Politics & Government

Everything divides Congress these days, even basketball

WASHINGTON — The Maryland men's basketball team isn't getting much love in the nation's capital these days.

Forget that the Terrapins share first place in the ACC conference and have a record of 23 wins and seven losses. Never mind that point guard Grievis Vasquez was named ACC Player of the Year and Gary Williams ACC Coach of the Year. Disregard the fact that the team is the NCAA's no. 4 seed in the Midwest region.

President Barack Obama dissed Williams while describing his bracket on ESPN Wednesday, taking a pass on Maryland in favor of Michigan State in the second round because "they've got a great coach, and I think that makes the difference."

Then Republicans in the House of Representatives nearly defeated a resolution on Wednesday brought by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., to congratulate the team on its outstanding season.

In a highly uncommon move for such routine measures, Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif., opposed the bill on the House floor and called for a roll call vote instead of the typical voice vote, finally getting payback for the snub of the University of California-Irvine's 2009 men's volleyball champs from his district last year.

Campbell said Hoyer didn't allow his resolution honoring the Anteaters in October because he'd refused to support an initiative of Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., for a Bay Area water-recycling program. (The Orange County Register reported that as the chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, Miller was the one responsible for blocking the resolution.)

"That's not the way it's supposed to work. Whether you're in the majority or the minority party, you should be allowed to bring similar things to the floor for a vote, but Hoyer wouldn't allow me to bring mine," Campbell said.

In addition, the Terrapins don't deserve to be saluted, Campbell said, citing a report in Tuesday's Washington Post that the team has the lowest graduation rate of the 65 teams in the NCAA tournament.

"In the past, like with my resolution, they were teams that had won a national championship. In the case of this Maryland one, they didn't even win their conference," Campbell said. "So if we are going to honor teams through the education committee, shouldn't we look for ones that have a good academic as well as an athletic record?"

Hoyer, whose office didn't respond to calls for comment, delayed the vote on the resolution until late Wednesday, when it passed, but just barely: 131 House members joined Campbell to vote down the bill compared with 279 in favor, with only eight votes more than the two-thirds majority required to approve the measure.

"Frankly I think the reason the majority leader made it one of the first votes today was because I may have been able to marshal the votes to defeat it if I had had another hour," he said.

Campbell said he went through with the tit-for-tat because he thinks Hoyer's handling of his resolution is indicative of the Democratic Party's dismantling of the procedures of fairness and equity in Congress.

"This majority keeps changing the rules, breaking the rules and twisting the rules in their favor," he said. "This is just one more example: a tiny example, a relatively insignificant example, but it's the same principle with the health care (overhaul), where they want a certain outcome, so they change the rules to get that outcome."

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