that less than 5 percent of the people in this country control over 90 percent of the money. Most of them own their own little piece of a senator or congressman. It's called lobbyists. We're talking about those that make money from war, the weapons makers, etc. What if countries had to pay their own way? Germany, France, all of the world that we "defend"? We work 50 hours a week in this country to survive while these people average 36 hours weekly and a month or more vacation? People here starve in the streets. Do you really believe that is their choice? I see columninsts writing how we don't "deserve" free health care. Do you think they'd say that if they weren't getting it? What has happened to our new royalty, the U.S. congressman/Senator. Just look at the benefits they will get over his/her lifetime for what amounts to less than 6 months of work yearly while the average american works both spouses trying to buy clothing and food. Higher education is all but priced out of our reach. I don't think that's an accident, I believe it's by design. Believe it or not their are people in this country that don't think that the poor should be educated, afford it or not. The middle class is all but gone. We now have the haves and the don't haves. That's the way those that have it get it, is by seeing to it that others don't. One person can make a difference. But electing more bought and paid for politicians won't change a thing. Look what happened when a third party was pushed into the senate debate in New York. Hillary Clinton REFUSED to attend. They know the 2 most important things. 1-Get Re-elected. 2-Keep it to the 2 parties. Between them they can maintain the status-quo. Term limits? Have you ever seen anybody commit sucide? You won't see the politicians doing it either. Left-Right. It comes down to Right-Wrong. These people are deal makers, not elected representatives of the population. They could do the right thing but those in power would see to it that they were never re-elected. Argue that. If we spent the 10 million dollars an hour on finding an oil replacement that we are spending on the Iraq war how long do you think it would take us to solve that problem? It is in these peoples interest for us to be in Iraq. It has nothing to do with terrorism and hasn't from the beginning. It's a deal that somebody made and they're going thru with it, the heck with every body else. Everybody else doesn't matter. When's the last time you tried to get any real response from an elected official about real daily problems. Who were on one of the first legal private aircraft allowed to fly in the U.S after 9/11? Osama Ben Laden's family.Leaving the country ASAP! The FBI and many others wanted to talk to them badly. Tough. George Bush senior is employed by them, has been for years. Guess who Tony Blair has announced HE is going to work for after his term is up? Same bunch, The Carlyle Group, AKA Osama Ben Ladens Family. Why do you think we haven't found him? Always something more important, HUH?

Posted by: bcreek | January 24, 2007 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Novak is still the whining syncophant the WH can rely upon:
"In his Jan. 10 speech, Bush called for a "new, bipartisan working group that will help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror." That prompted the Pelosi-Reid letter of Jan. 19 rejecting the offer."

No one interested in progress would accept the creation of yet another committee to study a problem in which constructive solutions are already abundant. Novak is clearly infinitely more interested in maintaining Bush's illusions regarding the outcome of the midterms than he is in reducing the number of American casualties in Iraq. Plaintative baahing about the Democrat's rudeness under these circumstances is an idiotic attempt to change the subject to something meaningless.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | January 25, 2007 9:24 AM | Report abuse

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