WASHINGTON — Democrats have seized on video of Rep. Chris Van Hollen angrily confronting Republicans on the House floor over changes to the chamber’s rules as proof Republicans purposefully pushed the nation into a government shutdown and crisis over extending the nation’s debt limit.
The Republicans’ decision to alter an obscure procedural rule has enraged Democrats and given them evidence that Republicans have purposefully throw the government into chaos with a shutdown.
Normally, any member of the House can force a vote on legislation which the Senate and House are unable to agree on. Although it is a rarely used mechanism, House Republicans were taking no chances in the days leading up to the shutdown.
Republican leaders were nervous about the possibility that the Senate’s clean spending extension bill would pass the chamber on the strength of Democratic votes — or worse, that it would fail, taking it off the table permanently as a solution.
That concern appears to have driven the decision to change the rules to allow only Majority Leader Eric Cantor to force a vote on the Senate plan.
The House routinely alters its rules for considering legislation. The majority’s control of the Rules Committee makes it possible for them to limit the number and type of amendments that can be considered, the length of debate, and virtually all the other contours of a floor debate.
But the changes to the rules used to block Democrats from forcing a vote on the Senate’s spending plan is not the type of change that is routinely made, and is yet another sign of the Republican leadership’s tenuous control of the chamber.