Big Drama on CSPAN: GOP Protests Voting Snafu, Moves to Adjourn, Vote Machinery Fails
At this moment, the House of Representatives is voting on a motion offered by Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) to adjourn. However, the board that shows the voting tally is not working, so members are debating how to finish the vote, or whether to cancel the vote and start over.
This is the last working day for the House of Representatives before the August recess, with a number of important bills on the schedule. However, the House floor has been shut down today by continuing disagreement between the parties over a bizarre incident last night. On a vote to send the agriculture appropriations bill back to committee so that the GOP could attempt to insert a provision to forbid illegal immigrants from receiving benefits under programs affected by the bill, Rep. Michael McNulty (D-NY) ruled that the motion had failed at a time that the current vote tally showed the motion passing 215-213. Republicans shouted "fraud" and accused the Democrats of an abuse of power. Democrats say that McNulty just acted too quickly, as members were still in the process of switching votes and the final tally was 212-216 against. McNulty has apologized for the incident and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has expressed regret, but the GOP members are still fuming and complaining.
One hundred GOP members walked out last night and put on a press conference today lambasting the Democrats. Meanwhile, the bills that the House was trying to pass are languishing. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) met earlier today to try to iron out the differences over the vote, but to no avail.
UPDATE: This is really unbelievable. Listening to Republican legislators complaining about the procedural vote last night, they are accusing the Democratic majority of stealing from senior citizens and giving the money to illegal immigrants.
2nd UPDATE: The Dispatch political blog "Daily Briefing" reports that Rep. Zack Space (D-Dover) was one of the members who switched his vote after McNulty prematurely declared victory and brought down the gavel.
It seems incredible, but this looks like the outset of a coordinated campaign to portray the Democrats as anti-senior citizen and pro-illegal alien. In fact, the cuts to Medicare in the SCHIP bill were limited to payments to HMOs under the Medicare Advantage program, which are grossly inflated compared to regular care, and the proposed GOP amendment to the agriculture appropriation bill was redundant because giving food stamps to illegal immigrants is already prohibited by existing law.
3rd UPDATE: A detailed account of what happened with the vote is up at CQPolitics. McNulty was looking at the board when he declared the motion had failed and gavelled down the vote, and the board said 214-214 at that moment (ties on procedrual votes fail). He was unaware that members were still switching their votes, and one of the switches registered as the gavel came down. At that point the board showed "215-213 FINAL." Subsequent vote switches changed the result to 212-216. Majority Leader Hoyer asked for unanimous consent to vacate the vote (the GOP objected) and then moved to reconsider the vote. Minority Leader Boehner then moved to adjourn, a motion which was not in order at that point in the proceedings. Among much jeering and quarreling, the GOP contingent then walked out.