That Day I Became a Democratic Stooge

lewis-stooge

The Democratic sit-in included one of the most embarrassing moments of my career.

WASHINGTON –  Paul Singer writes: The House Democrats’ anti-gun sit-in last week included one of the more embarrassing moments of my journalism career.

The Democrats had grabbed the House floor for what amounted to an impromptu 25-hour filibuster to protest the unwillingness of Republican leadership to call a vote on gun control legislation.

“The Democrats were pumping up their energy. They congratulated each other and cheered. The partisans who had packed the public visitors’ gallery cheered with them — a no-no when the House is in session.”

This was a new and unusual tactic, and nobody had any idea how it was going to end. The House doesn’t have a filibuster, so it also doesn’t have a way to end one. That makes it newsworthy.

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As the protest dragged on through the day Wednesday, the rows of stools in the press gallery — up above the House floor — usually nearly empty during House business, had become full. This had become a full-blown Event, and more than two dozen reporters sat in the gallery documenting it.

“The lawmakers then turned to the galleries and thanked the visitors for their support, and everybody cheered some more.”

At around 9 p.m., as they were girding for House Republicans to return and attempt to re-establish control of the floor, the Democrats were pumping up their energy. They congratulated each other and cheered.

“And then, my moment of shame. Someone on the floor called out thanks to the press, saying our reporting had spread the word and fueled their protest.”

The partisans who had packed the public visitors’ gallery cheered with them — a no-no when the House is in session. Visitors are supposed to sit quietly, but by this hour many of the rules of the House floor had long since been thrown out the window.

RETROSPEKTIVE JERRY LEWIS The Stooge (dt: Der Pr¸gelknabe), Norman Taurog, USA, 1952 *** Local Caption *** The Stooge, , Norman Taurog, USA, 1952, V'13, Retrospektive

“But to be fair, when Republicans voted more than 50 times to repeal Obamacare, that was a “stunt,” too. And of course, they were sending fundraising appeals every time.”

The lawmakers then turned to the galleries and thanked the visitors for their support, and everybody cheered some more. That was another no-no — lawmakers are prohibited from acknowledging the galleries from the floor.

“Congress is legislating less and less, and much of what it does nowadays is a stunt.”

And then, my moment of shame. Someone on the floor called out thanks to the press, saying our reporting had spread the word and fueled their protest. The 100-or-so Members of Congress on the floor and the several hundred partisans in the gallery cheered for us.

My colleagues and I were mortified.

We are not in this business to help anybody, only to report the story. We certainly do not want credit for helping Democrats perpetrate what Republicans correctly labeled a “stunt.”

Make no mistake: This was a stunt. It was a brazen attempt to make headlines and draw attention to an issue, not an attempt to legislate. Democrats then sent fundraising emails citing the sit-in as a reason to donate, which raises some questions about whether they violated House rules against using the chamber for political purposes….(read more)

Source: Voices: USA Today

Singer is USA TODAY’s Washington correspondent.


One Comment on “That Day I Became a Democratic Stooge”

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