The Congressional Game

The House Republicans have played fast and loose with the floor rules in order to get their “Medicare bill passed”: They kept the voting open for three hours, applied pressure to some of the GOP members who were voting against it, and then slammed the gavel down before enough Democrats could switch their votes to “no” and keep it down.

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, bellowed from the floor that Republicans had abused the system.

“Just like on Election Day you can’t keep the ballot open forever,” he said. The Republican side of the chamber responded with boos and hisses and applause for their victory.

The only thing sadder than Democrats whining about this loss is Senate Republicans whining about the filibusters that are holding their conservative judicial nominees at bay. In both cases, the side at a disadvantage is doing whatever they can to stay in the game. And the rules of Congress _are_ a game: a labrynthine network of protocols and guidelines, open for all manner of clever manipulation. It is within the power of the Congress to change those rules if they like, but until they do, any complaining about either side taking advantage of those rules as being somehow unfair or against the spirit of democracy is highly disingenuous. The complaining happens all the time, of course, but it never stops being tiresome.

If the members who didn’t get a chance to switch their votes had just voted against the bill in the first place, they wouldn’t be in this position. Last night, in the game of Congress, the Democrats got played.