Rubio and Gelber: polar views on meltdown
Hving time to reflect on the extraordinary turn of events in the House on Friday (and Saturday), House Speaker Marco Rubio and Minority Leader Dan Gelber offer some thoughts.
Rubio, in an e-mail to the Times, writes: "In my mind, this one was silly because it was kind of an overreaction. If the motion to limit debate was something we did regularly, I could understand it, but we have never done this. We only had two hours yesterday on the floor. To spend 40 minutes debating amendments which are identical to bills we are going to hear next week in Policy and Budget and on the floor Wednesday was ridiculous. No Republican speaker (or Democrat, for that matter) has empowered the minority leader more than I have. To subject me to the single largest filibuster in the modern history of the House seems like an overreaction to me. But we heard all the bills on the agenda. It just took a little longer than expected. I actually felt bad for the Democrat members. We all had to sit through that, but at least the Republicans got their bills heard. What did the Democrats gain from doing this stunt?"
Gelber writes on his blog: "For my caucus, the choice was clear. When you are in the minority the only thing you have is your voice. When the Majority party decides that they do not want your voice to be heard, and when they resort to procedural machinations to stop you from speaking, they are taking away the only tool you have to fight for the people you represent and the principles you cherish. If we had permitted the Republicans on this occasion (and on this issue) to just decide that they did not want us heard, than we would have acquiesced to silencing our voices. Candidly, with so many important challenges at issue – budget cuts, education reform, property insurance & taxes, and health care coverage – that was something we could not accept. We simply wanted a full and fair debate on education reform.
The response from the House leadership is that we have overreacted and that they simply were trying to control debate to allow us to go home on Friday in time for the Jewish celebration of Passover and other commitments. Let me be clear, this had absolutely nothing to do with controlling debate and at no time before or during this episode did anyone suggest that to me. First of all, our discussion of the FCAT reform amendment would have been very quick. In fact, we offered on numerous occasions to limit debate to 20 minutes. And with regard to Passover, most of the Jewish members of the Legislature are members of my caucus (including me) so we had every reason to be mindful of the clock and respectful of the rights of our colleagues to travel home to attend to private matters.
No, their action was intended to stop us from speaking, and ours was simply and only about the right to be heard. Nothing else factored into our decision. As the Minority party, my caucus has to endure an expected level of frustration. Yes we are frustrated that only a few dozen of our bills (compared to hundreds of measures authored by Republicans) have made it to the calendar for consideration by the House. And we were probably more than a little frustrated when we watched the House Leadership in a totally unprecedented political stunt, send the House Sergeant of Arms to take into custody one of our most well-respected Democratic legislators for the sole purpose of embarrassing him. But none of these frustrations compelled us to respond as we did Friday because although there is much we are resigned to endure, losing our voice cannot be among them." (his full blog is here)