A Filibusterer’s Guide to the Senate

Dec 2, 2009 5:43pm

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports: Attempting to extend insurance coverage to all Americans led Democrats in the Senate to created a massive, arcane legislative document of more than 2,000 pages. In seeking to defeat that bill, which they argue would gutting the government-run health care system for American seniors to extend coverage to the rest of the population, Republicans are looking to Riddick’s’ Senate procedure, a document that is shorter than the health reform bill at 1441 pages, but just as arcane and difficult to comprehend. Senator Judd Gregg yesterday sent a letter to Republicans with a guide titled “FOUNDATION FOR THE MINORITY PARTY’S RIGHTS IN THE SENATE (Fall 2009).” “I think that we can all agree that the Democrats’ bill is the wrong choice for our nation,” writes Gregg, adding, “…it is imperative that our voices are heard during this debate.” Attached to his letter is a concise two page memo outlining how an individual Senator can gum up the legislative works, forcing votes and delay before a bill is brought to the floor, while it is there, and before it goes to conference with the House. Beyond votes, Gregg points out that Republicans can force the reading of amendments – Democrats’ health reform bill, which is more than 2,000 pages and would take two days to read out loud, was brought to the floor technically as an amendment to an unrelated bill. Gregg points out that Republicans can insist on two votes on each amendment if Democrats try to force votes by tabling amendments instead of voting up or down, which can be drawn out longer. He points out that the point of order on which an amendment would be tabled is not debatable, but the parliamentarian’s ruling on the point of order is. There’s much more, such as the requirement that 100 copies of a conference report must be available on the Senate floor or else a Senator can insist on the entire report being read. “We, the minority party, must use the tools we have under Senate rules to insist on a full, complete and fully informed debate on the health care legislation – as well as all legislation – coming before the Senate,” Gregg writes. Any Senate rule can be waived if all Senators agree to it. But don’t look for that type of unanimous consent behavior on health reform any time soon.

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