Political Animal


December 21, 2011 11:00 AM Literally walking away from a fight

By Steve Benen

It was rather remarkable this morning to watch the proceedings on the House floor. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) wanted to try again to bring up the Senate’s bipartisan payroll-tax-break compromise, and instead of debating, Republicans literally walked away from the fight.

If you watch the clip, you’ll notice that Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who was presiding over the House session at the time, got out of the Speaker’s chair and left the chamber altogether. Other Republicans joined him. Hoyer, of course, noticed, and explained, “You’re walking out, you’re walking away, just as so many Republicans have walked away from middle class taxpayers, the unemployed, and … those who will be seeking medical assistance from their doctors.”

When Hoyer finished speaking and turned to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) to continue the debate, GOP leaders demanded that C-SPAN turn off the cameras so the public couldn’t hear the debate any more.


I know Republicans think they’re in “Braveheart” but I don’t remember the scene in the movie in which William Wallace decided he’d rather run away than fight.

It’s worth emphasizing that the House Democrats at this point really just want a vote on the Senate bill. Republican leaders gave their word that they would allow this, but then changed their mind when they realized the Senate compromise might actually pass if brought to the floor.

I’d say this just about marks the point at which this fiasco went from tragedy to farce.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • BillFromPA on December 21, 2011 11:09 AM:

    Their movie isn't 'Braveheart' it's 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'


  • k l m on December 21, 2011 11:11 AM:

    what are they hiding? why no cameras?

  • c u n d gulag on December 21, 2011 11:12 AM:

    Sometimes, ya gotta love old Steny Hoyer.

    Was it "Braveheart" they saw, or was is some little known earlier Gibson movie, 'Chickenhearts?'

    Maybe they confused that movie with "Monty Python and the Holy Grail":
    Minstrel: [singing] Brave Sir Robin ran away...
    Sir Robin: *No!*
    Minstrel: [singing] bravely ran away away...
    Sir Robin: *I didn't!*
    Minstrel: [singing] When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled.
    Sir Robin: *I never did!*
    Minstrel: [singing] Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about, and valiantly, he chickened out.
    Sir Robin: *Oh, you liars!*
    Minstrel: [singing] Bravely taking to his feet, he beat a very brave retreat. A brave retreat by brave Sir Robin.

    Jees, the Vichy French were tougher in the face of adversity!

    Well, after a hard first year of f*cking this country up even further, the Republicans have earned their rest!

    Now, it's up to us to make sure that after November of 2012, it's permanent.

  • c u n d gulag on December 21, 2011 11:16 AM:

    Sometimes, great minds think alike!

    And sometimes, since I ain't a great mind, a guy like me gets lucky, and like a blind squirrel finds an acorn! :-)

  • Bernard HP Gilroy on December 21, 2011 11:20 AM:

    When do we get to feast on Sir Robin's minstrels?

  • Anniecat45 on December 21, 2011 11:23 AM:

    "Braveheart" is actually highly appropriate for Republicans in another way -- it's completely wrong about the facts!

  • chi res on December 21, 2011 11:24 AM:

    what are they hiding? why no cameras?

    Must be the mooning scene.

  • SadOldVet on December 21, 2011 11:27 AM:

    The only good thing about the repukes wanting to emulate Braveheart would be if they could actually be physically drawn and quartered like Gibson was at the end of the movie!

  • June on December 21, 2011 11:28 AM:

    If the House runs on the people's dime, how is it that those Republican cowards can demand that C-SPAN turn off the cameras?

  • delNorte on December 21, 2011 11:33 AM:

    So...can Obama take advantage of this walkout and make recess appointments? What an interesting twist it would be if the President, this afternoon, issues a raft of appointments.

    At the end of the video the commentator says: "Well, the house is wrapping up a pro-forma..." Does that mean they're in recess?

  • theAmericanist on December 21, 2011 11:34 AM:

    As noted before, this is the winning theme: the Speaker is NOT responsible to the majority party in the House -- that's Cantor's job. (It just happens to help that Cantor wants to be Speaker.)

    The Speaker is responsible to the WHOLE House -- and a majority of the House would vote for the Senate bill.

    So that's the issue: making the Speaker do his Constitutional duty, which is to let a majority of the House -- Rs and Ds -- vote on what the Senate passed by a huge, bipartisan majority.

    Puh-leeze, don't turn this into a story about Boehner's weakness (because that helps both Cantor and the Tea Party), nor into, God forbid, a substantive argument (because Norquist has already gone there, calling it a dispute between extending the tax cuts for two months -- or a year).

    It's about self-government.

  • kevo on December 21, 2011 11:35 AM:

    From the Republicans we get nothing but horse shit! Every regressive social pathology from our past has been revisited upon us by this bunch of shrunken minded Tea Partyers!

    Remind our loved ones that elections have consequences, and we're watching those consequences yet again from this bunch of frauds who ran on campaigns of bringing jobs back to Americans, and have delivered nothing but derision and discord this entire past year!

    If we wish to expect anything different from the Republican brand, we must work to punish it at the polls in 2012! -Kevo

  • c u n d gulag on December 21, 2011 11:35 AM:

    I believe 'pro-forma' is Latin for monumental cock-up.

  • Tamarack on December 21, 2011 11:37 AM:

    No problem. See, they pledged allegiance to the FLAG, not to the people.

  • LiberalConservationist on December 21, 2011 11:44 AM:

    The Republicans are showing their true color, Yellow. Agent Orange has let his mouth overrun his limited intellect.

    The Senate should quickly extend their plan to a full year and dare the TeaPublicans to sign or sink! The poison pills in the House Rethuglican bill make it a waste of time, and the House Shrieker knows it.

    *Obama/Biden 2012* Easy choice, the challenge will be taking control of both sides of Congress in the landslide.

  • Josef K on December 21, 2011 12:00 PM:

    Id say this just about marks the point at which this fiasco went from tragedy to farce.

    As defined in the film "Elizabethtown", a fiasco "is a disaster of mythic proportions...a folktale told to others that makes other people feel more alive because it didn't happen to them."

    Operation Barbarossa was a fiasco. Operation Iraqi Freedom was a fiasco. Coke Zero was a fiasco.

    This? This is just sad.

  • T2 on December 21, 2011 12:04 PM:

    I wonder how many Media outlets will carry film of this Walkout? I guess since only GOPers walked out, it would be hard to do a "both sides do it" segment, right? Probably no News there.

  • Sonny haguewood on December 21, 2011 12:05 PM:

    we just hope we get enough responsible people in congress to over ride these idiots in November

  • Michael P Garelick on December 21, 2011 12:09 PM:

    The only Bravehearts are the American people. The Gop are more like Edward the Longshanks silencing the masses with economic genocide.

  • Freddie on December 21, 2011 12:19 PM:

    Ugh, Fitzpatrick is my Congressman and he's been a disgrace since the moment he took office. I still can't believe my district rewarded Patrick Murphy's work on repealing DADT by booting him from office and electing this moron instead. I'm so disgusted.

  • Suzanne Allen on December 21, 2011 12:29 PM:

    You don't have the luxury of 'walking out' and failing to do the duty you are sworn to do. Failure to do your job is grounds for termination of your position, end of story. Cowardice is unbecoming and as a representative, such cowardice as you have all shown today tells not only your districts, but the population at large that you are incompetent, and unable to continue to represent the American people. Step down and walk away or be thrown out, simple choice, and you have shown that this isn't a problem for you, you walked out today.

  • Kathryn on December 21, 2011 12:36 PM:

    I find the pumping up with macho movies by the GOP indicative of their intelligence and maturity level, pathetic.

  • ken on December 21, 2011 12:36 PM:

    Like a bunch of teenage school punks.

  • Gonzo on December 21, 2011 12:40 PM:

    While they did effectively dismiss the issue rather than address it, the childish rant that follows doesn't put the opposition in a good light either. When the Speaker gavels out and declares adjournment, the process is ended, along with any debate, unlike what the article here claims. This is a Democrat violation of parliamentary procedure to grandstand on an issue they were not politically poised to exert their will over.

    If you support the legislation that was dropped, your talking point is that they didn't address it, not that they walked out on it. Even if Republicans sided with the ranting Representative against the Speaker, it would have no legal standing.

  • square1 on December 21, 2011 1:09 PM:

    @theAmericanist: You are correct.

    I don't mean to make too much of this, because Democrats are clearly in the advantageous position. But Democrats lack the killer instinct that the GOP has. There's a saying in politics that when your opponent is drowning, throw him an anchor.

    Democrats are pointing and laughing, but they aren't finishing the GOP off.

    Right now, the GOP is desperately trying to extricate itself from this clusterfuck. It's not going to pretty no matter what. But Democrats have some control over whether the GOP manages to save some face or whether this fractures the party and becomes a lingering public embarrassment.

  • bigtuna on December 21, 2011 1:17 PM:

    square1 is right ... this isn't your father's congress. Crush them.

    The beauty of this gangrenous effort of the R's is that is also provides free publicity to the temporary tax cut, which is labelled as being due to the democrats, or Obama. So, in one move, these morons have:

    a. painted themselves as against tax cuts
    b. allowed dems /obama [not necessarily the same things] to be portrayed as the people who created the tax break in the first place,
    3. pain the dems/obama as for renewal of the tax break, and
    4. allowed such a lopsided vote in the senate that the word bipartisan can be attached to something, making the Tom Friedmans of the world less grumpy for 5 mins
    5. flushed out the rs as antidemocratic, as the Americanist points out

    it takes a rare form of political ineptitude to pull that off in less than 48 hrs.

  • Lyta on December 21, 2011 1:17 PM:

    Unfortunately they have manage to gerrymander many of their GOP faithful's districts so very few are in actual danger of being turned. Democratic districts lost giving gains to many areas that were formerly in play. Add to that the voter suppression you have a perfect storm on both house and senate and the office of the President being hard to hold or easy to overturn. The only solution is to GOTV, but before that includes finding and aiding disenfranchised voters and getting them registered and to the polls.

  • chi res on December 21, 2011 1:24 PM:

    This is a Democrat violation of parliamentary procedure

    Only a true Republic moron could come up with that one. LOL!

  • Gonzo on December 21, 2011 2:40 PM:

    chi res: Contrary to your beliefs, I am not in favor of the Republicans any more than I am their counterparts in the Democrat side. Even someone so caught up in the fervor of propaganda as you are must recognize that ranting after session has legally ended is merely for show.

    As for a "Republic moron", viewing an entire group of people as "morons" because you disagree with their political views puts you far below the Republican incumbents who've pandered to the rich rather than do what their constituents put them there for (tea party or otherwise).

    [Are you a Missouri state representative Diane Franklin, or are you a staffer? Either way, I imagine that the taxpayers of Missouri would rather you not be frittering away your taxpayer-funded working hours defending the indefensible on the internet. Especially considering how many people IN YOUR DISTRICT will be harmed by the tax increase. --Moderator]

  • KarenJG on December 21, 2011 3:06 PM:

    Bill from PA - and in that vein, I suspect this strategy will be the Republican version of the Holy Hand Grenade:


  • Nona on December 21, 2011 4:20 PM:

    President Obama please hold the line do not give in the Republicans this time. You know they will change their minds again. Call their bluff we are behind you 100%. DO NOT LET THEM WIN. DO NOT GIVE IN TO THEM!!!

  • chi res on December 21, 2011 5:15 PM:

    I am not in favor of the Republicans any more than I am their counterparts in the Democrat side.

    Duh. That's the second time you've left the "ic" off of Democratic, Mr. Obvious.

    And I didn't call ALL republicans "moron", just you.

  • theAmericanist on December 21, 2011 6:58 PM:

    The anchor to throw is for the President to simply state: John McCain is right. The Speaker should bring the Senate bill, negotiated with the Speaker's approval, up for a vote before December 31st. There's no need for the Senate to come back, because they did their job.

    THEN he should go all in: If the majority of the House votes down extending the payroll tax cut, I will call the Senate back in.

    That forces the House either to take up the President's double-dog dare, or let the payroll tax cut expire. If they take it up:

    All the Ds vote for it-- that's 193, leaving just 25 R votes necessary to pass it. Think there aren't 25 R votes in 242? I don't. I'd bet it would pass with 150 R votes.

    The point is to frame it as SELF-GOVERNMENT -- let the whole House work its will.

  • chi res on December 21, 2011 8:54 PM:

    WooHoo! Go Mods!

  • chi res on December 21, 2011 9:02 PM:

    I'm an old Kansas City boy, and I went to school with some folks from Camdenton. Think I'll drop them an email so they can see that this is how Diane "do[es] what [her} constituents put [her] there for." Knowing my friends, word should get around the district real quick. Some of those constituents may be a little concerned that she is "not in favor of the Republicans any more than [she is] their counterparts."

  • Doug on December 21, 2011 9:46 PM:

    theAmericanist, where are the calls for Republicans to FORCE Boehner to assert his proper authority as Speaker of the ENTIRE House? Teabaggers constitute at most 1/3 of the Republican caucus, where are the cries from the remainder for Boehner to stand up for the position he occupies? And why should the President even contemplate "daring" Boehner to do what the Speaker is supposed to do anyway - represent the whole membership of the House, let alone raise the stakes?
    There is no reason for Democrats, the MINORITY in the House, to be the ones FORCING the Speaker of the House to do his constitutional duty. Let the entire country see that Speaker Boehner not only doesn't represent jis own caucus, but he has no control over it either.
    Couldn't happen to a better person...

  • theAmericanist on December 21, 2011 10:12 PM:

    Doug, there are two things wrong with your Notion.

    First, this isn't a game. There really are people who need that $40 a week. It's not just about the partisan crap of who wins and who loses.

    Second, your political analysis is whack. OF the 242 House Republicans, 87 are actually Tea Party freshmen, and another 100 or so are legitimately concerned about a primary from the right. There aren't 70 Rs in the House who have nothing to fear from the Right. That is, while the Republican caucus as a whole is conservative and a substantial minority is Tea Party, it's also important to remember what elected officials do in a democracy: they are POLITICALLY skilled, after all, even the freshmen quirks (like Grayson on the left) or they wouldn't be there in the first place.

    He's not in the House, but Orrin Hatch is a good example: if anything, he is more conservative than his former colleague Robert Bennett, but Bennett lost to a Tea Party candidate at the Utah Republican Convention. He didn't see it coming. That's not gonna happen to Hatch. Mike Lee's taking the nomination (and then the election) away from Bennett showed every non-Tea Party Republican in the House -- all 155 of 'em -- that they COULD be taken out from the Right, if they weren't careful. Think Senator Hatch isn't acutely conscious of his Right? So is every Republican in Congress. They're not worried about their Left flank -- they might lose to a D in the 2012 election, but to GET there, they have to get their R nominations. That means making certain they aren't outflanked to the Right.

    That's what Cantor has been playing all year. He wants to be Speaker, so the weaker Boehner gets, the stronger Cantor looks.

    So my suggestion isn't to let Rs flounder. It's to SINK them: self-government, baby.

    Let the whole House vote on the bill the Senate passed.

  • Tom Ontis on December 22, 2011 12:33 AM:

    Republicans = Communism, pure and simple. When they don't get their way, they stomp off like a bunch of pu**ies that they are! I'd be ashamed of saying I was even a damn RepubliCANT!