Democracy and the Senate

Here are some interesting statistics and behaviors, courtesy of Brian Reardon and Eric Ueland in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed.  They quote a Politico article:

[S]ince Democrats seized power in fall 2006, Republicans have turned to the filibuster far more frequently. The majority has averaged about 140 cloture motions in both the 110th and 111th Congress. And Democrats are on pace to repeat that feat again this Congress.

Then they look behind those numbers.

Consider this example.

On March 19, Robert Menendez (D, NJ) introduced legislation (S2204) to promote renewable energy with the cost offset by a tax hike on large oil producers.  The normal process would have been for this legislation to be referred to committee for action.

Majority Leader Harry Reid bypassed the committee process, however, and using something called Rule 14 had the bill placed directly on the Senate calendar.  Two days later, he started the process to call up the bill by moving to “proceed to it” and immediately filed a cloture petition to end debate on that motion.

The following Monday, the Senate then voted 92-4 to curtail debate on the motion to proceed to the bill.  The next day, as soon as the bill was before the Senate, Mr Reid offered five consecutive amendments and one motion in order to effectively block the consideration of any competing amendments or motions.

He then filed a cloture motion to close out debate on the bill.  Two days later, the Senate rejected cloture on a party-line vote and moved on to other business, leaving the Menendez bill adrift.

They continued:

The very first bill considered by the Senate after the election of President Obama and a filibuster-proof Democratic majority was adopted under exactly the same truncated process used for S2204—Rule 14, cloture, block out any competing amendments, cloture.  Since that time, the Senate has voted on cloture repeatedly, yet has very little to show for it:  by some measures, 2011 was the least productive session in modern congressional history.

And 2012 is shaping up the same way.  Meanwhile, there are 27, or so, jobs-related bills passed by the House that Reid won’t even let his cloture system bring to the floor to be voted down by his fellow Democrats.


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