There’s a privilege granted to leaders of both parties in the House to speak for as long as they want on the House floor on whatever subject they want. After nearly five hours of debate on the climate bill, House Minority Leader John Boehner took the floor around 5:30pm and began speaking about the 300-page chairman’s amendment added to the bill at 3am this morning. He’s been reading, and mocking, choice passages. Twenty minutes later, House Energy & Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman interrupted to ask when he might be done and what the precedent is for limiting a leader’s speaking privileges. Rep. Ellen Tauscher, who is presiding over the floor on her last day as a member before heading to the State Department to become Under Secretary of State, ruled that there is no precedent and allowed Boehner to continue . He’s been speaking for nearly 50 minutes now and his staff says he’s “prepared to go quite a while.”
“Now I really hate to do this,” Boehner said on the floor, “but when you file a 300-page amendment at 3am the American people have a right to know what’s in this bill and what we’re voting on.”
The Dems have stopped whipping the bill, confident that, although it will be close, they have the votes. The problem is: if Boehner goes hours and hours they risk losing members to flights, commitments, etc. I’m checking with the House Historian, but it seems we have our first House filibuster. Now, the real question is: how long can Boehner, a notorious chain smoker, go without a cigarette? (I’ve never seen him go longer than 30 minutes without one, so he’s already shattered that record).
After over an hour, Boehner relinquished the floor. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in the interest of saving time, curtailed her closing remarks to four words, telling members she believes this bill is all about, “Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.”