Earlier we posted an entry about the "outrage" the radical right-wing and its media allies are manufacturing over Representative Pete Stark's remarks during the debate over S-CHIP. The reason why we believe that the outrage is being manufactured is that we don't think that the Republicans are so timid as to get really upset over Stark's remarks.
I mean, come on, Republican members of the House don't mind torture in the name of the United States, think that the civilian deaths in Iraq are acceptable collateral damage in the bigger "War on Terror", and take turns seeing who can say the most outrageous things about Hillary Clinton. We are supposed to believe that they are offended by Stark's remarks?
Putting the manufactured outrage aside for a moment, however, what is interesting is that no right-winger is able to point to a House Rule that Stark violated with his remarks. Typical is a post that appeared on the Cleveland Plain Dealer's blog. The writer spends paragraphs contrasting the supposed difference between the way that the media treated Representative Jean Schmidt and the way it is treating Representative Stark. The author argues that "Mean Jean" got treated a lot worse.
What he doesn't point out, though, is that Schmidt's remarks were aimed at a particular Congressman, John Murtha of Pennsylvania, while Stark didn't refer to a particular Representative by name. The distinction is not unimportant. This is from the Pocket Guide of Floor Procedure in the House of Representatives:
· Avoid characterizing another Member's intent or motives and discussing personalities.
House Rule 370 of the House Rules and Manual concerns statements made during debates and what is and is not permissible. The quote below is from an explanation of that section appearing on a web page of the House Rules Committee:
Under section 370 of the House Rules and Manual it has been held that a Member could:
refer to the government as “something hated, something oppressive.”
refer to the President as “using legislative or judicial pork.”
refer to a Presidential message as a “disgrace to the country.”
refer to unnamed officials as “our half-baked nitwits handling foreign affairs.”
Likewise, it has been held that a member could not:
call the President a “liar.”
call the President a “hypocrite.”
describe the President’s veto of a bill as “cowardly.”
charge that the President has been “intellectually dishonest.”
refer to the President as “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”
refer to alleged “sexual misconduct on the President’s part.”
The House Rules also allow a member's words to be "taken down" or removed from the Congressional Record. This is the procedure that is used:
Words Taken Down: A Member should avoid impugning the motives of another Member, the Senate, the Vice President or the President, using offensive language, or uttering words that are otherwise deemed unparliamentary. These actions are strictly against the standing Rules of the House and are subject to a point of order. This is made by a Member "demanding that the gentleman's (or gentlewoman's) words be taken down." If this happens in the Committee of the Whole, the Committee of the Whole rises and the Speaker must return to the Chair and rule on the propriety of the words used. In the case of remarks regarding the Senate and the President, the Chair may take the initiative and admonish Members for unparliamentary references.
Often the offending Member obtains unanimous consent to withdraw the inappropriate words or the demand is withdrawn before the Speaker rules and then the Member proceeds in order. However, if the Member's words are ruled out of order, they may be stricken from the Congressional Record by motion or unanimous consent, and the Member will not be allowed to speak again on that day except by motion or unanimous consent (clause 4 of Rule XVII).
So, the question becomes whether any Republicans made the appropriate motion under the House Rules. If they did, we certainly haven't heard about it. If they didn't, then either they don't know the Rules or they knew that there wasn't a violation. In either case, they should stop their whining.