Hoyer Testifies on 'Stolen Vote'
In an apparently unprecedented session, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) testified this afternoon before the special committee that was set up to investigate whether Democrats "stole" a controversial House vote last August.
The vote in question was on a Republican motion to bar illegal immigrants from receiving taxpayer-funded benefits. The tally was very close, and in the end Democrats announced that the measure had failed, even though it appeared several members on both sides were in the midst of changing their votes. Republican believe the vote was actually in their favor when the gavel came down.
Capitol Briefing colleague Jonathan Weisman wrote in this morning's Post that Hoyer was in "for what Republicans insist will be the Maryland Democrat's comeuppance." Well, there didn't appear to be any such comeuppance for Hoyer or anyone else at today's proceedings. The catchily-named ""Select Committee to Investigate the Voting Irregularities of August 2, 2007" got deep into the weeds of House procedure, specifically on how votes are counted and who decides when the vote is over.
Hoyer appeared for over an hour, and four members were present to question him, but the real star of the show was this six-minute video, a highlight reel from that fateful night last summer:
Seems pretty tame, doesn't it? But the members and witnesses present today broke it down like it was the Zapruder film, playing and replaying it, pausing to label the main characters, enhancing the audio, and so on. The committee did not, in fact, conclude that anyone cast a vote from the grassy knoll. Instead, members focused on the chaos evident on the floor that night, a potentially missing "tally sheet" (don't ask) and whether Hoyer "pressured" Rep. Mike McNulty (D-N.Y.), who was in the Speaker's chair that night, to end the vote prematurely.
Handling much of the questioning for the Democratic side today, Rep. Artur Davis (Ala.) asked Hoyer why he thought the GOP had so forcefully pressed for an investigation that has taken several months and nearly a half million dollars to conduct. "Do you suspect it's politics?" Davis asked.
"There's no doubt in my mind that it's politics," Hoyer said, explaining that he believed Republicans were still angry at criticism they received from Democrats on procedural issues back when they controlled the House.
Hoyer did allow, as he has before, that he understood the GOP's frustration that the vote was called as a loss for their side even as the House's electronic vote board seemed to show them winning. "The minority was rightfully angry and upset by that disparity, by that contradiction," he said.
But Republicans made clear they believed last August's vote was most certainly a big deal, worth the time, worth the money and worth the effort to break down that night's events almost second-by-second. The special committee's top Republican, Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), said in his opening statement that the disputed event "was a dark moment in the history of the United States House of Representatives and must never be allowed to happen again."
It's not clear what this investigation will yield once it's all over (another hearing is scheduled for Wednesday). Most likely, the committee will recommend more transparency in the way votes are conducted. Republicans will argue this fall that Democrats have been unfair and abused their power, just as Democrats said of the GOP in 2006. And then everyone will go back to their regular jobs, most of which don't involve exhaustive forensic analysis of C-SPAN tapes.
May 13, 2008; 9:25 PM ET
Categories: Dem. Leaders , Ethics and Rules , Hearing Watch , House
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