Abuse in the House, but does anyone care?

House Democrats have issued a massive report on Republican abuses. You probably haven't heard of it.

By Tim Grieve
Published March 10, 2005 6:28PM (EST)

The Senate gets all the attention these days. It's where the confirmation battles happen, it's where the real action is on legislation over bankruptcy and lawsuit reform, and it's where the numbers game of majority rule plays itself out most starkly. With just 100 members, it's easy to keep track of who's who -- and how Joe Lieberman or Olympia Snowe or some other centrist of the hour may be selling out to the other side.

The House of Representatives just isn't that sexy. And if you need proof, consider the veritable silence that greeted House Democrats' release of a 150-page report this week documenting abuses of power by House Republicans. The Washington Post dumped it into a short piece on page A13. The New York Times seems to have ignored it entirely.

Here's what you're missing. The report, compiled by Rep. Louise Slaughter, the ranking Democrat on the House Rules Committee, says that House Republicans have become "the most arrogant, unethical and corrupt majority in modern Congressional history," turning their backs on promises they made, when they took control of the House in 1994, to ensure a "full and free airing of conflicting opinions through hearings, debates and amendments for the purpose of developing and improving legislation deserving of the respect and support of the people." Specifically, the report argues that Republicans have turned frequently to the majority tools they once criticized, especially the use of "closed rules" that prevent either debate over or amendments to pending legislation. In the most recent Congress, the Democrats say, Republicans imposed "closed" or "restrictive" rules on nearly 80 percent of all legislation.

It's not exactly scintillating reading, but the report does paint a picture of a Republican majority that won't tolerate debate from House Democrats. Why isn't it getting more play? Part of the problem is the Democratic House leadership's failure to make the report more "bloggable" -- as Markos Moulitsas notes today at Daily Kos, the Democratic House leadership doesn't have much of a web-friendly news operation, and it posted the report only in link-unfriendly PDF format. It's a small thing, but when you're in the House and you're out of power, small things can make a difference.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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