The video for this story is not available, but you can still read the transcript below.
No image

House Republicans Walk Out; Major Votes Are Ahead

After voting on ethics reform and children's health insurance, House Republicans walked off the floor Thursday to protest the Democrats' handling of an agricultural spending bill. Political analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks discuss the week's events.

Read the Full Transcript

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    David, do you see something new and awful about this heat that erupted in the House of Representatives?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    It's not new, but awful. It's like a Eugene O'Neill play. They've got all these submerged hatreds, and it only takes a little fissure to open them all up. And that's what happened yesterday.

    What was striking about what happened with the ag bill was that, first of all, the parties couldn't agree what was in the bill, and then they couldn't agree on how the vote went about the bill. And then when they had this whatever happened, the bit of chaos, and the versions you get depend entirely on what party you're talking to, immediately the hatred erupted.

    And it's the same hatred that erupted when Tom DeLay and others held the vote open a couple of years ago, and that hatred is still there. And I don't think the procedures of the House have changed that much. The majority party has changed, but a lot of the strong-arm tactics are sort of the same.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Hatred is a strong word to use. Do you agree with David, who uses that word?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    No, I disagree with David. I think there was a crankiness, there is a crankiness in the House right now, this tension.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Crankiness, not hatred?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Crankiness. No, it was cranky. They're tired. They've worked long hours, and I think they're ready to get out of there. And I think the profound difference between what happened last night and what happened with Tom DeLay, keeping the Medicare bill open for three hours, the vote on the floor for three hours in total violation of the House rules, and twisting arms and making threats on the House floor, was that both Steny Hoyer, the majority leader — I thought who handled it very well — and Mike McNulty, who was in the chair, said, "I was wrong. I made a mistake." I mean, I didn't hear that in the DeLay era. That was entirely different. Now…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    But David's point is that, whether or not it was an honest mistake or not, that underlying the surface here is tension, and much more than tension.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Well, I don't know — I mean, I thought John Boehner was quite measured and quite restrained. Roy Blunt, the Republican whip, was different. And I think there's no question that, within the Republican caucus, there are people who are unreconstructed, just as there are people on the Democratic side who are unreconstructed in any dealing with the other side.

    And I think Roy Blunt was speaking to and for them, whereas John Boehner, who's a fierce partisan and a very loyal Republican, you know, was trying to think how he could make the house work.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    Well, they both have Machiavellian reasons to want to make the House appear less angry because the approval ratings of the Congress as a whole, and the House in particular, are sub-Cheney, and they're pretty terrible. So they both have an incentive to make it seem like they're both doing their job.

    And the big thing that has changed — this has been a long, gradual change — is that members of each party are much less likely to care what people in the other party think of them personally than used to be. And so they're perfectly happy to shout, "Shame," or to behave in shameful ways toward people in the other party.