Monday, December 21, 2009

Calling Their Bluff

As faithful readers know, I am immersed in exams and not likely to reemerge until after New Year's day. But a little tidbit to keep you entertained meanwhile:

In the Senate debate over health care, it now appears that the Democrats have 60 votes and can pass their bill. But the Republicans are determined to drag matters out by taking every hour the Senate rules allow. And the rules allow a lot: even having 60 votes for cloture doesn't mean that the Senate can immediately end debate and bring something up for a vote. The Senate's infamous Rule XXII provides that after 60 Senators vote for cloture, the matter under debate can still be debated for a further 30 hours before the actual vote.

So counting back from Christmas Eve, Majority Leader Reid figured out that he needed to hold a cloture vote at 1:00 this morning. This led to a lot of debate about who was responsible for dragging good, hardworking Senators, and even ill ones like Senator Byrd, out of their comfortable beds at that unseemly hour. There were a lot of pious objections from Republicans who claimed to want to spare Senator Byrd that discomfort. The Republicans claimed it was all Senator Reid's fault that the vote was at 1:00 am, because only the Majority Leader can schedule votes.

Well, Senator Harkin of Iowa figured out a way to call their bluff. As you can watch here (click on "Mr. Harkin" at 18:30), he sought unanimous consent that the vote be at 9:00 am, but that the time from 1:00 to 9:00 count as part of the 30 hours after cloture. The Republicans objected. So it's clear they're determined to make things as uncomfortable as possible and that it's really they who are forcing the 1:00 am vote. And as Harkin points out, it's all really for naught -- if the Dems have 60 votes, forcing endless hours of debate doesn't really change anything. Nice work, Senator Harkin.

(By the way, C-Span's video library stinks. You can only look at one clip at a time and there's not even a convenient way to link right to the next or previous clip. If you want to see what it should look like, check out the video library at the British Parliament. A single click gets you to an easily viewed tape of the entire day's proceedings.)

8 comments:

Peter said...

Democrats have never done anything like this before.

LOL.

Jon Siegel said...

Oh, I don't say that Democrats are any better. Although I do feel that whatever tactics the Democrats use on an extraordinary occasion, the Republicans then deploy as a matter of routine. The filibuster itself has, I think, suffered greatly from routinization, mostly on the Republican side, but with Democras certainly not blameless.

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Thanks!