(Don’t) leave it to Cleaver

Roll Call has a good account of what happened on the House floor yesterday as Nancy Pelosi violated House rules for the all-important purpose of calling President Trump racist. FOX News has a fuller story here.

When Rep. Doug Collins challenged the propriety of Pelosi’s remarks, Pelosi asserted that she had cleared them with the House parliamentarian. This appears to have been a lie. Roll Call reports:

Collins set off a more than hour-long review and debate over Pelosi’s comments before a decision could be rendered.

Finally, after a staffer could be heard saying to Cleaver, who was presiding over the House, that it was time to announce, “the chair is prepared to rule” and read a prepared statement, Cleaver instead said, “the chair is ready to make a statement” and set aside the printed remarks.

“I came in here to try to do this in a fair way. I kept warning both sides let’s not do this, hoping we could get through,” the Missouri Democrat said, referring to multiple times during the debate in which he had to admonish members for their language that didn’t comply with House rules.

“We don’t ever, ever, want to pass up an opportunity, it seems, to escalate. And that’s what this is,” he added, referring to Republicans’ motion to strike Pelosi’s remarks. “I dare anybody to look at any of the footage and see if there was any unfairness, but unfairness is not enough because we want to just fight.”

Cleaver’s decision to abandon the chair appeared unprecedented, at least in recent history.

The Hill adds some poignant details to the story. As deliberations took place, the Hill notes, Pelosi exited the chamber despite members who have been flagged for potential violations being expected to remain on the floor. she apparently knew what was coming.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer ultimately took over the duties of the chair at Pelosi’s request. Although Cleaver couldn’t bring himself to read the parliamentarian’s ruling against Pelosi, Hoyer did. The parliamentarian ruled against Pelosi, holding that “the words should not be used in debate,” according to a precedent from May 15, 1984.

Roll Call does not explore the contradiction between Pelosi’s assurance from the parliamentarian and the parliamentarian’s ruling against her. Roll Call simply notes that Collins then moved to strike Pelosi’s words from the record. The House defeated Collins’ motion, 190-232.

A perfect ending to a perfect day.

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