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House Pro Forma Gets Fleeting Moment of Drama

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) this morning issued a brief plea for the House to return from recess as Republicans gaveled in a pro forma session.

Reading from prepared remarks, Edwards raised two “parliamentary inquires” that did not primarily consist of a question, instead rattling off various facts and figures illustrating the 112th Congress’ lack of productivity.

“Mr. Speaker, for the purposes of a parliamentary inquiry, the American people deserve answers and they deserve action,” Edwards said.

In response, the presiding officer, Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), cited “Clause 12a, Rule 1” in the chamber’s procedural rules and gaveled the session to a close about five minutes after it began.

Asked by reporters whether her call applied to the Senate, which is also scheduled to stay in recess until after the election, Edwards said “it doesn’t matter . as long as the House is out, what is the point in having the Senate? After all, we can’t get the business of the people done.”

Although Edwards, whose district is adjacent to Washington, D.C., and is a relatively short commute to the Capitol, was in the House chamber to call for Congress’ return, most of her Democratic colleagues have scattered around the country to campaign in their own districts.

For instance, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is traveling today, according to her spokesman.

Today’s incident is not the first time in this Congress that Democrats have called on Republicans to bring the House back from recess, but the tactic is a familiar maneuver for the minority party.

In August 2008, for example, Republicans staged protests on the House floor, urging then-Speaker Pelosi to bring back the House to deal with high gas prices. Pelosi declined then.

The current circumstances are somewhat unique in that the 112th Congress is on track to be among the least productive of any Congress since 1947, when statistics about lawmaking activity began to be tabulated in the Congressional Record.

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