Monday, August 4, 2008

Who Turned Out the Lights?

By now, you've no doubt read that Republicans staged a little "guerilla Congress" event on Friday, refusing to leave the floor after Democrats voted to adjourn for a five week vacation. Ostensibly this is to encourage President George W. Bush (R-USA) or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-06) to call the House back into a special session to do something about the high cost of energy.

The GOP talk-a-thon started before noon and stretched on for five hours and 45 minutes. For awhile, the Republicans got the bright lights turned back on and got the sound system operating. They dragged big flip charts to make their points about energy.

At 4:30 p.m., the visitors gallery closed on schedule. But the GOP lawmakers continued talking to an audience of members, staffers, interns and some visitors brought on the floor by members.

Apparently, Republicans plan on continuing this today.

"In an urgent memo sent to GOP Members and staff Saturday (“A Call to Action on American Energy”), Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH-08) and Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO-07) hailed Friday’s action, and encouraged House Republicans to return to the Capitol beginning Monday morning to help keep the historic effort going," said a press release just released by Minority Leader Boehner's office.
“It’s not a request we make lightly. But the American people are suffering,” Boehner and Blunt said in the memo. “The consequences of continued congressional inaction on gas prices are unacceptable. We’ve called on the Speaker to call Congress back into an emergency session this month and schedule a vote on the American Energy Act. We must continue to make a stand until the Speaker complies.”

I applaud the Republicans for doing this. It's a great way to remind voters who feel that "It's the price of gas, stupid" to know who's on the right side on this issue.

But, let's make no mistake. This is a campaign event, nothing more. They know that Pelosi isn't going to call the House into a special session, and that Bush is extremely unlikely to do so, as a lame duck in his final months of office.

They've had some issues making their point widely known though.

A small band of Republicans, protesting the decision to adjourn without an oil vote, started to speak from the well — even though the lights weren’t on, the microphones were turned off and most of their colleagues were scrambling to catch flights out of town.
An empty floor is one thing when TV cameras are there, but C-SPAN’s cameras, which typically broadcast every word uttered on the floors of both chambers, were not allowed to broadcast the revolt since the chamber was officially closed for business.

That's not completely true. C-SPAN broadcasts all the time when the chamber is closed for business.  Maybe there's more here than meets the eyes.  C-SPAN has issued a press release on the subject.

A number of media organizations have incorrectly referred to “C-SPAN cameras” being turned off and not providing televised coverage of the GOP House members’ post-adjournment protest on energy policy being held on the House floor on Friday afternoon.  Please note that cameras in the House chamber are under the control of the Speaker of the House and that all media organizations, including C-SPAN, wishing to cover events in the chamber must use the official House TV feed.  No private media cameras are permitted in the House (or Senate) chambers.

And here are a couple other quotes that help show the point I'm about to make.

Democratic aides were furious at the GOP stunt, and reporters were kicked out of the Speaker's Lobby, the space next to the House floor where they normally interview lawmakers.

"You're not covering this, are you?" complained one senior Democratic aide.

And:

The Capitol Police are now trying to kick reporters out of the press gallery above the floor, meaning we can't watch the Republicans anymore. But Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) is now in the gallery talking to reporters, so the cops have held off for a minute. Clearly, Democrats don't want Republicans getting any press for this episode.

This makes it sound like the Democratic leadership is trying to keep you from seeing and hearing what the Republicans have to say.  But that's impossible.  Speaker Pelosi supports the "Fairness Doctrine" and free speech, doesn't she?  I know I read that somewhere.

But Speaker Pelosi doesn't support free speech.  She supports the "Fairness Doctrine" as a method for controlling it. She wants to have the same control over the airwaves that she does over the cameras and microphones in the House, so you can see and hear what she wants you to see and hear.

Speaker Pelosi turned out the lights.  And if you give her a chance, she'll turn out the lights on talk radio too.

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