GOP Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio had a rare chance to filibuster the climate change bill tonight, and he got some help from the Democrats.
There cannot be a filibuster in the House of Representatives because House rules provide for limited amounts of time for each Representative to speak. In the Senate, there are no rules regarding how long a Senator may speak, so a filibuster may be used, unless three-fifths of Senators agree to invoke cloture, that is, end debate on an issue.
But in the House, the Speaker, Majority Leader and Minority Leader are given greater latitude to speak.
While Boehner was speaking (that is, actually reading part of the bill into record), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., asked the chair if Boehner could continue to read and read and read. The concern was that Boehner was trying to delay the vote pass 6:30 p.m. Eastern to avoid an annoucement of an Obama victory on the network evening news shows.
“I know we have this magic minute that gives leaders a lot of extra time to speak. But I’m just wondering if there is some limit under the rules on the time that a leader may take, even though the time yielded was not 20 or 30 minutes?” Waxman asked.
Then, and here's the interesting part, instead of cutting Boehner off, the Speaker Pro Tempore, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a Democrat from California, then ruled that Boehner was in order.
That's right, a leading House Democrat ruled against her own party and her president, nearly derailing the bill by allowing the House minority leader to speak as long as he wanted to.
“It is the custom of the House is to listen to the leader’s comments,” Tauscher said to cheers of Republicans.
That could not have been comfortable for Democrats Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was witnessing the events unfold from the back of the chamber.