The Shapiro Files

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Congress Versus Mother's Day: A True Story

While working on a new "Father Knows Best?" column, I needed to do a quick Google search on Mother's Day to fill in a gap in the piece. Well, that simple search took me down a very weird detour involving our ever-so-beloved Congress that I just had to share.

Did you know that in May 2008 the House of Representatives passed a resolution to honor mothers and Mother's Day? Until today, I didn't either. But that's not the crazy part. I'll get to that in just a moment.

First some background. The official resolution number and title is H.RES.1113 - Celebrating the role of mothers in the United States and supporting the goals and ideals of Mother's Day. It was fun little resolution that Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb, sponsored in honor of the 100th anniversary of the first Mother's Day. You can read all the nitty-gritty details of the resolution and congressional proceedings at the Library of Congress website, but to save you some time, here are the highlights:

  • April 16, 2008: Fortenberry introduced the resolution in the House and it was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (whatever that is)
  • May 1: The committee met to consider the resolution (what was there to consider?)
  • May 5: The House debated the resolution for 40 minutes. Yes, 40 minutes!
  • After the debate, a procedural question came up concerning a lack of a quorum (don't ask)
  • The Speaker of the House concluded that an exception to rules would be allowable and everyone could proceed with voting on the resolution
  • After all was said and done, the resolution passed unanimously. Now that's something you don't see every day in Congress.

But this is where things get strange.

As soon as the resolution passed, Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., rose and said this: "Mr. Speaker, I move to reconsider the vote."

Keep in mind that this guy just voted for the resolution.

So, Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., did what any reasonable person would do and recommend that Tiahrt's objection gets tabled (i.e. officially and permanently ignored).

Of course, the decision on whether or not Tiahrt's objection could get tabled required yet another vote.

Now, at this point you'd think that everyone but Tiahrt would vote in favor of tabling the objection. But that's probably because you're a reasonable human being.

Nope. Instead, the vote was split almost entirely down party lines. The vast majority of Republicans (including Fortenberry, the resolution's sponsor) voted against tabling the objection and all Democrats voted in favor of tabling the objection. But since the Democrats were the majority party by this time, the vote passed and Tiahrt's objection was official tabled.

Hurray. Praising mommies is A-OK after all.

But of course, this leads to several questions:

  • Why in the world did Tiahrt object to the resolution in the first place?
  • Why did he vote in favor of the resolution if he was going to object afterwards?
  • Why did most Republicans suddenly change their tune over the course of a few minutes and vote against tabling Tiahrt's objection? They had to know that this would effectively imply that they were, in fact, against honoring mothers/Mother's Day after all?

Here's what Dana Milbank of the Washington Post had to say (see the full article here):

It has long been the custom to compare a popular piece of legislation to motherhood and apple pie. Evidently, that is no longer the standard. Worse, Republicans are now confronted with a John Kerry-esque predicament: They actually voted for motherhood before they voted against it.

Republicans, unhappy with the Democratic majority, have been using procedural tactics such as this all week to bring the House to a standstill, but the assault on the mothers may have gone too far. House Minority Leader John Boehner, asked Thursday to explain why he and 177 of his colleagues switched their votes, answered: "Oh, we just wanted to make sure that everyone was on record in support of Mother's Day.

By voting against it?

Wow, is there anything Congress can't turn into party politics? Not even a little appreciation for Moms?