I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.) I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
To post relevant news items or videos.

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Party Discipline

Here is a followup to Chloe's post.  The process for choosing subcommittee chair is in the rules of the party conference (or caucus, when the Democrats are in the majority), not the rules of the House. (see pp. 169-170 of Davidson).  Here is an excerpt from Rule 19 of the Republican Conference:
Rule 19—Election of Subcommittee Chairmen
(a) In General.—
(1) In accordance with Rule 15, the method for the selection of Chairmen of the Committee’s subcommittees shall be at the
discretion of the full Committee Chair, unless a majority of the Republican Members of the full Committee disapprove the action of the Chair.
(2) The Chair shall formalize in writing for the other Republican Members of the Committee the procedures to be followed in selecting Subcommittee Chairmen and individual subcommittee assignments and shall do so in advance of the Committee's organization. The procedures may be modified by a majority vote of the Republican Members of the full Committee.
As the article strongly suggests, the subcommittee chairs in this case are acting at Boehner's behest: "... GOP leadership made clear to all full committee chairmen that there is an expectation that subcommittee chairs will vote with Republicans on rules."

Leadership concern with party discipline on procedural votes is nothing new.  Here is a UPI report from August 30, 1980:
Representative Thomas P. O'Neill Jr., the Speaker of the House, has warned 44 Democrats who voted against a key parliamentary ruling last week not to repeat their defiance of party discipline.
Normally easygoing, Mr. O'Neill told the 44 members that party discipline still existed and they were expected to support the party in major policy votes. Such a display of whip-cracking in the independent and ''democratic'' House of 1980 is rare.

Representative John M. Ashbrook, Republican of Ohio, became upset Aug. 19 when the parliamentarian ruled out of order his amendment to block any Internal Revenue Service regulation that could cause the loss of tax-exempt status by private or religious schools.

Mr. Ashbrook appealed the ruling, asking the House to overturn it. The chamber supported the parliamentarian, 214 to 182, but Mr. O'Neill and other Democratic leaders were upset because 44 Democrats had joined the Republicans on the losing side.
Some House Democratic leaders felt that the vote showed that pressure groups were becoming more sophisticated in the ways of Congressional politics and were exerting pressure on members to vote against usually sacrosanct parliamentary rulings as a way of getting legislation passed.
''I was extremely disappointed to note that you voted against a motion to uphold the ruling of the chair last week,'' Mr. O'Neill wrote in separate letters to each of the 44 Democrats. ''It is elementary to our procedural control of the House that the chair be supported by members of our party. That is basic to a parliamentary body. In other countries, if such a vote were lost, the government would fall.''
''You should know,'' he went on, ''that from 1937 to 1968 there were no recorded votes on the chair's rulings. From 1968 until 1979, there were four votes. Now we have seen three roll-call votes in seven weeks.
''Members of the Steering and Policy Committee and the whip's organization have discussed these developments, some of them calling for disciplinary measures and meetings. I believe, however, that our best course is to call the above facts to the members' attention.
''I fully understand the pressures that are brought to bear by single-issue groups on such occasions, but I believe members have to be ready to support the orderly process when a member seeks to confuse procedure with issue.
''I trust you will take all these facts into consideration in the future. We must act together to enact a legislative program.''

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