House Democrats Seek to Curtail Member Speech in the Wake of Wilson Controversy

160px-Rep_Louise_SlaughterIn a move that raises serious questions under Article One and the First Amendment to the Constitution, House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) has announced new rules for what members can and cannot say on the floor and in committee. The rules are remarkably broad and arbitrary in limiting comments regarding the President.

It appears that members can still use “disgrace” and “nitwit” but not “liar” or “sexual misconduct.”

The controversy concerns section 370 of the House Rules and Manual, which is being used to bar a range of comments on the President that are in my view protected speech. These include calling the President a “liar,” a “hypocrite,” guilty of a “cowardly” act, or any allegation of “sexual misconduct on the President’s part.” You can refer to the President as a “truthful but cowardly nitwit” but, if you want to refer to a case of sexual harassment of White House employees, you must express it as “the President’s non-budgetary conduct relating to employees in a non-platonic fashion.” That helps clear things up.

One possible approach is for Republicans to line up and give speeches using the prohibited words to force the issue.

This could raise some extremely interesting questions, particularly if the Democrats seek to enforce these rules against a member. I believe the Democrats are simply wrong in such a position and are putting themselves at odds with free speech and the inherent rights of a member in the representation of his or her constituency. Courts have indeed yielded to the prerogative of the House in setting its own rules. However, this may be the exception to that rule. The problem with Wilson’s outburst was that he was not allowed to speak or heckle a presidential address under the rules. This would appear to cover a much broader range of speech.

Members of the House of Commons are not allowed to call each other “liars,” but simply find other ways of expressing the same sentiment.

For the full story, click here.

33 thoughts on “House Democrats Seek to Curtail Member Speech in the Wake of Wilson Controversy”

  1. I have read “My Struggle”, by Adolph, in fact I have a copy on my book shelf. He wrote it while imprisoned after the “Beer Hall Putsch”. This book was a blueprint for implementing the “Final Solution” and creating the “Thousand Year Reich”. His horrifying reign was short, but exceedingly destructive.

  2. I just wanted to know what “you” thought about it, I confess to know little about it…. People who read Mein Kamph, prior to 1933 would have had to have “rocks” in their head to find Alois Hiddler (Hitler) reasonable! The climate in Germany in 1933 and prior to 33′ was already becoming oppressive to the Jews, in fact it had become downright terrifying for many..

  3. billy:

    “Byron, tell me about the Patriot Act..”

    what do you want to know?

    specifics or a general philosophical repudiation?

    You have seen the results with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. That alone should be enough to be disturbing. It may not be a problem now but at some point it will be. Just recently the director put out a warning about conservatives with certain bumper stickers. That can go both ways and this department is a future threat to our quickly fading liberty. I don’t think it is too outlandish to call it the American Gestapo or the American NKVD.

    The disturbing thing about the rise to power of Adolf Hitler is that average middle class people embraced him and he appeared to be a reasonable man in 1933. Some future president with similar ambitions has his own little corps of brown shirts readily available.

    Let me know.

  4. Absurdity knows no bounds no matter where on the political spectrum one looks. This is like those laws and initiatives named after various tragic people. They seemed like a good idea at the time, but the unintended consequences got in the way.

  5. tmaxPA,

    You challenged a well reasoned assessment of Obama’s record by effectively accusing the critic of being a racist: “He [Obama] ought to do what we tell him, without being so uppity, is that what you’re saying?”

    I see no evidence that the author’s statement was anything other than a fair interpretation of Obama’s actions. Would you care to address the criticism rather than the critic?

  6. I support the Bill of Rights, not so sure about the ACLU and I’m a card carrying memeber of the democrat party.

  7. This may be the dumbest reaction I’ve ever seen from the Democrats. Of course people should have enough taste not to heckle the president during a congressional address, but the correct way to handle the buffoons is to ridicule and deride them. Prior restraint of speech is unconstitutional and goes against the ideals this country is supposed to be built on.

    As for the ACLU, anyone who knows anything knows that they’ve done a lot of good for the United States, from championing free speech and free exercise of religion to fighting government establishment of religion and working to guarantee the rights of due process. If this is the first time you’ve ever been glad for the ACLU, you must not believe in the ideals behind the Bill of Rights. Sometimes they get on the wrong side of an issue, but usually not.

  8. Kudos to President Carter. As to this new rule, the first thing that comes to mind is “What a stupid kneejerk reaction!”

  9. Who do you guys think wins the Texas-Texas Tech game this weekend. I know it isn’t the most thought provoking topic, college football and all, but how about the successor to Graham Harrell at QB. This kid tossed seven(7), TD’s last weekend. Mike Leach just continues to reload at QB. By the way he went to law school at Pepperdine University in Malibu and is a licensed attorney. The guy never played college ball…what do you know..

  10. Billy:

    not much that I can see, but if they stop these fusion centers and the patriot act they can have my gratitude.

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