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Boehner goes sour

September 2, 2011 - Harry Eagar
It is being reported that the refusal of Speaker John Boehner to accede to the president's request to address Congress is unprecedented.


In “A. Lincoln: The Crucible of Congress,” Paul Findley (at the time he wrote, the representative of Lincoln's district) writes about partisanship in the 30th Congress, where the Whigs were in the majority in the House, and a Democrat, Polk, was president:

“On January 13, 1849, Lincoln voted with the majority to insult the president by tabling a resolution that would have halted debate in the House at 2 p.m. (Note: in those days, the House usually adjourned at 3) in order to receive a presidential message. Later the same day on a similar proposal Lincoln reversed himself and helped to approve the 2 p.m. debate termination. The vote to table was 89 to 75. The vote to approve was 100 to 95. Clearly the Democrats used the intervening time to bring in a few missing members to the floor and in the process Lincoln shifted his vote to a position respectful of the presidency.

“On January 26 three successive votes occurred before a majority approved a resolution to receive at 2 p.m. the annual message from the president. . . .

“On August 7 Lincoln helped to table a message from the president. The vote was 76 to 64. (Note: in those days, a president never appeared in person before Congress. His messages were read out.)

“It was a presidential election year, to be sure, but never in my experience, not even in the darkest days of the Richard Nixon administration, did the House respond so discourteously to messages from the White House.”

But then, never in my memory – which goes back nearly 50 years – has the House had a speaker so sour and mean as John Boehner.


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