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Collins' Defense Debate Numbers Don't Jibe With Historical Record

December 8, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Susan Collins [R, ME] is considered one of the Republicans that the Democrats have to get on board to overcome a GOP filibuster and pass the 2011 DoD Authorization bill that includes a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The vote will likely take place this evening, but discussions between Democrats and Collins have hit a wall because Collins wants time to hold an open debate on the bill. The Democrats have offered to allow 15 votes on amendment — 10 from GOP and 5 from Dems — but they don’t want an open-ended debate because 1) they want to go home and 2) they don’t want to allow people like Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK] and Sen. Jim DeMint [R, SC], who are infamous for proposing non-germane amendments, to crash the whole thing over an unrelated poison-pill on sex offenders or something.

According to a Collins aide who spoke with Plum Line, “Collins has pointed out to Reid that the average number of days spent debating previous defense authorization bills has been 11 days, with an average of 14 or so amendments considered. Collins has asked Reid to come up with a comparable offer, the spokesman says.”

I took a quick look through the legislative histories of Defense Authorization bills of years past, and, going back to 2003, I found that most of the bills passed in a single day and the longest debate was 9 days. That makes the average length of debate for these years to be less than 3 days.

Year Bill Length of Senate debate
2010 H.R.2647 Passed in 1 day by unanimous consent.
2009 S.3001 Passed by roll call vote after 8 days of debate.
2008 H.R.1588 Passed by roll call vote after 9 days of debate.
2007 H.R.5122 Passed in 1 day by unanimous consent.
2006 H.R.1815 Passed in 1 day by unanimous consent.
2005 H.R.4200 Passed in 1 day by unanimous consent.
2004 H.R.1588 Passed in 1 day by unanimous consent.
2003 H.R.4546 Passed in 1 day by unanimous consent.

Greg at the Plum Line is careful to point out that nobody is alleging that Collins is negotiating in bad faith, and I’m not trying to call anyone out here at all. I just wanted to put together the data because Collins’ 11-day average figure struck me as unrealistically high. Also, sometimes looking at the historical record gives a better picture of the past than a subjective remembrance.

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