I’m digging being a Democrat these days.Posted: December 6, 2012
My party is unified again, and seems to know what it’s doing. It’s a nice feeling to have, and it’s been a long time a-comin’.
Case in point: today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid bushwhacked Senate Minority Leader Mitch (The Turtle) McConnell into filibustering his own bill. That’s right: the Party of No said “no” to itself.
“The ability of the minority to obstruct is dependent on the willingness of the majority to be obstructed.” – Jim Naureckas
“Filibuster” is a word we hear over and over. Courtesy of Examiner.com, it’s about Senate rules for passing a bill. They specify that before debate on a bill can end, and the bill can proceed to a floor vote, a separate vote must be held on ending the debate, or “cloture.” That vote requires 60 votes. So essentially, they vote on whether to vote on the bill!
Now if a Senator feels really strongly about the bill, either pro or con, that Senator is allowed to prolong the “debate” as long as he or she wants and stall the cloture vote. This stall game is known as a “filibuster.” The only way to stop a filibuster is to either wait for the Senator to run out of wind, or force him or her to stop speaking with a vote of 60 Senators. Potentially then it takes 60 votes to make the Senator shut up and sit down; another 60 votes for “cloture”; and then a simple majority to pass the bill itself. It’s amazing bills ever get passed. This Stupid Senate Trick happens all the time; the House doesn’t roll like that.
So how did McConnell end up stalling his own bill? According to Talking Points Memo, McConnell was trying to be cagey and it backfired. He wanted to prove that Democrats don’t have the firepower to change Congress’ control over the US debt limit. He brought up a bill that allows the President to unilaterally lift the debt ceiling, unless the Senate musters a two-thirds vote to stop him. He didn’t really want this bill to advance to a vote; he expected Reid to get nervous and shoot it down so then he could say, “See? The Democrats don’t even have enough votes to give this to their own President!”
Reid, however, had another idea. He quickly conferred with the rest of his party and then said, “Go ahead. Make my day.”
So here’s McConnell, who had just introduced a bill he didn’t expect to advance any further in an effort to diss the Dems, having to argue that he didn’t want it to go to a floor vote after all. Homina-homina-homina.
“The Republican leader objects to his own idea,” Reid declared on the floor. “So I guess we have a filibuster of his own bill.”
Senator Chuck Schumer told reporters that McConnell thought he’d thrown Democrats for a loop. “It was a little too clever by half,” said Schumer, adding that it “would have been a great moment.”
“This may be a moment in Senate history when a Senator made a proposal that, when given an opportunity for a vote on that proposal, filibustered his own proposal,” said Senator Dick Durbin. “I don’t think this has ever happened before.”
McConnell claimed he never agreed to hold a simple majority vote on the bill – yet he bought it to the floor. Brilliant. For his next trick, McConnell will hit himself in the face with a banana cream pie.
“Senator McConnell’s filibuster prevented us from having this vote today,” Reid later said in a statement. “But I will continue to seek an agreement to hold an up-or-down vote on his proposal to avoid another debt ceiling debacle.”
As blogger Smartypants put it: if you’re not enjoying how badly the Republicans are getting beaten these days, you’re not paying close enough attention.