Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 16, 2010

OBNOXIOUS DELAYS FOR THE SAKE OF OBNOXIOUS DELAYS.... The irony is, those who've been whining the loudest about the poor politicians who have to work in mid-December are the same ones dragging out the process, preventing members from going home.

Yesterday, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) was quite candid about the motivations for his shameless obstructionism: "What I'm trying to do is help run out the clock."

And here's how that effort plays out on the floor:

Republicans will paralyze the Senate floor for 50 hours by forcing clerks to read every single paragraph of the 1,924-page, $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill.

Senate clerks are expected to read the massive bill in rotating shifts around the clock -- taking breaks to drink water and pop throat lozenges -- to keep legislative business on track, according to a Democratic leadership aide.

The bill is so long that it took the Government Printing Office two days to print it.

The Senate is currently debating the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty. It is expected to take up the omnibus spending bill on a separate and parallel track later Thursday.

If Republicans follow through on their threat, legislative business couldn't resume until late Saturday in order to give the staff enough time to read the bill aloud, according to a Democratic leadership estimate.

This is, of course, DeMint's little tantrum. Once the reading is complete, the right-wing senator will vote against the omnibus anyway, and while claiming it's "sacrilege" to ask public officials to do the people's business in December.

And if the gambit pays off, and the omnibus fails, it's likely Republicans will shut down the government over the weekend.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) appears to be sick of the GOP whining. "The irony, the hypocrisy of us sitting here with them standing up and saying 'Oh my Gosh, it's the last minute,' " he said. "It's the last minute because they haven't let us do anything. The game plan is usually to keep preventing things from happening."

For his part, Vice President Biden isn't impressed with Republicans' Christmas rhetoric, either.

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Steve Benen 2:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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Comments

Does anyone realize that "shutting down the government" will mean all air traffic comes to a standstill on the weekend before Christmas? Lest we forget, all TSA employees are federal workers. If they can't frisk us, we can't get on the plane.

Posted by: BigFish on December 16, 2010 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

OH - My - GOD!! Will you look at that! There just is NO TIME to vote on any bills or to do anything this year. Somehow it all just slipped away! Oh well. Too bad. Merry Christmas to all. Time to go home now!! AhHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

Posted by: Proud Republican on December 16, 2010 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, these two senators, Kyl and DeMint, are spreading the yule tidings with their chicanery, and all the while, allowing me to note they can do whatever they please here in this world, but death will come for us all, and they more than us, will have to answer to their God for committing misery upon their fellow citizens in such a transparently egregious way! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on December 16, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

What strikes ME is the attitude that the legislative AIDES should have to do this 'work'...if the Senators want this crap read out loud DO IT THEMSELVES...drink plenty of water and bring lozenges boys.

Posted by: SYSPROG on December 16, 2010 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

would someone please explain to me why it is sacrilegious to take up what is essentially a peace treaty during a holiday celebrating the birth of the "prince of peace?"

and yeah, it would be nice if everyone could just take the next three weeks off and enjoy the holidays but the world doesn't work that way.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on December 16, 2010 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Semi-related, I remember in university student government there were four or five guys that apparently got themselves elected just to be dillholes. They drilled themselves on Robert's Rules so they could be dillholes effectively, too. If it wasn't a pointless motion or a meaningless debate, it was trying to get club status (and student activities funds) for essentially a double entendre.

They're just dicks, and I guarantee that they're having a chortle about it in the GOP club library and clapping each other on the back.

Posted by: ChrisS on December 16, 2010 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

DeMint is a douche-bag. And damn the dems in his state for not putting up a credible challenger and sending this moron back to where he came from.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on December 16, 2010 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Forcing congress to work less than two weeks before Christmas is just another shameless attack in the War on Christmas by democrats.

Posted by: Al on December 16, 2010 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

What is so startling is how easy it is. No repercussions, no public outrage, no scrambling to control the damage. To be a Republican solon nowadays is have near-absolute free license. Don't have gay sex in an airport or with Capitol pages and you can do pretty much anything.

Posted by: walt on December 16, 2010 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP obstruction only works if they don't draw too much attention. I think DeMint crossed the line with his whining about working over the Christmas break. That attitude pisses a whole lot of people off and puts a spotlight on obstructionism that is counter-productive with moderates and independents. Expect the GOP to back off from the stunt as the publicity goes against them.

Posted by: danimal on December 16, 2010 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Someone should ask DeMint how much this stunt will cost the taxpayers -- staff working round the clock, lights, heat, etc.

Posted by: Voncey on December 16, 2010 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

I have no sympathy for the Dumb-o-Crats. There are all sorts of nasty little tricks that the majority can pull to make the minority's life miserable. They don't use them.

They can pull this stuff when they're in the minority-- they don't. (You won't see any of this after the Senate goes R in 2012.)

This is why the 9/11 responders are absolutely correct to blast the Dems. Voters have noticed that when D's are in power, they're paralyzed; when they're in the minority, they get steamrollered.

And, please, no misleading, self-serving civics lessons from O-Bots who probably know less about legislative procedure than I do. This happens because it's what the Dems and Saint Barry the Bipartisan want, even if they claim they don't.

Posted by: Woodrow L. Goode, IV on December 16, 2010 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

fourlesgood 2:330 pm

more that 60% of the South Carolinians believe it is their religious duty to vote rethug. gov sanford would have been excused from his office for his dalliance were he an ind. or dem.

Posted by: Ted76 on December 16, 2010 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

In the real world, the point of reading a bill like this would be to enlighten those who are going to vote on it, but my guess is the chamber will be empty, save for the faithful aides reading away.

If Senators want it read to them like it was a bedtime story, then force them to sit in their chairs the entire time it is being read. That would probably put an end to this prank.

Posted by: delNorte on December 16, 2010 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Shouldn't the jackasses that required this reading of the bill be required to sit in the chamber and listen to every word - for 50 hours if necessary? No potty breaks. No lunch. And no talking.

I'm just guessing that Kyl and DeMint are requiring this action because they don't know how to read themselves.

Posted by: Vandal on December 16, 2010 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

more that 60% of the South Carolinians believe it is their religious duty to vote rethug. gov sanford would have been excused from his office for his dalliance were he an ind. or dem.

You have my sympathy.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on December 16, 2010 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

The Democratic majority in the Senate passed rules for the Senate that effectively make 60 votes necessary to pass anything. The Republicans now are using those rules to stop things they oppose from passing that do not have 60 votes. Why are people surprised/upset? The obvious thing to do is change the rule. If the Democrats won't do that, then they are the ones chiefly to blame.

Also, we just had an election in which the Republicans did well. Is anyone, absolutely anyone, surprised the Republicans want to delay action on important things till their new members are seated? How many people complaining about this would not favor the Democrats doing the same if they had done well in the election and had a bunch of new liberals coming in; and before this happened the Republicans tried to hurry through some stuff that was more conservative than the next Congress would probably pass.

Posted by: Counterfactual on December 16, 2010 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Reid is a freaking idiot.

Do START and DADT first. Then, on the doorstep of Christmas, take up the Omnibus.

R's will have three choices, all bad: (1) admit their bluff has been called and fold, withdrawing the request that the bills be read; (2) sit there until it is too late for anyone to get home for Christmas; or (3) go home with no Omnibus and government shuts down on Christmas weekend.

Why is everyone scared to play chicken with these nutjobs?

Posted by: zeitgeist on December 16, 2010 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

"There are all sorts of nasty little tricks that the majority can pull to make the minority's life miserable. " Woodrow L. Goode, IV

Can you please tell us specifically what they are, Woodrow? Or is this just another lazy reference, like "spending cuts"?

Posted by: DAY on December 16, 2010 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Forcing congress to work less than two weeks before Christmas is just another shameless attack in the War on Christmas by democrats.

Thanks for the chuckle, Al. Good to know some here can still manage find humour in the depraved stupidity gripping our public discourse.

Wait. You weren't serious, were you?

Posted by: Josef K. on December 16, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans are wrinkled, white, and ugly. Their health is terrible. They are unprofessional and poor sports.

Result, they will live short lives and die before their time. How sad to have your legacy be that of an obstructionist instead of a stateman.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on December 16, 2010 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

If the Democratic leadership had sense, it would respond to these delays by keeping both houses in session throughout December. The idea of adjourning for Christmas this year is beyond ridiculous. But Reid always caves in the face of Republican obstructionism. He pings back and forth from bill to bill, hoping against all experience that the GOP will allow one thing or another to be voted on.

Posted by: smintheus on December 16, 2010 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

I remain unconvinced that the elected officials in DC understand sacrifice.

You get health benefits...many Americans don't. You have a job...many Americans don't. You get to pontificate about having to work (after) a Christian Holiday, but you can't admit that you are full of sh*t.

Democrats....hang in there, 3 more weeks of power, then Kaboom!

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on December 16, 2010 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

What strikes ME is the attitude that the legislative AIDES should have to do this 'work'... - SYSPROG @ 14:25

I think the Aids would do a much better job anyway. They are smart enough to convert the text to audio and play it back at 100X speed on their MP3 players. Just hold it up to the microphone.

Posted by: Kevin (not the famous one) on December 16, 2010 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Why not hire 1924 people to simultaneously each read one page? You would be done in about 1 minute, and you would stimulate the economy.

Posted by: Antonius on December 16, 2010 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

"Why is everyone scared to play chicken with these nutjobs?" zeitgeist @ 3:08 PM.

I believe the last word in your query provides the answer...

Posted by: Doug on December 16, 2010 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Just out of curiosity Steve -

Was Bernie Sander's filibuster "obstruction"? Or was it just a "obnoxious delay for the sake of a obnoxious delay"? Or are those adjectives reserved exclusively for use with Republicans?

Posted by: Dividist on December 16, 2010 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

The reason the Republicans are trying to derail Reid's agenda is that all these bills could have been taken up the past 6 months. Remember Obama's promise to have them all on the internet ? What is happening is that the defeated Democrats are trying to rush huge 2,000 page bills through that no one has read. If that omnibus bill passes with all those earmarks, the new House will start with a bill to repeal them all. Lame duck Congresses have never done this sort of thing before. They need to be stopped. They were rejected by the country.

Posted by: Mike K on December 16, 2010 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

Dividst: If you want to call what Bernie Sanders did "obstructionist" be my guest. What he did was exactly what the Dems should have made the Repugs do every time they blocked votes on bills. We could have found out just how commited they were if they were forced to actually filibuster. Don't even try to equate what Sanders did to what Repugs have done constantly for the last 2 years.

Posted by: Chris on December 16, 2010 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK
The reason the Republicans are trying to derail Reid's agenda is that all these bills could have been taken up the past 6 months

This is a false statement.

The Republicans have been engaged in continuous pattern of trying to block legislation for over a year. The behavior they are engaging in now is nothing new. With regards to START in particular, President Obama tried to get Republicans to ratify it earlier this year. Republicans stalled, and Mitch McConnell threatened that ratification of the treaty would be in jeopardy if Republicans felt "rushed."

Further, Senate Republicans are on record saying they would block anything and everything unless tax cuts for the rich were extended.

Even further, McConnell has made it clear that the Republicans only goal is to prevent Obama from being reelected, and to that end their strategy is to deprive him and the Democrats of any legislative victories no matter what the cost to the country.

Those are the actual reasons that the legislative agenda is being derailed.

What is happening is that the defeated Democrats are trying to rush huge 2,000 page bills through that no one has read

This is a false statement.

Omnibus bills are typical, exceptionally large due to their nature (omnibus, duh), and not ever read aloud. The text of these bills is and has always been available to Senators. Yes, you too can read it here.

There is no deception here. Each senator has experienced aides who read and break down the bill and summarize it for them as is always done, and the text of the bills themselves are broken up into sections by topic to make the information easily accessible. We already know the items the bill contains like a two-year spending freeze on federal salaries and a freeze on discretionary spending at 2010 levels.

Lame duck Congresses have never done this sort of thing before.

This is a false statement.

In fact, the Republican lame-duck Congress of 2006 which saw a historic defeat and was soundly "rejected by the country" pushed forward on all of the appropriations bills in the lame duck session. While two Republican Senators eventually derailed their own party's plan to consider those bills, that session saw the passage of the Tax Relief and Health Act in December and the ratification of a Trade Pact with Vietnam.

Posted by: trex on December 16, 2010 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

Trex: you seem to be well informed on this subject, so I have a couple of questions for you.

You say: "Omnibus bills are typical, exceptionally large ... etc ... The text of these bills is and has always been available to Senators." My impression is that the omnibus bill was just being printed in the waning hours and became loaded with pork barrel spending, which implies to me that stuff was being added in and I presume language was changing all along. Am I wrong about this?

And: "Each senator has experienced aides who read and break down the bill and summarize it for them as is always done, and the text of the bills themselves are broken up into sections by topic to make the information easily accessible." Then, why aren't the sections of the omnibus bill taken up separately with ample time provided to debate and where appropriate to modify and compromise prior to the final voting?

I admit to being confused about the process, so I am just looking for some help understanding the ins and outs of it.

Posted by: Terry Ott on December 17, 2010 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

"Don't even try to equate what Sanders did to what Repugs have done constantly for the last 2 years." - Chris

I wouldn't dare to equate them. The difference could not be more clear. You (and Benen) agree with Sanders and liberal Democrat policy positions and disagree with Conservative Republican policy positions. So - even though the tactics are identical, there is a huge difference. Gigantic. A monstrous difference.

That exists only in your head.

Posted by: Dividist on December 17, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK
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