Harry Reid pulls the trigger on filibusters.
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) just moments ago announced that he will immediately file a cloture motion on the Reed-Levin troop redeployment bill and, if Republicans follow through with a filibuster, will place the Senate in a prolonged all-night session Tuesday to force a true continuation of debate.
“Now, Republicans are using a filibuster to block us from even voting on an amendment that could bring the war to a responsible end,” said Reid. “They are protecting the President rather than protecting our troops. They are denying us an up or down – yes or no – vote on the most important issue our country faces.”
Woot. Maybe he reads blogs.
The procedural details of Reid’s move remain a touch unclear to me – while it amuses me that he can use quorum calls to force the Pubs to filibuster the way we did in ye olden days, maybe a lawyer can explain what exactly happens when the 30 hours run out. The text of the relevant rule reads:
After no more than thirty hours of consideration of the measure, motion, or other matter on which cloture has been invoked, the Senate shall proceed, without any further debate on any question, to vote on the final disposition thereof to the exclusion of all amendments not then actually pending before the Senate at that time and to the exclusion of all motions, except a motion to table, or to reconsider and one quorum call on demand to establish the presence of a quorum (and motions required to establish a quorum) immediately before the final vote begins.
Does that mean that the coveted upprdown vote will definitely happen after thirty hours of debate, or am I missing something?
Even if Reid’s move amounts to a pointless stunt it has already put the GOP’s filibuster tic at the top of the news, which is where Republicans don’t want it. Reading the phone book for a day and a half won’t hold up the Senate any worse than Republicans already have done. The only difference is that now we can see whether they will still do it with the country watching.
Needless to say, invoking Rule 22 moves the Jumpin’ Joe doomsday clock to roughly fifteen seconds before midnight. Historians can debate whether the minimal political consequences (Reid stays Majority Leader) outweigh the benefit of having the news media stop referring to Lieberman as a “petitioning Democrat,” “Independent Democrat” or any other kind of Democrat. Jump, Joe, Jump.
As I now understand it Rule 22 doesn’t have all that much to do with an actual filibuster – Democrats will do all the talking while Republicans just sort of sit around and watch. I get the point; if you want to debate, let’s debate. Still, the optics of this don’t really work for me. To most people this could easily look like the Democrats forcing Republicans to sit around and be lectured to, sort-of in retaliation for Republicans invoking a filibuster.
I get the point that a real filibuster would probably end with a rhetorical defeat when Dems eventually tire of listening to Mitch McConnell talk. I also get that gumming up the Senate is what the Republicans want anyway. The basic problem is that with a filibuster Joe teevee consumer can turn on the tube, see some Republican reading from the phone book and he’ll come to the appropriate conclusion. Republicans want to hold up the Senate with a silly procedural move. Maybe he saw Mr. Smith when he was a kid.
Unlike a filibuster, here Joe consumer will see Democrats up front and, honestly, it won’t be that much of a stretch for him to think that maybe some of this Congressional logjam is the Dems’ fault. After all, it’s the Dems who won’t let the Congress go on with its business, right? Look at the podium and you see a Dem talking.
It’s a small point, about as fundamentally inconsequential as the stunt itself. But since the whole thing is theater I wish we could give better theater.