Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 24, 2010

PETTINESS EVEN TRUMPS NATIONAL SECURITY.... We talked earlier about the latest Republican tactic: refusing to allow the Senate to hold any hearings, on any issue, after 2 p.m. The point is to spite Democrats for passing health care reform. The GOP tantrum continues today in ways that are breathtakingly stupid.

The Senate Armed Services Committee, for example, has scheduled some pretty important hearings this afternoon. Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) appeared on the Senate floor earlier, imploring his colleagues to let his hearings continue.

"We've had, we have three [U.S. military] commanders scheduled to testify this afternoon. They've been scheduled for a long time. They've come a long, long distance. One of them has come from Korea; one of them has come from Hawaii. And I would, therefore, ask unanimous consent that the previously scheduled and currently scheduled hearing of the Committee on Armed Services be allowed to proceed."

Levin added that the committee's ranking member, John McCain, also wants the hearing to proceed, and the hearing would not conflict with any scheduled floor votes. Among those scheduled to testify are Adm. Robert Willard, Navy Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command; Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command; and Gen. Walter Sharpe, Army Commander of U.S. forces in Korea.

All Levin needed was for the Senate to let the hearing occur, as would be normal on any other day. But that requires unanimous consent, and Sen. Richard Burr (R) of North Carolina rose to explain that there's "an objection on our side of the aisle."

So there will be no hearing, because the increasingly pathetic Republican caucus is miffed that the Senate majority voted for a bill the GOP didn't like.

Scheduled hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee have also been suspended, because they were slated to begin after 2, and the GOP refuses to allow the hearings to happen.

I've seen more maturity from second graders than from the Republican caucus of the United States Senate.

In terms of messaging, though, I think Ezra has the right idea:

I could imagine a lot of smart ways to begin obstructing the chamber and making life miserable for Democrats. But declaring that you won't work after 2 p.m? Do Republicans really think the average American is going to rally to that battle cry?

If Senate Dems want to see Republicans scramble, they'd run with this one. Have the leadership hold a press conference and announce, "We're stunned that Republicans won't let the Senate function after 2 p.m. American workers don't the option to just stop working at 2 because he or she feels like it, and there's no reason their Republican senators should just call it a day after lunch. Republicans have gone from the party that only says "no" to the party that's too lazy to say anything at all."

Steve Benen 1:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (49)

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Klein is right. Run with it, Harry, run with it.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 24, 2010 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

yeah, i remember how well it work for newtie when he shut down washington.

push this as far as it will go dems.....

Posted by: just bill on March 24, 2010 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

as always, the Dims' message is made all the dimmer by the media's neglect. But a continued Repugnant shut-down will eventually get picked up...yeah, ask the newtster about that...

Posted by: neill on March 24, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously, tree bark is one thing but if they start blocking military commanders from testifying that's the kind of thing you make ads about.

This is the second day in a row of this, couldn't they just start rescheduling the meetings for early in the morning? Or announce they'll be working through weekends or through the break since the republicans have made this the only way to get work done? It seems like this is the sort of thing the democrats will have to act to draw attention to it if they want the public to notice it's happening.

Posted by: mcc on March 24, 2010 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Out here in the real world, people start work at 7:00 in the morning.

F*ck the Republicans. Start Congressional hearings at 12:01 a.m. and run them until 2:00 in the afternoon.

Republicans are counting on the Democrats to be as arrogant and lazy as they are. Make them work evenings and weekends, instead of just Tuesday through Thursday.

Posted by: SteveT on March 24, 2010 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

A lobbyist friend of mine says this happens all the time -- that's he's been in plenty of Hill hearings where everyone was forced to clear the room at 2pm, and that Dems and GOPers are both very guilty of this.

Does anyone know, therefore, if what's going on now is substantially different than all the other times?

Posted by: A DC Wonk on March 24, 2010 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

This is a total gimme. Dems need to run with this one.

Posted by: Jon on March 24, 2010 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Start the day at 4am. Schedule all testimony requested by repubs at 2pm.

Posted by: JoeW on March 24, 2010 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Mr Burr there is going to be an objection on my side of the isle come November. Living in NC.

Posted by: EC Sedgwick on March 24, 2010 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Tie their 'bankers hours' to their ties to wall street, as well as comparing their shortened hours/work ethic to the near 20% unemployed who would love to work, and you get a real two-fer.

Posted by: bubba on March 24, 2010 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Oh please. Enough already. What's next? Holding breath until they turn blue and pass out? Do away with the 2PM rule and send these truants to their offices at once with no dinner.

Posted by: FC on March 24, 2010 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

That's OK. I'm sure Faux "news" will be all over this anti-military posturing by the GOP.

Posted by: Bulworth on March 24, 2010 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

How many votes do the Dems need to overrule the lack of unanimous consent?

Posted by: martin on March 24, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

You guys still dont get it. Doing anything at all would require the Dems to actually *do something* and they have shown they wont do much when required. Im sick of the inaction from both sides. I fully expect it from Republicans as they are throwing their usual tantrums, but the Dems should be better than that and need to actually LEAD. We lost our majority so its incumbent on us to work even harder, but then, even when we had the majority, we did nothing with it. I really dont want to think about what things will be like should things change dramatically for Dems in November.

Posted by: Litterbox on March 24, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

The real questions are where in the hell did this idiot rule come from and how can it be removed ?

I have never in my life heardm read, or seen cry-babies of this magnitude throwing a tantrum for other reason then to be bothersome.

Posted by: ScottW714 on March 24, 2010 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

This sums up my feelings and thoughts EXACTLY, Steve.


Posted by: limu on March 24, 2010 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Senatorial Republicans need to be fired if they refuse to help government run our nation. Vote the tantrum throwers out. Good citizens of America, start the campaign now - Fire the Republicans (FTR)! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 24, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

The answer to Ezra is that the Republicans can get away with these tactics if the media refuse to cover it, and the Democrats don't manage to get the word out. There's been no mention of the "won't work after 2PM" temper tantrum on NPR this morning, for example.

Posted by: Joe Buck on March 24, 2010 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

To A DC Wonk: ask your lobbyist friend if a party has ever decided to shut down all committee meetings after 2PM, as opposed to one particular committee's meeting.

Posted by: Joe Buck on March 24, 2010 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

They need to run some TV ads and let it go viral. Something along the lines of wanting to do the people's business on bankers hours.

Then they need to file suit against the repubs for breaching their contract with the American public.

It's time to bring the heat.

Posted by: bdop4 on March 24, 2010 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

So the Republican senators are refusing to work, eh? Then take their frakking government-run health care benefits away from them! Let them, especially the overweight or alcohollic ones buy their own insurance.

Posted by: chrenson on March 24, 2010 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'm really looking forward to Republicans getting to the "bargaining" stage...

Posted by: Nied on March 24, 2010 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Exhibit 1,256
Let's make the obstructionists OBSOLETE - vote Democratic in November.

Posted by: Marko on March 24, 2010 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

All public employees, from federal, state, county, city, etc. stop work at 2:00pm. All Union workers stop working at 2:00pm. Everybody stop working at 2:00pm, out of respect for our most esteemed Senators.
Oh, except for illegal aliens, since they are not subject to the rights of us Real Americans. That way at least we will all be fed, since they do the work Real Americans won't do.

Posted by: st john on March 24, 2010 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

OT but, holy crap!

Law enforcement authorities are investigating the discovery of a cut propane gas line at the Virginia home of Rep. Tom Perriello’s (D-Va.) brother, whose address was targeted by tea party activists angry at the congressman’s vote for the health care bill. ... POLITICO reported on Monday that Mike Troxel, an organizer for the Lynchburg Tea Party, posted on his blog what he thought was the congressman’s address, encouraging tea party activists to “drop by.” ... The address has since been posted on websites of at least one other local tea party activist.


via AmericaBlog:

If the investigation concludes that it was intentional, and intentionally directed at a person they thought was the congressman himself, that would make this an act of terrorism. Teabagger terrorism. Republican inspired terrorism. Stay tuned.


(sorry, my href's suck)

Posted by: MsJoanne on March 24, 2010 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

This is so unfair! After this health care thing passed all the Republican Senators had to go out and find a second job so that they can afford their mandatory health insurance. That's why they can no longer show up for work in the Senate after 2 pm. John McCain had to take a job with Mitt Romney, chasing kids from the lawn of Mitt's estate! Mitt said John's a natural.

Posted by: eserwe on March 24, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

@Litterbox: We didn't lose our majority. The Senate still has 58 Democrats (59, counting Lieberman, who caucuses with them). That's 8 more Democrats than you need to have a majority with a Democratically-controlled White House.

The House, likewise, still has a majority of Democrats.

Hard to tell what you really meant.

Posted by: Kenneth G. Cavness on March 24, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Start the day at 6am. 6-2 - 8 hr shift. Schedule R witnesses for 6-8 am.

Posted by: bigtuna on March 24, 2010 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

I love what the Republicans are doing. I watch in great amusement as they throw the rope over the beam and secure it, make a nice clean hangman's knot straight out of the book, place a stool in a strategic spot, climb up on the stool, and...

Posted by: pw on March 24, 2010 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously. Imagine the shoe on the other foot! Imagine the Rush/Glenn conniptions. Imagine how very quickly the Republicans would vote down the obscure 2:00pm rule.

What absolutely tools.

Posted by: chrenson on March 24, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Once again, this only matters if the public KNOWS WHAT IS HAPPENING. Given that the MSN appears to want to ignore the issue (suprise surprise) its imcumbent upon Democrats to make it an issue. So use some of that $2 million they got over the last couple of days and start running ads.

Talk about senior military commanders made to twiddle their thumbs in Washington by Republicans. Talk about 'banker's hours'. Make fun of Reputlicans who can't put in a fulls days work. Compare guys who make six figure salaries quiting at 2pm while people living paycheck to paycheck put in 12 hour days.

Make certain every Democrat who talks to a reporter brings this up.

Reid needs to schedule a vote to repeal the rule.

Democrats need to quit being passive and take the fight to the Republicans. Don't just take it, scream about it, make the MSN report it. Make Republicans have to defend their actions to the public.

Posted by: thorin-1 on March 24, 2010 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Its a trifecta of stupid:

1 - fiscally conservative? to fly a bunch of high-paid brass in front around the world and then have them waste a day?

2 - disrespectful to the military and security?

3 - because its after 2:00, when me and almost everyone else I know is still at work?

Seriously, if we lose seats this November, either we're incompetent at campaigning or self-governance with this general public is a lost cause. (and I am aware those are not mutually exclusive.)

Posted by: zeitgeist on March 24, 2010 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Bubba got my bankers' hours idea and trumped it with the unemployment angle.

I award him the thread.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on March 24, 2010 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

The Democrats and the scheduled witnesses should show up in the hearing room and make a big show of waiting for the Republicans to show up. *That* would get some media coverage.

Posted by: Kilgore Trout on March 24, 2010 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

What Kilgore said, and then some.
Why does there need to be "consent" of any kind, let alone "unanimous consent," for a bunch of public servants to sit down in their own place of work, after formal working hours, to have an informal meeting with people who had been invited to a formal meeting, now cancelled due to exigent circumstances?
Have the Dem Senators ask the questions; have the high brass give their answers; all on their own time and dime.
If it can't happen, for whatever reasons, in the actual Senate chamber, or Committee rooms, have these informal meetings in the hallways, or the Rotunda -- or if the weather's nice, out on the front steps, or the Mall. Wherever the tevvee consultants (they do have at least one or two of those, no?) say would look best.
Dem's look good -- Publicans look like, well...

Posted by: smartalek on March 24, 2010 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Senator Isakson is in the hospital recovering from a bacterial infection. Wonder if he would appreciate the hospital stopping work after 2PM?

Posted by: ComradeAnon on March 24, 2010 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!!! Isn't that the GOPpers mantra? I say RUN WITH IT MEDIA...there are PLENTY of people in this country that would take the Senator's pay and not do anything.

Posted by: SYSPROG on March 24, 2010 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Burr is my senator, he is a worthless piece of trash, last month he attended a meeting for lobbyists with Pat Toomey who is running for office, the meeting was asking for money to promote the corporate agenda and quash the populist agenda.
Burr is up for re election this year, anyone who can, please help get him out!
Elaine Marshall of NC is running on the democratic ticket against him.
More NC news for anyone that has not heard, Billy Kennedy, who seems pretty good is running against our public disgrace - Virginia Foxx.

Posted by: JS on March 24, 2010 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Boehner wants to play golf that's all. He no longer needs to scowl at the camera.

Posted by: MLJohnstom on March 24, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

"A DC Wonk" is right on this, apparently. Dems have used this too. In 1997 they shut down the committee hearings as a way of getting back at Lott. (It's not 2PM, necessarily, but 2 hrs after the Senate convenes- so today they shut down at 11AM. And it's all or none on the committees.) See the link on Ezra's site.

This would be a good time to change this rule, even if it takes 67 votes.

Posted by: Tim H on March 24, 2010 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

From Ezra's site-

Update: My colleague Paul Kane notes that this isn't specifically a 2 p.m. rule. Rather, the Senate needs unanimous consent to continue work two hours after it's gaveled into sessions. So it could be earlier than 2 p.m. And it turns out to be an old minority trick that Democrats have used too. This is further evidence, I think, that it's long past time to clean the Senate rulebook and get rid of the minority's ability to throw these procedural tantrums.

Here's the link to the 1997 article (reference to this tactic is at the very end.)


Posted by: Tim H on March 24, 2010 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Electoral gold. The message: Voters need to drag the Repubs out of office like the embarassed parents of a toddler throwing a fit in grocery store or restaurant.

Posted by: Nancy B. on March 24, 2010 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

From Rudyard Kipling's "Martha's Sons"

Looks like the Democrats might be the "Sons of Martha:"

"They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not preach that His Pity allows them to drop their job when they damn-well choose."

Looks like the Republicans definitely consider themselves the Sons of Mary:

"And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd -- they know the Angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessèd, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the feet -- they hear the Word -- they see how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and -- the Lord He lays it on Martha's Sons!"

The Repuglicans should give up half their pay, since they'll only work but half a day -- and make the Democrats do the same. I wonder what Alan Grayson would say about this. Someone should ask him, and grab whatever pithy statement he makes and run with it.


Posted by: Ed Drone on March 24, 2010 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Why don't they just go ahead with the hearings and have the Republican chairs be empty. Nothing of substance happens in a hearing anyway. All this unanimous consent stuff is crap anyway. (wanted to use a stronger word but decided against it!)

Posted by: Stuart Shiffman on March 24, 2010 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

A new TV ad ...

Camera shot opens on empty committee room

[announcer's voice] Where is your congressman? It's after 2 pm and the republicans don't want to work anymore.

Camera shot change to republicans on golf course, etc.

[announcer's voice] Call your republican congressman and tell him to get his fat, lazy, a** back to work.

Posted by: DK on March 24, 2010 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans have gone from the party that only says "no" to the party that's too lazy to say anything at all.

Very nice, Steve. Reid should use that line. (And pay you!)

Posted by: Algernon on March 24, 2010 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone care to do the ongoing analysis and discover how much of what the left considers important is getting scheduled for 2PM and later?

Posted by: Forrest on March 24, 2010 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

Posted by: pharmacy tech on April 8, 2010 at 4:20 AM | PERMALINK

Not having hearings after 2pm does not mean not working. Burr is right and probably as tired from all of the BS as I am. There is plenty to do after 2pm. Forcing votes to be held after 2pm for example. Then nobody would have to leave a hearing to go vote. Reading the bills would be nice too for a change before voting on them after 2pm.

Sincerely yours, James King

100% disabled Vietnam Vet from several combat related injuries, who was a voluntary soldier in both the service to our country and Vietnam. Taking care of the people who are and have been willing to serve when asked is they only first priority. For the family of the disabled and the disabled veteran to have to fight the government for years on end while they have disabilities is a national shame.

Posted by: James King on May 23, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK



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