Oppressed Minority

Crowley, Michael
June 2003
New Republic;6/23/2003, Vol. 228 Issue 24, p18
Chris Van Hollen came to Washington to make a difference. In the general election, he toppled Connie Morella, a 16-year Republican incumbent, becoming one of just two Democrats nationally to defeat a sitting House Republican. Riding an elevator in a House office building recently, Van Hollen used the advantage of his forced confinement to flip open the binder and study a memo when a fellow representative stepped on. Earlier in the month, Van Hollen discovered a provision, buried within a gigantic Pentagon budget bill, that would strip decades-old civil service protections from up to 700,000 Defense Department workers, thousands of whom live in his district. So he wasted little time offering an amendment to strip the provision from the larger defense bill. On Thursday, the day of the House vote on the defense bill, Chris Van Hollen learns that the Rules Committee, in a vote held late the previous night, has rejected his amendment. Today, Democrats say they are languishing under the most despotic majority the modern House has seen. They find themselves a completely subjugated, powerless minority--routinely barred from offering bills and amendments, shut out of committee deliberations, even denied such basic dignities as private meeting space. House Republicans exercise their absolute power in ways ranging from the grand to the trivial. Most significant is their stranglehold on the legislative process. In committees, Democratic amendments are unwelcome, even those from senior Democrats brimming with expertise.


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