Democrat tries to boot Giffords from committee assignment

posted at 9:30 am on January 26, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

According to the Daily Caller’s Chris Moody, California Democrat Loretta Sanchez proposed yanking fellow Rep. Gabrielle Giffords off of the House Armed Services Committee after being at least temporarily disabled by a gunshot wound to the head less than three weeks ago.  Sanchez argued that Democrats needed every vote they have on the panel and that they could not leave the seat open indefinitely.  The reaction from her colleagues was, not surprisingly, strongly negative:

Behind closed doors, California Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez has proposed removing Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords from the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) until she recovers from injuries sustained after being shot in the head on Jan. 8 in Tucson, The Daily Caller has learned.

The proposal sparked an outrage, according to those in the room — including from those in Sanchez’s own party.

“It’s not appropriate,” Texas Democratic Rep. Silvestre Reyes told The Daily Caller, adding that there was outrage among some members in the room when Sanchez made the suggestion. “It’s bad for morale during her recovery period.”

Republicans have an eight-vote advantage on the committee.  It’s possible that there will be some close votes, but it’s more likely that a single Democratic absence on the panel won’t have any impact at all this year.  The absence of Giffords might make a difference in some subcommittees, but that could be addressed by asking a few of the HASC Democrats to add another subcommittee assignment temporarily, rather than replacing Giffords on the main committee.

Sanchez defended her proposal afterward through her spokesperson:

“Gabby has always been one of the most active members on the Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Sanchez wants to make sure HASC Democrats preserve her voice until the congresswoman has returned,” Sanchez’s Press Secretary Caroline Hogan told TheDC. “Rep. Sanchez simply inquired whether a proxy could represent the Congresswoman on the Committee at Rep. Giffords’ request. That way, Gabby’s legislative priorities and seniority would be preserved until her return. Any other interpretation of her question is ludicrous.”

Er, suuuure.  The remaining Democrats on the panel could just as easily “preserve” Giffords’ legislative priorities by, well, doing it themselves, including Sanchez.  There are 26 other Democrats on the committee; is Sanchez really arguing that among them, they couldn’t carry Giffords’ water for at least a few weeks?  Replacing Giffords on the panel is an odd way to “preserve her voice.”

There may come a time when Democrats have to consider how to address Giffords’ committee assignments in the House, if her rehab looks like it will keep her away for a long period of time.  Those decisions don’t have to be made two weeks into her recovery, though.  In fact, given the role of the minority party in the House, it may not need to be an issue at all until the next election.

One unnamed Republican got in a dig at Sanchez’ sensitivity:

“From a woman who memorialized her cat, you’d think she’d show a little more compassion for a woman shot in the face,” said one GOP aide, referring to Sanchez’s 2010 Christmas card that paid tribute to her late cat, Gretzky.

Reyes and Adam Smith (D-CA) squelched Sanchez’ proposal.

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