Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Catch of the Day

Goes to Norman Ornstein, who had the pleasure of being (with Tom Mann) on the receiving end of a Senate floor attack from Mitch McConnell the other day, and used his Roll Call column to remind McConnell of the actual reason for Senate gridlock: Lots and lots of quotes from McConnell bragging about shutting down the Senate (and I talked about this also over at Greg's place today).

Of course, if you want more, you could just read Mann and Ornstein, It's Even Worse Than It Looks.

A couple of other things. On the substance, McConnell is correct, as Norm says, about Democratic efforts to block amendments. That's a real thing, and in my view Senate reform should include limits on the ability of the majority party to block individual Senators from offering amendments. I'm not sure how exactly that would excuse Republicans from (say) requiring 60 votes for district judges and low-level executive branch appointments, however. Or, for that matter, circuit and SCOTUS nominees and high-visibility exec branch nominees. Or the abuses of the approval (blue slip) process by which judicial nominees are cleared to begin with (yes, I blame the White House and Harry Reid for reacting passively to those delay tactics, but Republicans surely deserve the bulk of the responsibility). Beyond that, it's pretty clear, as Norm shows in his long list of quotations, that a gridlocked Congress is exactly what McConnell wants.

I do have to wonder, however, that this will buy him anything:
But a guy who, with his co-author, dedicated his last book, “The Broken Branch,” to the late New York Republican Rep. Barber Conable, and who had “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks” receive an enthusiastic endorsement from former Nebraska GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel, is not so easily pigeonholed as McConnell would like.
Sorry. I'm afraid that for a party which considers Barack Obama a socialist, palling around with Hagel and Conable are certainly no defense against a charge of being an "ultra, ultra, liberal." Those guys are "ultra, ultra, liberals by current GOP standards; Bob Bennett, who is also cited, was perhaps just a regular liberal, and was certainly a RINO. Sure, that's goofy to anyone outside the bubble, but it's not an argument that anyone is going to win.

At any rate: nice catch!


  1. The Ornstein link is wrong.

    How did Ornstein end up at AEI, anyhow? Or is he a vestige of an older AEI?

    Regarding the Democrats not permitting amendments, I heard Marco Rubio complaining about that recently. He said that the Democrats had nothing to worry about because GOP amendments wouldn't pass in any event; the Democrats just wanted to avoid difficult votes, or words to that effect. Now, he may just be saying the amendments won't pass and doesn't mean it, but that got me thinking. If they really don't expect them to pass, and if even they describe the votes as difficult, are they just putting things out there to put the Democrats on the record as voting against something that's popular or seemingly beneficial? If they really don't expect them to pass, they could propose amendments that they wouldn't want to see enacted either and rely on the Democrats to prevent that from happening, just so they could accuse the Democrats of obstructionism afterward. After all, obstructing everything and then accusing the Democrats of not cooperating has been the name of the game so far. Of course, they accuse them of obstructionism for not holding a vote, too, but a procedural argument like that won't have the power of a concrete proposal foiled. I can see why Harry Reid wouldn't want to play along with it.

  2. First link is broken.

    And, you might be going too far on Bennett. Hagel and Conable, sure. But Bennett? That was simply "you're conservative, but you're not INSANE enough for us!"

  3. Link fixed; thanks.

    Bennett was definitely called a RINO, at least; don't know if he was actually called a liberal. I suspect he was.

    On amendments: in the 111th presumably the Dems could have defeated most amendments, but it might have meant tough votes for some Dems in competitive states. In this Congress, there are probably lots of things that could pass.

    But Republicans may also potentially use amendments to (further) filibuster -- you can force (IIRC) multiple cloture votes on every amendment offered. It's bad enough to have two cloture votes on a bill; with open amendments and a party willing to exploit everything, it could easily take weeks to dispose of a bill even if there are 75 Senators in favor of it.

    1. Of course, why didn't I stop to think they would filibuster their own amendments!

    2. Don't know a lot about Senate procedure, but are these stalling tactics something that could be fixed under the rubric of filibuster reform? Could Reid dial them back with a simple majority vote at the beginning of the next session the same way he might change it to 55 votes for cloture? Is there any appetite for that as part of a reform package or do even reform-minded Senators want to cling to the slowness of their institution?

  4. I like it how the-man-who-would-be-senate-majority-leader is reduced to personal attacks against obscure (for most Americans that is)scholars. But I do think Yglesias deserves some credit as a honorary catch o the day (or at least quote of the day) about the tax votes that just happened: "Today the US Senate did something a little crazy and held two votes on tax policy operating under the rule that the side with the most votes would win. "

  5. My not-very-thought-out idea for reforming amendments is that instead of holding up-or-down votes on amendments (which has an immense amount of room for gaming the system) people could submit different versions of the bills and then the final vote would be an approval vote between versions of the bill and no change. There'd still need to be some amount of filter over how many alternatives could be proposed, but it seems like it would produce more reasonable results.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?