Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 21, 2010

MAKING THE UNEMPLOYED WAIT FOR NO REASON.... There was quite a bit of attention yesterday afternoon when the Senate, after multiple tries, finally overcame a Republican filibuster on extended unemployment benefits. It was welcome, overdue news.

What got far less attention was what happened next.

Under inexplicable Senate rules, after a filibuster is broken, the minority trying to block passage can delay a final, up-or-down vote for 30 hours. Democrats hoped Republicans would agree to waive this pointless delay, and allow the Senate to vote on jobless aid. Republicans, who know the bill is going to pass anyway, refused without explanation.

Why would they bother? It's not just about Republicans being callous misanthropes -- though that's likely part of it -- it's also a matter of running out the clock. There's just not much time left on the Senate schedule, and the GOP wants to use up as much of the calendar as possible to prevent other bills and nominations from coming to the floor.

If that means needlessly delaying aid to struggling families for a couple of days, Republicans see this as a small price to pay. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) spoke on the chamber floor last night, lamenting the pointless holdup. "I want everyone watching the proceedings tonight to again understand what the Republicans are doing," Reid said. "We just passed badly needed legislation to help 2.5 million unemployed. To show the lack of understanding and feeling and compassion of the Republicans, they're making us waste 30 hours. There are people who are desperate for this money -- desperate. And they're making us wait because that's what the rule of the Senate is.

"Now, I hope the American people understand how callous this is. People are desperate, can't make house payments, car payments, can't pay for kids' food. And they are having us wait for 30 hours after cloture's been invoked. We only need a simple majority to pass this bill now, but they're making us wait. I just can't articulate in strong enough feelings how unfair this is to 2.5 million people.... Every hour that is delayed is more misery for 2.5 million people."

I should also note that, under these same rules, the Senate can't take up any other bills or nominations while waiting for the 30 hours to elapse. In effect, it's like a mini-filibuster that gets tacked on to the failed filibuster.

If Republicans push this to its limit, the Senate won't vote on the extended unemployment benefits until 9 p.m. (ET) this evening.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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All this delay sounds like a great excuse for a lame-duck session taking up jobs and stimulus in the run-up to the election. Just sayin'.

Posted by: Tom Allen on July 21, 2010 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

Yup, tell 'em, ok, you wanted to delay this? Fine! We're extending the Congress past the break - and watch House and Senate members who are running for office and can't go back home start screaming.
Scream, little piggie, SCREAM!

You know, as bad as it's been lately (worsening every year for the last 16), I never thought they'd stoop THIS low.
How naive of me...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on July 21, 2010 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

Is it any wonder that the House considers the Senate to be disfunctional and anti-democratic?

I think Reid should just not let the senators have a SECOND summar vacation. Keep them sweating in Washington, they have too much work to do to go home.

Posted by: Lance on July 21, 2010 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps Reid or some Senate historian can explain the rationale for such an idiotic rule? Having to wait 30 hours seems stupid enough -- I suppose it was to allow time for more arm-twisting to perhaps change the final vote; but to make part of the rule that nothing else can be done by the Senate during those 30 hours??!!! Can someone look up the definition of dysfunctional in the dictionary. I think it just says: U.S. Senate.

Posted by: MW on July 21, 2010 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Cruel callousness can only be the explanation as to why these Republican senators are showing their hate toward their fellow American citizens!

This one circumstance says it all if the Republicans gain control of either chamber in November - the policies of cruel callousness will be hoisted upon us all, unless you make over $250,000 a year - then according to Republican ideals, you'll receive a get out of jail free card to be used during the next economic meltdown! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on July 21, 2010 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Well, then the salary of each Senate member for 30 hours should be taken away from them and added to the bill's final price. Small potatoes, but symbolic. I also like the lame-duck idea above.

Yet again, though, it's the archaic Senate rules that is the culprit here - the Republicans, regardless of how callous and evil they are - are simply using the rules available to them. It gets them major points from their supporters who think the jobless are simply lazy welfare queens anyway. Along with changing the filibuster rules at the start of the next Congress, they have a lot of other crazy rules such as this one that they need to get rid of too.

Posted by: terraformer on July 21, 2010 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

"Every hour that is delayed is more misery for 2.5 million people."
This is no doubt true. But what is never pointed out is every penny of this money goes to pay the bills from usually large corporations.
It's not like the unemployed are having parties, feasts and orgies with the money. It passes through their hands directly to the wealthy corps.
You'd think the right would want more of this money. And quickly too. But no, they'd rather belittle and punish the down and out. It's the bullies they are.

Posted by: reduced on July 21, 2010 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

The republicans aren't interested in governing, they're interested in ruling. Ironic that the tea partiers don't get this.

Posted by: Lianne16 on July 21, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Whe is the last time a Dem has spoken on TV? It's easy to see how Republicans think they can get away with it.

Posted by: Danp on July 21, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

They're burning the village to win in November, so that they can burn the village some more. Weirder still, lots of Americans think this is a good idea.

Posted by: beep52 on July 21, 2010 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Post election, when the Democrats maintain control of the House and Senate, Benen needs to start a new chant:


Posted by: cr on July 21, 2010 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, they get it alright. The get it!
They're ok with a Republican dictatorship because they believe that it'll hold to their version of the Constitution. An example, or two:
Free speech for me. But not for thee.
Guns for white people. All others need background checks, or be denied for some other reason.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on July 21, 2010 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

The senate Democrats have the ability, but not the will, to change the rules at any time by breaking the filibuster with 50 votes plus Biden. They will rue the fact that they haven't done so-- and are enablers of their weakened political power.

Posted by: gdb on July 21, 2010 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

I agree that there should be a lame duck session, and no summer recess into the bargain.

The Republicans are playing hardball (including whining about the prospect of a lame duck session); so should Reid. Oh, wait...

Posted by: Gregory on July 21, 2010 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Lame duck: an elected official who has sat out or lost the most recent election, but is still serving during the time between the election and the inauguration of his/her newly elected successor.

Lame duck session: the convening of a legislative body during the period after an election and before the seating of newly elected offcials. Called so because "lame duck" officials, though not re-elected, are still serving.

Posted by: cr on July 21, 2010 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

So what I don't get in all these games is - - this takes the entire republican senate caucus to do this? I know that MOST of them are hopeless idiotic sheep, but what has happened to the few "moderates" "well-respected" etc members? Or lame ducks? Lugar? Collins? Snowe? Voinovich? Brown?

Or is this one of the "our way or the highway" ironclad caucus bullshit things? And if so, why doesn't someone from the press pin down Lugar and ask " Oh mr revered and oh so respected great statesman senator at whose feet we are to workshop, how, we humbly ask, do you put up with these increasingly deraged lockstep efforts by your party?"

Posted by: bigtuna on July 21, 2010 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

If Thia Offends You...

then call, write AND email your Democratic-caucussing Senators. Tell them how you're sickened by the Senate's archaic, undemocratic rules. List a few, including this 30-hour hold, all other holds, the one-man filibuster, and the filibuster itself.

Tell them you expect them to change the rules when the Senate re-opens in January. Tell them further that they'd be damned smart to actually CAMPAIGN on this issue from today on up through the election itself, with detail on what they plan to change, even if they themselves are not up for re-election.

Bring majority rule to the Senate. What could be more appealing to voters? What might actually bring Democrats out to vote this fall?

Give your guys in the Senate a call.

Posted by: Zandru on July 21, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

So, nothing can be done for 30 hrs?

How about giving the scumbags a taste of their own medicine?

Flood McConnell's office with phone calls...I just called and it took being on hold twice to get through...hopefully, we can have thme do nothing but anser phones for at least 30 hrs.

Posted by: marty on July 21, 2010 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

I know that the Republicans are absolutely sure they'll gain seats in the next election, but it's just possible that they're in for another 1998-type surprise. If so, it would break their current leadership, just as it ended Newt Gingrich's career as speaker. And if that happens, then maybe the new Republican leadership won't insist on this destructively hard line of opposition to everything the majority proposes. So, pass it on to your friends and GET OUT THE VOTE! Close the enthusiasm gap! And write your Senator to get busy on changing procedural rules next session.

Posted by: T-Rex on July 21, 2010 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't there also a Senate rule that allows any Republican to put a 36-day "wait-for-ink-to-dry" hold on any piece of passed legislation?

Posted by: qwerty on July 21, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Further proof that the only "good Republicans" are pushing up daisies.

And for those who think all this crap is very modern and unusual, let me say that you can study histories of the Second World War and see that, throughout the conflict, the Republicans in both the House and the Senate did everything possible (short of something that could be called treasonable in wartime) to delay and deny the majority, and to make everything an attack on FDR. These people have been these kinds of shitheads since there has been a Republican Party. The only difference is that now it's only the assholes who are left there.

Consider that Pat Buchanan's parents were prominent leaders in the pro-Nazi "America First" movement and you come to see how he could write a book complaining that the United States fought on the wrong side and was the victim of that nefarious Jew-lover Winston Churchill.

Posted by: TCinLA on July 21, 2010 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

I have to say that I don't much appreciate the incorrect use of the word misanthrope to describe the GOP blockers. I, myself, am a true misanthrope & it is NOT what many would have you believe. I absolutely despise being lumped in with this group of greedy pompous jack@sses. Any half respectful decent misanthrope would find it offensive. For the record...this very behavior out of the majority of humans to one degree or another is what a true misanthrope despises. Not the human as a biological species...but the mostly disgusting choices many seem to make...the GOP being a primary example. It is human arrogance & selfishness. I have friends that are human & agree completely with me that while all are not the same...there are exceptions...the majority are self-serving self-absorbed & selfish over-indulgent individuals. See the GOP for reference. Sorry for the rant, but...people misunderstand a misanthrope by their very nature...humans tend to hate anything they think hates them. I do not hate...period. That same bias was involved when a human put the definition in the dictionary of a misanthrope as a human-hater. That is false.

Posted by: ninjalisacat on July 21, 2010 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

If dems did this it would be on FOX and in the MSM 24/7. How much more proof of being heartless uncaring bastards as a group does it take for dems to fix this broken denate. These repubs abuse the senate rules at the expense of the nation. There is nothing about them that can be held "in good faith" any longer.

It's like electing Taliban members to senate seats. They are just completely anti-democratic.

Posted by: bjobotts on July 21, 2010 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

It may be more likely that the GOP wanted to dampen any notion of causality between Obama's bully pulpit speech on Monday and the final passage of the bill.

If you want to get into black helicopter territory, a major ginned-up news story of some sort in the interim would also make everyone in the media stop talking about unemployment insurance, further severing the connection.

Posted by: notabbott on July 22, 2010 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK



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