Updated: House committee passes Bush torture bill by one vote -- two Dems are absent

This morning the House Judiciary Committee voted on Bush's preferred torture bill -- everything done so far is retroactively legal, redefinition of the Geneva Conventions, secret evidence obtained by "coercive investigations" -- the whole nine yards.

First, the Committee voted down the bill, championed by that … by Duncan Hunter (R-CA), 20-17.

I wish I had more details about what happened next. As Reuters put it, "They then mustered absent members to eke out a 20-19 majority to send the bill to the House floor."

On the second go-around, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) offered an amendment that would have at least substituted the language in the McCain Torture Bill, but it was defeated 18-17. Fifteen Dems voted for it, as did two Republicans, but two Dems missed the vote on the amendment.

At first, I was filled with ire towards the two missing Dems -- who were apparently at a press conference about the Medicare drug bill -- but actually this was all procedural shenanigans that took place after they thought they had already killed the bill.

In the end the panel voted 20-19 to send the bill in its original form to the full House. This kind of crap is exactly why we need to get jokers like Duncan Hunter out of those chairmanships.

Update: commenter AngelaRoss caught some of the intrigue on C-Span:


Democrats did kill the quorum. On C-Span they showed Anthony Weiner calling for a quoroum and then all of the Members disappeared into the back room. But the Republicans on their own had the Members for a working quorum (1/3) so they could pass amendments on their own, and ultimately they had the Members for a reporting quorum (1/2), which was when they pulled their shenanigans and reported the bill contrary to the original vote.
When the R's have 23 Members and we have 17 Members in Committee, they can pretty much do whatever they want, but I was proud to watch the Democrats stay and fight. Besides, the two Democrats that missed that original Schiff Amendment vote were on their way back from the press conference but Chairman Sensenbrenner closed the vote contrary to the procedural tactics Dems tried to use to hold the vote open.

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