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As Democrats seethe over GOP tactics, video over rules change goes viral

In a sign of how angry Democrats are over the government shutdown, a video Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has posted of an obscure rules debate has gone viral.

The video — which has already attracted more than 702,000 views since being posted to YouTube on Saturday — shows Van Hollen engaging in a parliamentary inquiry with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who was in the speaker’s chair at the time. The two men discussed why Democrats could not bring up a Senate amendment that would provide funding to return the government to normal operations.

Normally an individual lawmaker would be able to force a vote on a bill where there is a dispute between the House and Senate, but on Oct. 1, House Republicans passed a resolution, H. Res. 368, altering the rules to make that impossible.

“The Rules Committee under the rules of the House changed the standing rules of the House of the to take away the right of any member to move to vote to open the government and gave that right exclusively to the Rep leader, is that right?” asked Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.

“The House adopted that resolution,” Chaffetz replied.

Pressing the point, Van Hollen asks, “Why were the rules rigged to keep the government shut down?”

While House leaders of both parties have sometimes changed the rules of the House by a majority vote during pitched political battles, this particular procedural move is much more rare.

At the end of the exchange, Chaffetz denies Van Hollen’s attempt to force a vote on the Senate measure, prompting Van Hollen to retort, “Well, Mr. Speaker, democracy’s been suspended.”

WATCH: The meeting where Republicans changed the rules

WATCH: On Monday's On Background, Buzzfeed D.C. bureau chief John Stanton broke down the motives behind the move.

Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post's White House bureau chief, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.



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Zachary A. Goldfarb · October 14, 2013

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