By Holly Watt
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 26, 2008
More than a year after the "stolen vote" controversy erupted in the House, a report published yesterday concluded that the official final result of Roll Call 814 was wrong. However, the select committee investigation, which cost approximately $450,000 including legal fees, could not establish the correct result.
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement that the outcome is "another black eye for this Democrat-led Congress."
The report followed "a long and, at times, tedious but productive process," according to Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), chairman of the Select Committee to Investigate the Voting Irregularities of Aug. 2, 2007.
Over several months, his team examined videotape of scenes in the chamber and reviewed more than 5,000 pages of documents. Twenty-four interviews were conducted from February to April of this year.
Among others, Boehner, Republican House Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.), Rep. Michael R. McNulty (D-N.Y.), who was presiding over the House at the time, and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) were questioned.
Investigative committees with subpoena powers of this sort have previously been formed to scrutinize crises such as the Watergate scandal and the Iran-contra affair.
This episode began late on that summer evening, when Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) moved to send the 2008 agriculture spending bill back to the House Appropriations Committee for members to add an explicit prohibition on illegal immigrants receiving food stamps.
After chaotic scenes on the floor, McNulty announced a 214-214 tie vote. At that moment, the electronic voting board behind him, which had 1 1/2 -second time lapse, changed to 215 to 213 for the Republicans.
McNulty told the committee that he was "stunned" by the situation and apologized. After accepting advice from parliamentarians, the voting continued, finally finishing with a wider margin of 216 to 212 for the Democrats.
When the result was announced, furious Republicans stormed out as allegations of partisan bias flew.
In the report, Delahunt said Roll Call 814 was "the perfect storm," comprising "a long and contentious week; a close vote on a sensitive issue; the lateness of the hour; urging from the Majority Leader and other Members to close the vote."
Calling the roll call "a botched motion to recommit on a bill that never became law," he recommended changes to the voting system, including the repeal of a rule introduced at the beginning of this Congress that would bar the majority from holding open a vote "for the sole purpose of reversing the outcome of such a vote."
Ultimately, the report gave two conflicting possibilities for the vote, following a second-by second-analysis of "three pivotal minutes" in the closing stages of the vote -- as two Democrats and three Republicans attempted to change votes they had already cast: "It is either 215 yeas and 213 nays . . . or 211 yeas and 217 nays."
Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), the ranking Republican on the committee, said the vote "will forever be a black mark on the 110th Congress."