(Bumped -- kos)
Currently on the Senate floor: continuing debate on the motion to proceed to consideration of the Intel committee version of the new FISA bill.
Earlier today, a cloture motion passed by a vote of 76-10. That means a maximum of 30 hours of debate remained on the motion. They're not debating the bill yet, even though that's the subject they're talking about on the floor.
The Senate may at some point agree by unanimous consent to limit or do away with the balance of that 30 hours and proceed to consideration of the bill itself. To this point, there is no such agreement.
Also earlier, Majority Leader Harry Reid sought to secure a unanimous consent agreement that all amendments to the bill require 60 votes to pass -- this is the "painless filibuster" I've been telling you about.
Now, for the visually inclined, I highly recommend the flow-chart in this diary by packerland progressive. With the one caveat that an unanimous consent request could still be adopted that would require 60 votes for all amendments, the chart covers all the basic possibilities of regular procedure.
I'll get out of the way of the ongoing commentary now, and give you the rest of the sordid details below the fold.
Unsurprisingly, Dodd objected to the unanimous consent request Reid floated earlier. But what was surprising was that he asked what appeared to be the first actual questions about these 60 vote agreements that have been put to Harry Reid on the floor. Certainly the first I've seen. But it's hard to believe Senators haven't fully contemplated this stuff before. But hey, you never know. They're busy people. Glad they finally got around to it.
Also raising eyebrows: Kit Bond, on behalf of Republicans, groused that if there was no 60 vote agreement reached on the amendments, then Republicans would utilize "the prerogatives of the Senate" to forestall further consideration of the bill.
Ha ha! That's a good one! "Prerogatives of the Senate!" Let's talk about that one some time, shall we?
For those of you who don't speak the jargon, Bond was saying that if he couldn't get unanimous consent for the "painless filibuster," then Republicans would actually filibuster.
Hallelujah! The floor is yours, Senator Bond! Yeah, right.
Anyway, depending on how hard Dodd wants to drive this thing, he can make a real problem for Reid's schedule (and everyone else's, which might not make him any friends). Right now, some 28 hours or so of debate are still pending on the motion to proceed, and only then will the bill get to the floor. If Dodd objects to any unanimous consent agreement to shorten that time, that means that even if we go around the clock, we'll be debating the motion and not the bill until tomorrow evening.
At that point, or at whatever point we end debate on the motion, the plan is to have the bill come to the floor, with the Judiciary committee substitute (with no telecom amnesty in it) pending first for debate and a vote. That amendment will require several hours of debate, at least. That could put us as late as the early morning hours of Wednesday, if Dodd wants to go there.
And only then, if that substitute is not adopted, would the actual Dodd filibuster have to begin.
Even if Reid files for cloture immediately, Senate rules require two days for the cloture motion to "lay over," meaning that if Dodd and any allies can hold the floor the whole time, there might not be any further progress on the bill until late Thursday or early morning Friday, at which point the business pending would be a cloture vote on Dodd's filibuster.
And once that's dispensed with, there are still numerous other amendments that require consideration. And we're already into Friday, if Dodd pushes the limits.
Looming in the background here, of course, is the Senate's desire to adjourn for the Christmas holiday, and indeed to close the first session of the 110th Congress, even as other critical pieces of legislation wait for action. At some point, Harry Reid may well have to consider whether it's worth waiting Dodd and his allies out to get this bill passed, instead of suspending work on it and taking up the other things waiting in the wings. After all, the current FISA law doesn't sunset until February, so they do have some breathing room, even if they're convinced just letting the law expire won't do.
So this could go on for some time yet, and there will be real pressures for Reid to consider giving up. We'll have to wait and see where it goes, and the first clue will be whether the Senate can reach any kind of agreement on limiting the time remaining on the motion to proceed.