It would make some political sense for congressional Democrats to start pressing their Republican colleagues on the birthers. If Republicans don’t reject the conspiracy theories about President Obama’s birthplace outright, their opponents can use it to paint them as extremists; if they do reject them, they might have a problem with their base.
Greg Sargent reported Monday that one House Democrat, Hawaii’s Neil Abercrombie, was doing just that. Abercrombie, Sargent wrote, “is going to introduce a resolution on the House floor today that seems designed to put House GOPers who are flirting with birtherism in a jam …. [The resolution] commemorates the 50th anniversary of Hawaii’s statehood. But here’s the rub, his spokesman tells me: It describes Hawaii as Barack Obama’s birthplace.”
The resolution wasn’t really intended to jam up the House Republicans, or to rebuke the birthers, though. (The implied slam at the birthers was a side benefit, but not the primary purpose by any means.) Besides, the resolution was actually introduced last month — it just happened to be brought to the floor on Monday. And one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., is to be a co-sponsor of the “birther bill” that would require future presidential candidates to furnish a birth certificate.
The way the resolution was brought to the floor, under a procedure known as suspension of the rules, also indicated that it wasn’t meant as a political maneuver. The procedure is generally used for measures unlikely to cause any controversy, and means that the amount of debate on the bill is limited, as is the number of amendments that can be added, but means that two-thirds of the House must vote in favor in order for the legislation to pass. Fifteen other measures were brought to the House floor under the same procedure Monday.
On Monday afternoon, it seemed that one House Republican, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, had indeed moved to support the birthers, as liberal blog Think Progress reported that she blocked the bill.
This time, though, Bachmann was being criticized unfairly. She did indeed block a vote on the resolution, noting the absence of a quorum, but that move wasn’t about Abercrombie’s resolution specifically. She was just playing her part. The House had already decided to postpone the votes on all of the resolutions being considered under a suspension of the rules until Monday evening. Bachmann noted the absence of a quorum for several other non-controversial pieces of legislation so that those votes, too, could be postponed until the scheduled time.
In fact, as a spokeswoman for Bachmann told Salon — and C-SPAN video of the congresswoman’s remarks on the House floor confirmed — Bachmann supports the resolution.
After the postponement, on Monday evening the resolution passed — unanimously. Bachmann was one of the “yea” votes.