House Democrats today staged a coordinated effort to bring the House of Representatives back from vacation to Washington, D.C., to work on the long-term extension of the payroll tax cut.
As House Speaker Pro Tempore Jeff Denham, R-Calif., gaveled in for the short "pro forma" session this morning, Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, took to the floor and attempted to call for the payroll tax cut conference committee to get to work now.
"We've got work to do while the Republicans are out of session," Clyburn said attempting to speak over the Speaker Pro Tempore, "where are the Republicans? We're ready to work."
Clyburn was not recognized to speak and the "pro forma" session was gaveled out. The Speaker Pro Tempore, the stenographer and aides all left the floor. The microphones were turned off and C-SPAN cut away, leaving a small group of Democrats alone in the chamber.
"We were just shut down and not allowed to speak on the floor when we were told that we are in session and we went to the floor to work, but we were not allowed to do the people's work," Clyburn said.
Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conferees of the conference committee, and a few other members stayed on the floor a full 12 minutes after the House of Representatives was out of session to urge Congress to return to Washington to work on the yearlong extension of the payroll tax holiday which will expire in February.
The House Democrats attempted to connect the recess appointment argument to the payroll tax argument.
By invoking President Obama's now highly-controversial recess appointments, they ask how the Republicans can complain about recess appointments, by claiming Congress is in session, if they don't allow business on the House floor.
"I thought it was a workday because that's what people do after the New Year begins," Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., said. "But that's not what Republicans in Congress have done. Instead, they've said we want to work five days in January for a month's pay."
"It's unconscionable that we're on vacation when the people of this country are out of work," Rep. John Larson, D-Conn. said.
"Let us summon the Republicans from the four corners of the Earth - Hawaii, India, or wherever they may be on their CODELs or private - privately-funded trips - I should throw in Las Vegas, because I know there's a trip in Las Vegas - come on back to Washington," Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said, "the weather's not as nice, but the work we are - were elected to do has to be done here. Let the conferees meet."
If the full House of Representatives is not called back from their home districts, the Democrats at the very least want a full meeting of the conference committee - Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate appointed to negotiate a long-term payroll tax deal -in Washington, DC. They say they've been informed that the earliest meeting that is planned is January 18, which is not acceptable to them.
The House of Representatives is scheduled to return to legislative business on Jan. 17 while the Senate plans to return Jan. 23.
In 2008 House Republicans staged a similar effort to bring the House back to work on the energy bill during the August recess. Then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi did not call the House back into session.