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This Week's Events Reinvigorate Last Week's Discourse

February 12, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate and House of Representatives will be trading tasks for the rest of the week. Each chambers will spend the week debating what their opposite chamber debated last week; the Senate will focus on the House-passed continuing resolution that will fund much of the federal government for the current fiscal year, while the House of Representatives will attempt to pass what the Senate failed to pass last week: an Iraq resolution.

As Carl Hulse points out in the New York Times’ Caucus blog, this flip-flopping is going to make clear some major differences with the way the House and Senate are designed to work:

>In contrast to the Senate, the Republican minority in the House has very little ability to gum up the procedural works. So if the Democrats insist on a vote, there is not much Republicans can do except to try to hold their defections to a minimum. House Republican leaders and the White House are resigned to seeing some of their party side with Democrats against Mr. Bush.

The same blog has the text of the Iraq resolution that House Democrats will be pushing this week.

Attempts to approve an Iraq resolution in the Senate last week stalled after a series of procedural maneuvers ultimately gave the Republican minority the upper hand, allowing them to block debate on the resolutions by default filibuster.

In case you missed it, Mark Tapscott has an interesting post about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) dismay with the Republican-commanded 60-vote requirement for passing an Iraq resolution. Reid had claimed that: “the vast majority of legislation that is passed here is by simple majority,” and not by a 60-vote super-majority. However, Tapscott calculates that:

>During the 109th Congress, which was controlled by the GOP, there were a total of 40 measures that underwent roll call votes in 2005 and 38 more in 2006 (not counting judicial nominations or amendments), according to the Senate Republican Policy Committee.

>Of that total of 78 measures with a rollcall vote, all but six had to have at least 60 votes to gain passage. Of the remaining six that received less than 60 votes, five were not subject to a 60-vote requirement in the first place.

>In other words, when Reid was Senate Minority Leader, exactly one measure was allowed to pass with a simple majority.

Lanny Davis, on The Hill’s Pundit Blog, has a somewhat opposite analysis of the whole thing. He argues that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was the one who dropped the ball on the Iraq resolutions last week. He argues that McConnell has “fudged” the facts of last week’s procedural gridlock, and proposes some tough questions for the press to ask of McConnell:

>1. Sen. McConnell, just last year you criticized Democrats for not allowing 51 senators to vote up or down on judicial nominations. Do you make a distinction between allowing the Senate to vote by majority vote on judges, but not on questions of war and peace, life and death?

>2. Sen. McConnell: You and your Republican colleagues in the Senate and House criticize the Democrats for introducing a “non- binding” resolution opposing a president’s surge plan rather than a binding one. But why didn’t you criticize House Republicans in 1995 when they voted on and passed a non-binding resolution opposing President Clinton’s decision to use air power to stop genocide in Kosovo (which, as will be recalled, he was successful in doing, despite opposition from many GOP members)?

For a good overview of all the political jockeying in Congress lately, check out this op-ed from The Argus. The article, called, The Hypocrisy Factor, expounds further on how all of the recent role-exchanging in Congress has made it a hotbed for hypocrisy.

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Comments

  • Anonymous 02/27/2007 1:40am

    Like most Americans, I don’t understand the parliamentary nuances of the defeat of the cloture motion in the US Senate. As I understand it, a motion for cloture is invoked in order to bring debate to an end. Therefore, with the GOP defeating the cloture motion, should not vigorous and lengthy debate over the Iraq resolution have immediately ensued?

  • Anonymous 02/27/2007 6:07pm

    Really good point. I think a lot of people have felt left out of the parliamentary nuances that shaped what has happened with the Iraq bills in the Senate so far. I have put up a post that attempts to explain how cloture was invoked in these instances. Hope it is helpful.

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