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United States Capitol dome at midday, east side.  July 28, 2011.  Photo by Mark Noel (mark.noel@mindspring.com).
Recapping yesterday's action:

The House held what amounts to yet another placeholder session, passing four suspension bills, seemingly just to keep the lights on until Thursday, which in recent weeks has become one of the only days with substantive legislation on the floor.

We're much more accustomed to seeing the Senate do nothing in particular on any given day, so it's not nearly as shocking for us to see it again. This time, the cause of the wasted day was the waiting period for the ripening of the cloture motion on the motion to proceed to the Rebuilding American Jobs Act, which will come due tomorrow.

But whereas the Senate has the excuse of the filibuster, the House is a place that can get through whatever it wants to get done, because it's strictly majoritarian. It's just that the House doesn't have anything it cares to get through. It's particularly stunning in combination, to see both houses do as close to nothing at all on the same day, in the middle of the week, while thousands are literally in the streets clamoring for action on jobs and economic reform.

Looking ahead to today:

The House has its only "serious business" of the week scheduled to begin tomorrow. Unfortunately, it's mostly more loosening of securities regulations being presented as "jobs" legislation, under the same, shopworn theories of how stuffing venture capital into executive pockets (but doing it with less regulation and paperwork) will eventually "trickle down" and... zzzzzzz. Oh, sorry. Fell asleep there.

The Senate will hold a vote on the motion to proceed to the Rebuild American Jobs Act. But there will actually be two votes on motions to proceed today. The one I just mentioned, but also one on a motion to proceed to S.1786, the Republican "alternative" bill, the "Long-Term Surface Transportation Extension Act."

Wonky rules discussion:

Strictly speaking, this stuff is inspired by, but doesn't belong under, the category of stuff that's happening today. So I'm separating it out. Where else can you discuss this sort of thing but here? And it deserves discussion, this idea that the minority will be offering its own motions to proceed now.

This seems to me to be setting yet another annoying precedent. It used to be that the minority didn't offer motions to proceed to their own stuff. That was just one of those things you didn't do. But hey, presto! Republicans are doing it! Democrats could have, it seems. Anyone could have. They just... didn't.

Worse still, I don't see any indication that the motion to proceed to the Republican bill was subject to a cloture filing. It appears they're just getting a vote on it as part of a deal, wherein both motions will require 60 votes to pass. That's a "painless filibuster" for both. But Dems had already filed their cloture motion, and it would have ripened an hour after the Senate convened today, meaning 11 a.m. Under the terms of this deal, the vote now isn't happening until 3 p.m., plus Republicans are getting a vote on a motion to proceed that will require 60 votes, but never required that a cloture motion be filed. Why let this vote happen?

Well, remember that even if Dems won the cloture vote at 11 (or whatever time they held it), that only establishes the fact that a vote on the motion to proceed will actually take place. A successful cloture vote doesn't pass the motion itself. That means that even with a successful cloture vote, Republicans could still stretch out post-cloture time for up to 30 hours, and the actual vote on the motion to proceed wouldn't take place until Friday. If you think you might actually win, well, then you can start work sooner rather than later. And if you think you're gonna lose, why blow your weekend on it? Just lose on Thursday and go home early.

Still, while the time savings may make a certain amount of sense, establishing a pattern of granting the minority votes on motions to proceed to their own bills seems like a serious power giveaway. You don't hold the door open for the minority to start trying to schedule floor business.

Seriously, something really has to be done about reforming the rules on post-cloture time. There's no reason in the world why a motion to proceed should need any post-cloture debate at all, let alone 30 hours. Post-cloture time is meant for the debate of any still-pending amendments. But you don't amend motions to proceed (or nominations, for that matter). So there's no reason to even have post-cloture debate on them.

But remember... THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE UNITED STATES SENATE. IT IS PERFECT AS IT IS, JUST AS THE FOUNDERS INTENDED.

It just coincidentally keeps changing, and adopting strange new practices that cede power to the minority that had been out of the question for the past 200 years. Because the Founders intended for us to wait a couple centuries and then all of a sudden invent all kinds of new crap. Isn't that weird?

Today's floor and committee schedules appear below the fold.

In the House, courtesy of the Office of the Democratic Whip:

THE NIGHTLY WHIP: WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2011

TOMORROW’S OUTLOOK
On Thursday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for Morning Hour debate and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.

First votes are expected between 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Last votes are expected between 6:00 – 7:00 p.m.

“One Minutes” (15 per side)

Motion to Go to Conference on H.R. 2112 – Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012 Motion to Instruct Conferees.

H.R. 2940 - Access to Capital for Job Creators Act (Rep. McCarthy (CA) - Financial Services) (Subject to a Rule)

The Rule provides for one hour of general debate and makes in order the following amendment:

Rep. Miller (NC) Amendment (10 minutes of debate)

Possible Consideration of H.R. 2930 - Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act (Rep. McHenry - Financial Services) (Subject to a Rule)

The Rule provides for one hour of general debate and makes in order the following amendments:

Rep. McHenry Manager’s Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Reps. Fincher/Sherman Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rep. Quayle Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rep. Velázquez Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Rep. Barrow Amendment (10 minutes of debate)
Reps. Perlmutter/ McHenry Amendment (10 minutes of debate)

In the Senate, courtesy of the Office of the Majority Leader:

Senate Floor Schedule for Thursday, November 3, 2011

Convenes: 10:00am

Following any Leader remarks, the Senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to S.1769, the Rebuild America Jobs Act.  The Republican Leader or his designee will be recognized to make a motion to proceed to S.1786, the Long-Term Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011 (Hatch).

The motions to proceed to S.1769 and S.1786 will be debated concurrently with the time until 3:00pm equally divided and controlled between the two Leaders or their designees.

At 3:00pm, the Senate will conduct up to 2 roll call votes.  The first vote will be on the motion to proceed to S.1769 with a 60-vote threshold.  If that is unsuccessful, the Senate will proceed to a 2nd vote on the motion to proceed to S.1786 with a 60-vote threshold.

We also expect to vote on a couple of judicial nominations during Thursday’s session.

Roll Call Votes

There were no roll call votes in the Senate yesterday.

Other Business

Senate Floor Wrap Up for Wednesday, November 2, 2011

LEGISLATIVE ITEMS

Passed Calendar #130, S.271, Wallowa conveyance

Passed Calendar #131, S.278, Arapaho-Roosevelt NF land exchange

Passed Calendar #139, S.535, Leasing in Ft. Pulaski National Monument

Passed Calendar #140, S.683, Mantua, Utah, conveyance

Passed Calendar #141, S.684, Alta, Utah, conveyance

Passed Calendar #142, S.808, Unitah Water Conservancy District contracts

Passed Calendar #143, S.897, SMCRA payments to States

Passed Calendar #145, S.997, East Bench Irrigation District

No EXECUTIVE ITEMS

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Comment Preferences

  •  The Senate rules will change (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maryabein, Stwriley, bear83, sgtlejeune

    the next time the Republicans take control of the Chamber.

    "Whenever a fellow tells me he's bipartisan, I know he's going to vote against me."-- Harry S. Truman

    by irmaly on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 06:08:06 AM PDT

  •  OT: Papandreou stepping down (0+ / 0-)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/...

    To be replaced be bootlicking bankster apparatchiks.

  •  I wonder how Harry Reid... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bear83, irmaly

    can justify dropping the ball so badly on reforming the filibuster when he had the chance. It was bone-headedly stupid and now we're stuck with a deadlocked Senate. We might have had a real chance to get something done if it was a functional Senate vs. Boehner's House.

    Conservito delenda est pro is deleo orbis terrarum!

    by Stwriley on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 06:13:42 AM PDT

    •  Just think what could have been done (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stwriley, sgtlejeune

      with a functional Senate vs. Pelosi's House.

      "Here is my principle: Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle." Franklin D. Roosevelt

      by bear83 on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 06:17:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  If the votes had been there... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stwriley, RhodaA

      If there had been 51 votes for the change, I don't know if he could have stopped it. So it was more than just Reid at work here. It's possible that he dissuaded some Dems from considering supporting the changes, but I think the reality was that there just weren't 51 supporters.

      Of course, a lot of that reality grew out of the fact that Senators had convinced themselves that there weren't 50 others, so they wouldn't stick their necks out. Sometimes there's a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy at work on these things. It can't happen, so I won't risk voting for it. Even though if I did risk it, it just might happen after all. That sort of thing.

    •  in *gulp* defense of the filibuster (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stwriley

      Perhaps Reid takes a longer view of things than some posters here.

      The filibuster, for all it is abused today, was fairly widely used even in the 19th century.  It actually does represent a useful tool for the minority party to exert some influence over the legislative agenda.  Although the basic principle of our republic is that majority rules, the winner-take-all system of our elections and legislative bodies allows for the minority party in either house to be basically ignored.  Given that the Senate was designed to be somewhat anti-democratic, and slow down legislative action, the filibuster as originally conceived seems to fit the founders ideas.

      There are all kinds of arguments for why occasionally slowing the process down may be beneficial.  Most reek of the stuff we used to talk about in my undergrad days as a poli/sci nerd (fairness, checks and balances, etc.)  Many are purely political (allow for the legislature to gauge public opinion on a given piece of legislation, apply public pressure, etc.)  What's more, it's not as if Democrats haven't turned to the filibuster at times when they were the minority party.

      All that being said, however, fundamental reform does need to happen.  The filibuster today is being abused.  200+ years of jurisprudence, and a legislature comprised mainly of attorneys, has given us a body of people versed in and willing to accept various legal 'fictions.'  Legislatively, this translates to what we have today:  the  constructive filibuster.

      Rather than demand a legislator or party actually hold the floor and continue debate indefinitely,  the party wishing the filibuster merely needs to express its intention to do so.  Unless the majority can muster the 60 votes needed to end debate, the filibuster stands, without anyone ever actually having to keep the floor.  

      Restore the filibuster to its original state.  Change the rules to require a filibuster to more closely resemble its historical self.  If you want to stop the business of the senate indefinitely, you must keep the floor indefinitely.  Bust out the dictionaries, the bibles, and the dense literature- and get reading.

      This would be hard.  So hard, in fact, that stopping the Senate from doing anything would be all but impossible unless it was an issue that actually was amenable to that.

      As an added bonus, perhaps some well read Senator can read War&Peace (or whatever other long, dense literature you prefer) into the record.

      •  And post-cloture time on motions? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Stwriley

        And nominations?

        That's what we were actually talking about.

        What does the legacy of the 19th century filibuster have to say about post-cloture time on motions to proceed, or nominations?

        Nothing, of course. Since there was no such thing as post-cloture time in the 19th century.

        But the relatively short history of cloture does tell us what the intent of including post-cloture time was: allowing for still-pending amendments to be considered. But since there aren't any amendments to motions to proceed or to executive and judicial nominations, what's the point?

        Post-cloture time on those matters only exists as an accidental relic of the drafting of cloture rules, written when no one had yet conceived of the possibility of filibustering procedural motions or nominations. They didn't even consider the possibility that a modified rule for non-amendable matters would be necessary.

        And so here we are.

        •  re: nominations (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Stwriley

          Agreed.  I mostly see the filibuster as applicable in the case of the actual vote on a piece of substantive legislation.  Not on nominees, and certainly not on any procedural votes.

          Some want reform of the filibuster, others suggest it should be done away with entirely.  I mostly felt like commenting on why I think reform is the better way to go.  I guess my simple one step reform isn't a one step reform anymore.

          1.  No filibusters on procedural votes, or on nominees.

          2.  A filibuster must actually take place on the Senate floor, if it is to happen.

          Two steps is still fairly simple, I suppose.

          •  Mine was simple, too. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Stwriley

            But now it's going to have to change.

            My small-bore reform was: make the motion to proceed non-debatable. And eliminate post-cloture time on nominations.

            That was the minimum I felt was necessary for reform.

            The only hitch in the plan was that making the motion to proceed non-debatable might invite the minority to begin offering multiple motions to proceed to their own preferred matters. But I was assured by procedural experts that that would never happen in a million years, and the prerogative to offer motions to proceed would always remain with the Majority Leader.

            That didn't even last a year.

            So now I have to revive my Plan B on that, which is a rule making motions to proceed non-debatable when offered by the Majority Leader or his designee.

            •  that is small bore (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Stwriley

              As it has been a while since I was using any parliamentary procedure, I want to make sure I've got what you're saying straight.

              The cloture vote is a procedural vote on whether to end debate and vote on the motion to proceed.

              The motion to proceed, if I recall, is a motion on whether to proceed with debate on the proposed legislation.  If I'm not mistaken about that, then I do think making this non-debatable is a good idea.  Debate ought to be saved for the actual debate on the legislation.

              I guess I would like to know this:  if my understanding is correct (and it very well may not be), what is the harm in allowing the minority party to move to proceed?  If they offer a motion that can't be debated, it seems there are two possible outcomes.  Either the motion fails altogether and there is no proceeding to debate, or the motion passes and the legislation fails to win passage from the majority.

              Although, I suppose that scheme would allow for a totally novel way of obstructing business in the Senate:  the introduction of frivolous legislation to prevent the majority from addressing their agenda.

              Is that [time wasting] the main harm to done by the minority offering motions to proceed?  Or, are there others I'm not thinking of?

  •  I was going to say the same thing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nzanne
    This seems to me to be setting yet another annoying precedent. It used to be that the minority didn't offer motions to proceed to their own stuff. That was just one of those things you didn't do. But hey, presto! Republicans are doing it! Democrats could have, it seems. Anyone could have. They just... didn't.

  •  Dear David, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sgtlejeune

    The Senate IS perfect as it is. Quityerbitchin.

    Sincerely,
    Joe Lieberman

    "Here is my principle: Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle." Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by bear83 on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 06:18:29 AM PDT

  •  Hey, (0+ / 0-)
    Seriously, something really has to be done about reforming the rules on post-cloture time. There's no reason in the world why a motion to proceed should need any post-cloture debate at all, let alone 30 hours. Post-cloture time is meant for the debate of any still-pending amendments. But you don't amend motions to proceed (or nominations, for that matter). So there's no reason to even have post-cloture debate on them.
    But remember... THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE UNITED STATES SENATE. IT IS PERFECT AS IT IS, JUST AS THE FOUNDERS INTENDED.

    It just coincidentally keeps changing, and adopting strange new practices that cede power to the minority that had been out of the question for the past 200 years. Because the Founders intended for us to wait a couple centuries and then all of a sudden invent all kinds of new crap. Isn't that weird?

    If you're already a millionaire, and get paid whether you work or not or deliver results or not, and get a world'o'perks too, why break a sweat?

    I'm sorry. Harry Reid is an idiot and the Dems should have canned the filibuster when they had the chance.

    They're either daft, have blinders, are corrupt, don't give a damn, or all of the above.

    Thump! Bang. Whack-boing. It's dub!

    by dadadata on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 06:18:34 AM PDT

  •  I have an idea so crazy it might even work: (0+ / 0-)

    Get rid of the filibuster. Just say "good riddance" and give it the hidey-ho. It would breathe new life into the La Brea tarpits aka the Senate.Just take a 50/50 vote - have the Veep cast the decider with his middle finger extended.

    Slow thinkers - keep right

    by Dave the Wave on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 06:27:31 AM PDT

  •  Sign of the Apocalypse. Seeing this on the FP. (0+ / 0-)
    • OH Redistricting: Guess who really, really, really loves the new Republican-drawn map of Ohio? And guess whose any remaining shreds of credibility as a useful member of the Democratic party went up in smoke? That's right: Dennis Kucinich.

    Assent- and you are sane- Demur- you’re straightway dangerous- And handled with a Chain- - Emily Dickinson

    by SpamNunn on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 06:52:33 AM PDT

  •  One thing to be done about it right now (0+ / 0-)

    is for Dems to schedule more press conferences and other TV appearances about it. They've been doing some absolutely great speeches about it in the senate, e.g., Schumer and many others, but nothing gets thru to MSM, and vast public has no idea what it going on. So they do have the power to do something more:
    @SenDems

    And if that doesn't work, they can stage a public relations filibuster. Tho Waldman explained its difficulty and futility, it doesn't matter -- what matters is getting attention and busting the "parties are the same" disgusting MSM manifesto.

    To me, this may be the biggest untold national story - a crime.

    If I tell you it's raining when it's raining, that's not promoting fear of rain. -- Rev. Al Sharpton

    by RhodaA on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 07:15:19 AM PDT

  •  Constitutional convention time (0+ / 0-)

    Radical: Abolish the Senate, give each state 2 Reps at large.

    Less radical: Simple majority carries all legislation, up-or-down votes only on presidential appointees.

    It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness - Eleanor Roosevelt

    by Fish in Illinois on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 09:45:21 AM PDT

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