During what was supposed to be a somber memorial service in Statuary Hall for Rep. Tom Lantos, who died Monday, the House chamber became mired in chaos over procedural votes.
Democrats angrily denounced the GOP as insensitive for calling a "motion to adjourn" — essentially a dilatory tactic — while dignitaries were still giving tributes to Lantos, a Holocaust survivor who was chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. But Republican aides shot back quickly, saying it was Democrats who broke an agreement to keep the House in recess during the memorial service.
To some extent, it appears both sides are at fault, but the recriminations have been fast and furious.
"The disrespect that has been shown by a Republican member of Congress in calling a political procedural motion during the memorial service for the late Chairman Tom Lantos is incomprehensible," said Stacey Bernards, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). "It is unjustifiable, and Republican leaders should restrict their members from further such action."
A senior Republican aide, however, said the GOP was given no choice in asking for a vote because Democrats broke their commitment to keep the House in recess during the memorial service. Democrats are pushing a contempt vote against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former Bush counsel Harriet Miers, and have bypassed traditional rules allowing an hour of debate on the matter, according to Jo Maney, a spokeswoman for Republicans on the House Rules Committee.
"The reason for the chaos is the majority," Maney said. "We made clear we would use every procedural rule" to delay the contempt votes.
"There was an agreement that there would be no votes during the service, but they [Democrats] rang the bells" to bring the House back into session, Maney said.
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