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What Happened to the Senate?

March 24, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The U.S. Senate prides itself on being the world's greatest deliberative body. But if you turn on C-SPAN 2 right now, you'll see a Senate devolved into thoughtless obstruction and petty politicking. For the Senate as an institution, there is nothing "great" about what they are going to spend the rest of the night doing.

Since Monday, the Senate has been trying to get to an up-or-down vote on the Reconciliation Act of 2010, which makes a series of "fixes" to the new health care reform law and reforms the student loan industry. It's being considered under budget reconciliation rules, which limits debate time to 20 hours and denies the minority the ability to filibuster.

But, even though they can't filibuster, Senate Republicans are blocking the vote by forcing the Senate into an absurd process known as a "vote-a-rama." It's what happens when the time that is set aside for debate on a bill has ended, but there are still amendments pending that need to be voted on. The remaining amendments are brought up one by one and, without debate, voted on quickly and either adopted or rejected. No deliberation.

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