Filibusters are not allowed in the House. They're a province of the Senate. But House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) may have figured out a way to get around that prohibition Friday as the House inched closer to voting on a controversial energy and climate change bill.
Overnight, House Democrats tacked onto the bill a 300-page amendment. So when Boehner took his time to speak against the package at the end of the debate, the Ohio Republican then decided to peel through major portions of the bill and read them aloud before his House colleagues.
Historically, rank-and-file lawmakers are only given a few minutes to speak on the House floor. But the Speaker, Majority Leader and Minority Leader are given great latitude to speak when they approach the microphones.
After Boehner spoke for a few minutes, the leader donned a pair of reading glasses and began leafing through a gigantic, white binder. At that point, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) asked the chair if Boehner could do that.
“I know we have this magic minute that gives leaders a lot of extra time to speak. But I'm just wondering if there is some limit under the rules on the time that a leader may take, even though the time yielded was not 20 or 30 minutes?” Waxman asked.
Waxman also wondered if any "historical records would be broken" by Boehner reading part of the bill and queried whether the tactic was “an attempt to try to get some people to leave on a close vote?”
The Speaker Pro Tempore, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) then ruled that Boehner was order.
“It is the custom of the house is to listen to the leader's comments,” Tauscher said, prompting a round of applause by Republicans.
Tauscher's ruling immediately set House precedent, meaning Boehner could continue to read the legislation in order. Democrats, at least for the time being, watched and listened as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) conferred near the back of the chamber.
"Is there anything we aren't regulating in this bill?" Boehner asked, leafing through the pages. He wondered if the community group ACORN qualified for certain grants. He asked why an energy and climate bill was "trying to solve the problems with Fannie (Mae) and Freddie (Mac)."
Incidentally, this may be Tauscher's final time presiding over the House. The Senate just confirmed her to be the Undersecretary for Arms Control at the State Department.
- FOX’s John Brandt contributed to this report.