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View Diary: FISA: A lobbying (and procedure) lesson (69 comments)

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  •  Holds. (12+ / 0-)

    I was asked this question in e-mail earlier today. Specifically whether I thought Senator Feingold might do it.

    There are no real rules about holds. Holds don't really exist on their own as an independent right enshrined in the rules. They're a derivative of the Senate's preference for operating under unanimous consent.

    Although there are rules in existence for bringing bills to the floor over the objections of the minority, the Senate typically operates by unanimous consent, and bills that aren't cleared by the Majority and Minority Leaders (who are given the proxies of other Senators to buy into unanimous consent requests to bring bills to the floor) don't get moved.

    So here's how a hold works: If you want to hold a bill, you tell your party leader that if anyone asks for unanimous consent to bring that bill to the floor, you intend to object and withhold your consent. That would force whoever wants to bring the bill up to use the actual rules -- typically making a "motion to proceed" -- which is a bit of a pain in the ass, and requires getting an actual vote on whether or not to start debate on this bill.

    If you're a real jerk (and most Senators have no problem hinting that they are or could be), you'll show up and filibuster the motion to proceed. Then we're back in the familiar and annoying territory of needing 60 votes to do anything. And that's always dicey, especially in an atmosphere in which Senators will automatically get each others' backs even if they're doing something stupid, like filibustering a motion to proceed on a perfectly good and popular bill. You get another Senator's back on something stupid, because one day you'll need him to get yours on something equally stupid.

    So what it comes down to is that the "hold" is simply a matter of "professional courtesy." I want a bill held, so I notify my party leader of my intention to object to any unanimous consent request to bring the bill to the floor. Implied in that is the hint that I will make everyone sorry they brought it up if they don't just give me what I want, and they know by now that any Senator can do that, so they might as well just go ahead and hold it, for the sake of everyone's sanity.

    Why is the hold secret? Again, professional courtesy. The party leaders could throw the guy under the bus if they felt like it, but only at the risk of having that pissed off Senator (and all his stupid friends) retaliate against the leaker, filibuster all his bills, etc. And since it's a party leader, they could vote him out on his ass, too.

    So it's honored in the first place, and kept secret, because the party leaders don't want to make their constituents (in this case, their fellow Senators who elected them to leadership and can unelect them, too) mad.

    Could Feingold or anyone else put a hold on the wiretapping bill?

    Yes he could.

    Why might he not agree to do so? Because the flip side to everything I said above is that Senators who are wetting their pants that they'll be labeled soft on terror, etc. if they don't cave to Bush will threaten him with the same kind of retribution they can visit on a party leader who gives up their cover on a secret hold. If you hold this bill, Russ, I will hold everything you introduce, filibuster everything you want to do, object to every unanimous consent request you make, and generally nuke you for as long as I'm here in the Senate. And I'll get my friends to do it, too, and there will be enough of us that you'll never be able to single us out for retribution.

    •  I'd be ok with that. (7+ / 0-)

      At this point, a Senator whose sole role is to stop bad legislation from reaching the floor would be preferable to one that "gets things done" considering the kinds of things that are getting done lately.

    •  So it's either that... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gpclay, cometman, JohnB47, MikeTheLiberal

      ...or fist fights and canings on the Senate floor make a surprisingly swift comeback...

      (Then again, in this day and age, they could make a ton of money offing that as pay-per-view...)

      •  You assume that... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        You assume that more than a few Senators of either party have a problem with (a) the way the FISA bill is proceeding (b) the contents of the bill itself.  The way events have developed since November 2006 I don't think they have any problem with this FISA or any problem with even more brutal FISAs and that they are quite content with the way it is all playing out.


        •  No. I was more referring to... (1+ / 0-)
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          ...the parliamentary procedure, verses any specific bill...

          But I see what you are saying.  Given the fact that the working majority is in bed together, and owned by the same corporate masters, this POS will sail...

    •  When are we going to have members of Congress (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gpclay, Simplify

      start blogging about this stuff?  It seems to me a lot of this petty high school horseshit would go away with a little sunshine.  If Russ blogged about putting a hold on the bill, and then blogged/"outed" all the Dems that threaten him on the hold, wouldn't that act as a very big deterrent to petty retaliations?  Wouldn't that make the base much more aware of who's standing in the way of real reform, and who's enabling this government to get worse and worse?

      I'm spitballing and I haven't thought through the long-term implications of this, but I just naturally gravitate towards greater transparency about the workings of our government and our members of Congress.

      Civic spirit drowns in a hurricane of mere survivalism - McKenzie Wark

      by cfaller96 on Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 12:50:16 PM PDT

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      •  Hell, (0+ / 0-)

        I think it would happen pretty damn quick if you guys could convince Kagro X to run for the Senate (sorry, have no choice but to opt out, since I'm Canadian).

        Closest I can get, legally, to contributing to US politics is donating to keep Bill in Portland Maine blogging.

        Sure, he comes across quiet and avuncular. Until he gets mad ... then he sounds like God on a bad day. ~ Dallasdoc on Senator Patrick Leahy

        by KiaRioGrl79 on Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 07:39:08 PM PDT

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    •  How often do those retributions happen, btw? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gpclay, cometman, Simplify

      I know that they're a serious concern among Members, but does this ever happen?  It's not like no one ever misbehaves enough to warrant them....

      Don't be so far above politics that you can't help clear the snakes down on the ground. (P.S.: my opinions are mine, not my employer's.)

      by Major Danby on Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 01:06:57 PM PDT

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      •  Nobody knows! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Major Danby

        How often did the United States and Soviet Union try nuclear war just to find out if it would work?

        Of course, nobody dies (directly) because of what goes on in the Senate. But it's a club. Nobody rocks the boat if they don't have to. Particularly if they're told (or instinctively feel) what the potential dangers are.

    •  i just dont buy the 'soft on terror" excuse (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gpclay, maxschell, grrr, Simplify, KiaRioGrl79

      not at this time in our nations current climate, not at all.  I think the 'soft on terror' is just an excuse handed to people like us as a way of not having to actually admit they agree with the chit they have helped bush do.

      at SOME point we have to call them on the 'soft on terror' BS... now is that time.


      by KnotIookin on Fri Oct 12, 2007 at 01:09:55 PM PDT

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