Sparks flew during a contentious Homeland Security Committee hearing as Republicans sparred with Democrats. At one point, an infuriated Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) threatened to walk out of the hearing and encouraged Republicans to follow.
Tensions rose as Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) repeatedly blocked Republican amendments to the bipartisan Fire Grants and Safety Act, introduced last week by Jared Golden (D-ME), Carlos Giménez (R-FL), Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).
When Paul and other Republicans offered amendment recommendations, which is common when bipartisan committees debate and refine proposed legislation before the bill goes to the House floor for a vote, Peters countered by introducing “second-degree” amendment recommendations, effectively blocking Republican proposals.
Peters then argued it was his prerogative to block amendments before the committee debates and votes on amendments. The procedural code on the matter is not clear.
Paul said sarcastically: “We have what, unlimited second-degree amendments?”
Peters suggested that Paul did not have the jurisdiction to demand a vote on proposed amendments. An angry Paul replied:
“If this is the way you’re going to run the Committee, I would suggest that Republicans leave. I don’t see why we should stick around if you’re going to make up the rules. I mean you’re going to offer up a third-degree amendment.”
Paul also noted that this is the first time he has participated in a hearing where Republicans received “second-degree amendment [blocks] on every one of our amendments.”
“Typically, in that committee, we just have votes,” Paul added. “When we can’t work it out behind the scenes, we have a vote and not replace someone’s vote.”
Tension momentarily eased as Paul and Peters debated the parliamentary rules for second-amendment recommendations. However, sparks flew again when a determined Paul said: “I, for one, won’t stay here, and recommend that no Republican stay here if we’re going to have third-degree amendments that only the majority gets to offer.”
Paul’s anger stemmed from resistance to his proposed amendment that would make fire departments ineligible for federal funding if they fired employees for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.
Peters blocked the proposal and introduced an overriding amendment that included wording designed to counter the impact of Paul’s amendment recommendation, which all Democrats on the committee heartily supported.
Paul then introduced an amendment designed to prevent funding for the National Institutes of Health’s “gain of function” coronavirus research in Wuhan, China, and other laboratories. Peters countered by amending Paul’s recommendation to be limited to prohibiting funding for Wuhan, China, fire departments.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” an angry Paul said to Peters. “This is legislative legerdemain to obscure the fact that you’re trying to not vote directly on this.”
Following the debate, Peters said he hoped to find “common ground” with Paul and Republican members of the committee.
Peters said: “I look forward to working with Sen. Paul, and hopefully we can find common ground to go forward. Some of the amendments he offered were not germane to the substance of the bill that we were dealing with.”
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