Pure Pusillanimous Petulance

Cartoon: PetulantFILQUORA is the acronym for Fugitive Interstate Legislator Quorum Recovery Act, the brainchild of leading national and state GOP officials to stem the outbreak of a potential  virulent effort by Democrats to frustrate legislative processes and governance.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, along with several Freedom Caucus members (Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan, and Marjorie Taylor Greene) announced proposed legislation declaring it illegal for members of Congress to aid, abet, consort, or provide shelter or comfort to state legislators who cross state boundaries in order to deny a quorum to their colleagues at home.

When asked by a reporter how the actions of quorum-breakers differed from the practice of the filibuster, McCarthy directed the inquiry to Senate Minority Leader McConnell’s office.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, along with several Freedom Caucus members (Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan, and Marjorie Taylor Greene) announced proposed legislation declaring it illegal for members of Congress to aid, abet, consort, or provide shelter or comfort to state legislators who cross state boundaries in order to deny a quorum to their colleagues at home. In an unusual move intended to highlight solidarity, the congressional group was joined by several state GOP officials from Virginia.

“Republicans are in the majority in 30 states,” McCarthy noted, “so, quorum-breakers are essentially outlaws denying their constituents the representation which they elected and for which duty they are compensated. As in ancient Greece, where the quorum originated, these fugitive representatives must be ostracized and their conduct condemned.”

The legislative proposal has received the support of Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, and model state legislation has been prepared by the American Legislative Exchange Council, including far more punitive provisions and penalties.

“The federal legislation,” said Taylor Greene, “is intended to discourage members of Congress from interfering with states’ rights by inviting or enticing quorum-breaker fugitives to seek refuge in Washington, thereby frustrating constitutional principles of federalism. This is a republic, not a democracy,” she concluded.

When asked by a reporter how the actions of quorum-breakers differed from the practice of the filibuster, McCarthy directed the inquiry to Senate Minority Leader McConnell’s office. Rep. Bob Goode (R-VA) stated that he was hosting the Virginia claque to call attention to the severity of the danger to democracy by state fugitive quorum-breakers.

Virginia state Sen. Amanda Chase and state Del. Dave LaRock issued a joint statement declaring their intention to offer legislation in the Virginia General Assembly that would outlaw quorum-breakers, making travel outside the Commonwealth for that purpose a felony. In addition, the Virginia measure would permit a declaration by the opposing political party that quorum-breakers had abandoned their positions and replacements would be made. Chase added, “We are also studying the issuance of arrest warrants to be executed by a designated law enforcement agency as well as fines and penalties. We do not intend to become Texas or Wisconsin.”

Rep. Goode observed that breaking quorum was not uniquely a partisan act, as Republicans also have employed the tactic. In 1839, a young Whig member of the Illinois House, Abraham Lincoln, was reported to have leaped from a window to deny Democrats a quorum. In 1994, California House Republicans sat out a session scheduled to name Willie Brown as Speaker. “In both instances,” Goode emphasized, “the Republicans did not become fugitives to accomplish their objectives.”

Neither McCarthy, Goode, nor other participants in the announcements addressed questions about similarities or echoes of the Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850 to FILQUORA, except to note that fugitive quorum-breakers are not slaves or indentured servants.

Texas Democrats in the state’s lower house in 2011 departed for New Mexico and Arizona to stall a Republican-led effort on redistricting and earning the epithet “Killer Ds.” This year, 60 Texas Democrats decamped to Washington, DC–where they remain today–in protest against repressive voter rights legislation. Wisconsin Democrats fled sessions in 2011 to protest a state budget they deemed to be anti-worker.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi commented that FILQUORA is “nothing more than petulant behavior by the Republicans in response to refusing to name members to the January 6th Committee and the favorable attention captured by Texas Democrats.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi commented that FILQUORA is “nothing more than petulant behavior by the Republicans in response to refusing to accept two GOP members to the January 6th Committee and the favorable attention captured by Texas Democrats. As with all GOP mewling, it is nothing more than pure pusillanimous petulance.”

In Virginia, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn issued a press statement, “Our legislature is holding special session commencing August 2 to consider major budget undertakings. There have been no indications from any sides of the aisle that members are planning not to attend for purposes of quorum-breaking or otherwise.”

While each chamber of Congress has the authority to formulate rules for its respective members, most observers are of the opinion that a state statute inhibiting interstate travel by legislators is constitutionally flawed. The GOP national and state advocates insisted that, since SCOTUS had never held the Constitution’s fugitive slave clause (Article IV, Sec. 2) invalid, FILQUORA could survive in the present because “a majority of state legislatures are affected and no one likes fugitives.”

 

 

 

 



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