- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Democrats have fled state legislatures rather than face up to doing the people’s business. They should change the symbol of their party from the grey donkey to the yellow chicken. 

The Democratic Party, unwilling to face tough choices on state budgets, is making a systematic effort to thwart the will of the people. They have taken legislative bodies in Wisconsin and Indiana hostage by denying them a working quorum. Insurgent Democratic lawmakers have fled over the border to find safe haven in Illinois, their equivalent of Pakistan, whence they have issued lists of demands. Similar tactics may be employed in Ohio, Michigan and other states where Democrats face assertive governors trying to clean up the fiscal messes left by their predecessors. 

The “disappearing quorum” used to be a staple of congressional behavior in which members would simply not vote or answer a quorum call, thus not officially being recorded as present. This tactic was broken in 1890 when House Speaker Thomas B. Reed, Ohio Republican, simply went ahead with votes when Democrats were on the House floor whether they participated or not. His reasoning was that the Constitution only required representatives be physically present, and since they plainly were, the results of any votes were valid. “Reed’s Rule” was later upheld by the Supreme Court. 

Since then, denying quorum has required fleeing the scene. In 1979, a dozen Texas state senators nicknamed the “killer bees” went into hiding over a primary election bill. In May 2003, 50 Texas Democratic state legislators fled to Oklahoma to avoid a redistricting vote, and later a dozen fled to New Mexico. In both cases, the absent lawmakers delayed the votes but did not change the result. Likewise, today’s AWOL Democrats will eventually have to bow to the inevitable or accept responsibility for shutting down their state governments altogether. 

There are a number of ways to mitigate this Democratic assault on democracy. Recall efforts are already being planned in Wisconsin. Investigations should be launched into how the Democratic legislators are paying for these jaunts. If they are using state-issued credit cards, they could be cancelled. If the trips are being underwritten by outsiders such as labor unions or President Obama’s political front-group Organizing for America, they could be investigated for possible infringement of campaign-finance or lobbying laws. There also could be tax ramifications for illegal or undeclared income. If these political hacks are dipping into their campaign coffers or party funds, other violations of good government laws may come into play. 

The U.S. Congress should mount an investigation of the extent to which national party and union organizations have been involved in organizing protests at the state level, and whether such activity has violated any federal laws. The ultimate response to this chaos lies in the hands of the voters. The Democratic Party is taking obstructionism to new heights, encouraged if not directed by the Democratic National Committee and the White House. Today, liberals are impeding state legislatures and soon they may orchestrate closing down the federal government for political advantage. 

Pugnacious Congressman Michael Capuano, Massachusetts Democrat, reportedly told union-member constituents, “Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary.” If the Democrats’ next step is open street violence, a sober electorate will have to ask when enough is enough. Someone needs to tell Democratic leaders that America is not part of the Middle East. At least, not yet.

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