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View Diary: Filibuster Reform in Danger (25 comments)

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  •  There are many other ways to stall in the Senate (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    deep, phonegery, Mindful Nature, condorcet

    besides the filibuster.

    While talking out a measure is the most common form of filibuster in the Senate, other means of delaying and killing legislation are available. Because the Senate routinely conducts business by unanimous consent, one member can create at least some delay by objecting to the request. In some cases, such as considering a bill or resolution on the day it is introduced or brought from the House, the delay could be as long as a day. However, because the delay is a legislative day, not a calendar day, the majority can mitigate it by briefly adjourning.

    In many cases, the result of an objection to a unanimous request will be the necessity of a vote. Forcing votes may not seem an effective delaying tool, but the cumulative effect of several votes, which are at least 15 minutes, can be substantial. In addition to objecting to routine requests, votes can be forced through dilatory motions to adjourn and through quorum calls. The intended purpose of a quorum call is to establish the presence of a constitutional quorum, but senators routinely use them to waste time while waiting for the next speaker to come to the floor or for leaders to negotiate off the floor. In those cases, a senator asks unanimous consent to dispense with the quorum call. If a member objects, the clerk must continue to call the roll of senators just as is done with a vote. When a call shows no quorum, the minority can force another vote by moving to request or compel the attendance of absent senators. Finally, senators can force votes by moving to adjourn or raising specious points of order and appealing the ruling of the chair.

    The most effective methods of delay are those that force the majority to invoke cloture multiple times on the same measure. The most common example of this is to filibuster the motion to proceed to a bill, then filibuster the bill itself. The result is to force the majority to go through the entire cloture process twice in a row. Where, as is common, the majority seeks to pass a substitute amendment to the bill, a further cloture procedure is needed for the amendment.

    The Senate is particularly vulnerable to serial cloture votes when it and the House have passed different versions of the same bill and want to go to conference (i.e., appoint a special committee of both houses to merge the bills). Normally, the majority asks unanimous consent to

        Insist on its amendment or amendments (or disagree to the House's amendments);
        Request (or agree to) a conference; and
        Authorize the presiding officer to appoint conferees (members of the special committee).

    However, if the minority objects, each of those motions is debatable, and therefore subject to a filibuster, and are divisible, meaning the minority can force them to be debated (and filibustered) separately. What's more, after the first two motions pass, but before the third does, senators can offer an unlimited number of motions to give the conferees non-binding instructions, which are debatable, amendable, and divisible. As a result, a determined minority could cause a great deal of delay before a conference.

    The Senate is a horror show for anyone who hates to waste time.

    If cats could blog, they wouldn't

    by crystal eyes on Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 07:47:43 AM PST

    •  Harry Reed seems to want one big change (4+ / 0-)

      Limit the filibuster to only once per bill, at the end of the process.

      He seems really offended by the multiple filibusters during the lifecycle.   Secret hold and similar crap are along the same lines.

      This would preserve the filibuster as a last ditch defense of the minority without it just screwing with the calendar.  Republicans have been filibustering stuff that passed cloture with over 80 votes, just to waste 3 days of the calendar.

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