Roll Call (subscription):
Traditionally, the Senate passes noncontroversial measures by unanimous consent at the end of most workdays, a process known as hot-lining. DeMint, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and others have fought against the practice for years and have dedicated staff members to reviewing bills that are to be hot-lined.
As a result, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have generally given DeMint, Coburn and others time to review legislation before proceeding with unanimous consent agreements.
But in a terse e-mail sent to all 100 Senate chiefs of staff Monday evening, Steering Committee Chief of Staff Bret Bernhardt warned that DeMint would place a hold on any legislation that had not been hot-lined or been cleared by his office before the close of business Tuesday.
In my "travels" (like, two of them) speaking on the need for Senate rules reform, I'm often asked what it would mean to have eliminated or curtailed the filibuster if Republicans took the majority. And I usually answer that it's pretty unlikely that a Teabagger-infused Republican rank-and-file would stand for the "we don't have the votes" excuse, reminding people that the Mitch McConnell-led Republican Senate is a possibility long gone and that the next Republican Senate will be a Jim DeMint Senate.
I probably should have added that we're already living with one.
But the question most likely on your mind right now is, "Why do Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell hand over the keys to DeMint?"
And the answer is: time.
Let's say Reid wants to ignore DeMint's demands, and run the Senate his way. First he begins on the path to passing one of these "hotlined" bills by asking unanimous consent to bring it up for consideration on the Senate floor. DeMint objects. Round One is now over, and DeMint wins.
Round Two: Reid makes a motion to proceed to the measure DeMint objects to. DeMint filibusters. Reid files a cloture petition. But cloture can't be voted on until the passage of a full calendar day after the day on which the petition is filed. So that's two days of Senate time wasted right there, even if cloture passes 99-1. Round Two is now over, and DeMint wins, because that's two days spent on debating whether or not to end debate on the question of whether or not to begin debate on this thing that DeMint objects to. And mind you, it's probably the naming of a post office, not the tax bill you'd rather be spending those two days on.
Round Three: The cloture motion passes 99-1. Senate rules, however, provide for up to 30 hours of post-cloture debate. And because it's in the political interest of Republicans to waste as much time in a Democratic Senate as possible, DeMint's allies help him eat that time up. Round Three is now over, and DeMint wins, because another day and a half is wasted debating the already decided question of whether or not to end debate on the question of whether or not to begin debate on the bill.
Round Four: Debate finally begins on this thing that DeMint objected to. DeMint filibusters again. Reid files another cloture petition, but once again has to waste two days before being allowed to vote on it. DeMint wins.
Round Five: Two days after filing for cloture, the cloture vote is held, and it passes 99-1. But again, there are up to 30 more post-cloture hours to kill, which can't be spent debating the tax bill. DeMint wins.
Round Six: A vote is finally held on naming that post office, and it passes 100-0! Everybody loved that bill after all! Reid "wins!"
Approximate time elapsed: Eight days. (Assuming a Monday cloture filing, "normal" working hours, and no weekend session.) Only 375 more bills passed by the House but untouched by the Senate to go!
So, anyone for some Senate rules reform? Or do we think Chancellor DeMint isn't going to pull this ladder up behind him if the roles are reversed?