House GOP rebuffs call to address sequestration

US CapitolRep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) tried to call for Congress to return to work during the House's Oct. 16 pro forma session, but was rebuffed by Republicans, who quickly gaveled the House closed until Oct. 19.

Connolly and Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) announced their plans to pose a parliamentary inquiry earlier in the day, saying they would ask whether the Speaker of the House has the authority to recall the House during the current recess to address sequestration. Connolly led the House -- or rather, then nearly empty House chamber -- in the pledge of allegiance, and then attempted to raise the issue.

But Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), the acting speaker for the day's session, did not acknowledge the request and immediately declared the House adjourned.

A statement released by the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that Beutler was "under orders from House Speaker John Boehner,” (R-Ohio), to ignore the request.  And Connolly repeated his warning that more than a quarter-million federal employees and a half-million federal contract employees could face layoffs.

“You would think that the House Republican leadership would understand that it is time to put politics aside and do what’s best for our country and our citizens right now,” Connolly said.

House Democrats have repeatedly made an issue of Congress' early adjournment this fall. Both chambers will reconvene for a lame duck session after the elections, but Republicans have consistently refused to be engaged by what they say is partisan posturing by the House minority. The fact that Beutler, as acting speaker, declined to recognize Connelly to speak means there will be no trace of Connolly’s attempted comments in the official congressional record.

And the pro forma sessions themselves are a partisan standoff of sorts. The primary reason the House has not formally adjourned is to guard against recess appointments by President Barack Obama.

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