WASHINGTON - House Speaker, John Boehner, Ohio Republican, bowed to public outrage at the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Democrat, postponing for a week a vote to repeal the health care reform act she had voted for.
But Boehner and the rest of the Republican leadership were already charging ahead to impose their rightwing, takeaway agenda on the nation.
As one of their first acts, the GOP pushed through rules that stripped the residents of the District of Columbia of the last shred of voting representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Also stripped of the right to vote in committee were the delegates from Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and other U.S. colonial possessions and territories.
Until now, the District and territories were represented by non-voting delegates who could speak on the floor but not vote on legislation. However, the rules did allow the delegates to vote in committee sessions.
Boehner claimed it is "unconstitutional" to allow the delegates to vote in committee but he was silent on the obvious unconstitutionality of denying the people of D.C. and territories voting representation in the U.S. House and Senate.
D.C. Vote Executive Director, Iler Zherka, said the 600,000 people of D.C. are being denied "the one vote they have in their own governance. Democracy took a step backward today."
The Republican rules, in a payoff to the oil companies, also disbanded the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, the sole committee devoted to curbing climate change and promoting green energy.
Established four years ago by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, the Committee held 80 hearings including sessions that exposed BP's malfeasance in the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. The committee pushed through a rider to President Obama's economic stimulus bill that provided $90 billion for energy efficiency initiatives and green jobs. The committee authored the 2009 climate change bill approved by the House but killed by Republican filibuster in the Senate.
The Republicans laid bare their spiteful hatred of workers, especially organized workers, by changing the name of the Education and Labor Committee, founded in 1867, to the Education and Workforce Committee. Mike Hall, the AFL-CIO blogger, called it the work of "swaggering, loudmouthed extremists" who "hate" unions and the labor movement.
The Republicans and their tea party backers during the election campaign promised an open, transparent, government that ends earmarks and other deficit spending by the Democratic majority House.
But the rules adopted by the Republicans now that they are in a majority "pave the way for major deficit-increasing tax cuts despite anti-deficit rhetoric," charged the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). "The new rules...would replace 'pay-as-you-go' with a much weaker, one sided 'cut as you go' rule under which increases in mandatory spending would still have to be paid for but tax cuts would not," the group charged.
"In addition," the CBPP charged, "increases in mandatory spending could be offset only by reductions in other mandatory spending, not by any measure to raise revenues such as by closing unproductive special-interest tax loopholes.
The CBPP cites an example: The House would be barred from paying for continuation of a newly enacted provision of the Child Tax Credit by closing wasteful tax loopholes for corporations that hide their profits in offshore banks. "Yet the same rules would enable the House to expand tax loopholes for multinational corporations and wealthy investors without paying for those tax breaks at all because any tax cut, no matter how costly or ill-advised, cold now be deficit financed."
Michael Pettit, President, Every Child Matters Education Fund, blasted the new GOP rules for giving the new Republican chair of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, "sole authority, king-like, to set funding levels for the rest of the fiscal year....That could mean cuts of more than 20 percent or even higher."
Pettit warned that Ryan "might very well choose to follow the proposal of...Boehner to slash domestic spending by $101 billion below last year's levels....That does not seem very transparent."
Photo: Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich. and Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., testify before the House Rules Committee meeting regarding floor debate on legislation that would repeal the health care reform act, on Capitol Hill Jan. 6. Charles Dharapak/AP