BY TOM YERACE | Friday, June 17, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle speaks to the Alle-Kiski-Strong Chamber of Commerce at the Quality Inn in New Kensington on Friday, June 17, 2016.
While most of America views Congress’ lack of accomplishments recently as gridlock, U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle sees something else.
“I think it’s cowardice,” said Doyle, an 11-term Democrat from Forest Hills.
Doyle made his comments Friday during a luncheon speech before the Alle-Kiski Strong Chamber at the Quality Inn in New Kensington.
What he referred to in particular is the obstructionism from a group of 40 Republicans in the House who have managed to block bills from coming to the floor for a vote under what is known as the “Hastert rule,” named for former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.
He said the rule effectively limits the minority party, the Democrats, from bringing bills to the floor for a vote. The Hastert rule requires that a majority of the majority members — the 247 Republicans — have to agree to support the bill. If all 188 Democrats in the House support a piece of legislation and persuade 32 Republicans it is worth supporting, that means a majority of the whole House, 220 members, support it but it can’t come up for a vote because a majority of the Republican members don’t back it.
“One of the great frustrations we have in both parties is the inability to pass anything because of this gridlock,” Doyle said.
He said those 40 members, who call themselves the “Freedom Caucus,” formerly known as Tea Party members, pushed for the rule to be used. The main concern of those members, Doyle said, is to cut the size of government as much as possible.
In the process, he said efforts such as providing long-term funding for the repair of deteriorated highways and bridges or bans on the sale of body armor and armor-piercing bullets to civilians, suffer and it makes no sense.
“There are no Democrat or Republican bridges, they are just American bridges,” Doyle said.
Previous House Speaker John Boehner realized that he had to violate the Hastert rule if he wanted to get anything done. Doyle said he believes Boehner’s successor, Paul Ryan, who Doyle said “is a friend of mine and a good person,” will come to the same realization.
“I think the American people want to know where the members (of Congress) stand,” Doyle said. “I think there is an obligation to put bills on the floor, to put the members on record.
“Every two years you, as my bosses, decide whether you want me to return or not and I’m fine with that,” Doyle said.
New Kensington Mayor Tom Guzzo, who introduced Doyle, said the speech was another example of what he has come to know about Doyle.
“What I like about him is he always talks about being pragmatic,” Guzzo said. “He’s not radicalized to either side and I think that’s important.”
Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Tribune-Review.