HistoricalMullet: Stupid Legislative Pet Tricks

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Tonight is the 30hour talk-a-thon in the Senate, perhaps the silliest maneuver I’ve seen since the Texas state legislature fled the state. At least in Texas there wasn’t the risk of bad law being brought through in their absence, here there’s a real danger of some nation-wide law being put into place without debate.

Full story is here: http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/11/12/senate.debate.ap/index.html

But the basics of the scenario are this. The Republicans are pissed that the Democrats have carried the torch in Senatorial filibustering that the Republicans used so successfully under Clinton. They’re going to extend the session of the Senate for 30 hours, and each party will have at least 1 member on the floor the entire time, swapping out 30-minute speaking segments. Every 30 minutes the speaker will switch to the opposing party. The Republicans are going to bitch about four filibustered judicial nominees and the Democrats are gonna bitch about jobs, the economy, and the war in Iraq. In the end, if all goes as planned it’s going to be 30 hours of straight BS that if we could figure out how to turn into methane we’d be able to fuel a fleet of cars.

Here’s the part where it gets interesting. Because the Senate is formally in session and there will only be two members on the floor, if at any time there isn’t an opposing member from the other party on the floor or they fall asleep etc., the awake/speaking Senator is going to ram through legislation on a voice vote, which will pass 1-0. For the Republicans, they’ll probably confirm the four blocked nominations. For the Democrats a minimum wage increase or perhaps a tax credit.

Does anyone else find this an inordinately bad way to make legislation? 160 of Bush’s 164 nominations for judges have been confirmed. Filibustering is an extremely lame senatorial device abused equally by both parties when they’re in the minority. There is no “clean side” when it comes to filibustering, both parties stink. Don’t we have larger issues to worry about than pet tricks like this between Democrats and Republicans? Maybe we’ll get lucky and it will be a radical from either party and if there’s an opening they’ll introduce and pass legislation abolishing the two-party system or pass a Senate Resolution for both parties to go their corners for a “timeout” (yes it would pass and become legal, no I don’t think it would pass Constitutional review by the Judiciary). Barring those fortunate events I think it’s just going to be an extremely long night on C-Span. Tim C.

Wouldn’t the House have to pass the legislation for it to advance to the President?

Good point, forgot about the House. At least no laws will be passed then. I guess that leaves the Dem’s only able to pass resolutions which are relatively harmless, anything else they can do Senate only, declare war? Heh…if it were the House playing this game they could vote to impeach but the Senate doesn’t have that power.

Wouldn’t only having two Senators in the chamber be less than the necessary quorum? 

My understanding is the quorum is taken to apply to the beginning of a session, not the entirety. Indeed turn on C-Span any night and you’ll see that most senatorial business conducted in the dome barely has a few members present, let alone a quorum.

Talk about chicken spines, the controversial $ 87 billion budget on Iraq? It was passed on a “voice only vote” by like 6-8 Senators so the rest wouldn’t have to go on record one way or the other. I think the record shows Sen. Byrd “was heard to say no loudly” but the rest mumbled “yes”. I’m actually for the resolution but understand it was controversial, I think Senators should be on record for or against because that’s how constituents can check on what they’re doing. Today is one of those days I have no respect for either party.

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