Under the Dome

David Price, poison pills and radical nihilism

Norman Ornstein, a political scientist who is one of the most veteran Congress watchers writes about Democratic Rep. David Price's frustration with the partisanship in a recent edition of The National Journal.

"Last week as I watched David Price of North Carolina give an eloquent, anguished speech on the floor of the House as it debated the Homeland Security appropriations bill,'' Orstein writes.

"Price had a distinguished career himself as a congressional scholar before he came to Congress, and he continues to write insightfully about Congress from the inside. More important, he is an institutionalist to his core, a longtime member of Appropriations who venerates a deliberative process, bipartisan cooperation and action, and regular order.

Why was Price so distraught? The Homeland Security Subcommittee, on which he is the ranking Democrat, had brought a balanced, sensible bill to the floor, crafted with the participation and cooperation of members on both sides, to protect our homeland within severe budget constraints. The work inside the subcommittee had been a model of how the process should work—but for a second year in a row, its work was threatened by a poison-pill amendment offered by that poster boy for radical nihilism, Steve King of Iowa. The amendment blew up the Dream Act, taking away all discretion from the Department of Homeland Security to focus its deportation resources on criminals and miscreants and forcing the department to end any deferral in the deportation process that enables "dreamers" to stay in the United States.

By his own admission, King was trying to blow up any chance for a comprehensive immigration bill to pass the House. But the amendment was also a key test of whether the current Republican leaders of the House, and especially the members and leaders of the Appropriations Committee, valued this model of bipartisan deliberation and decision enough to keep its model bill intact.

They failed the test. Miserably. Not a single Republican on the Homeland Security Subcommittee voted against the poison-pill amendment


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