Don’t be fooled by the midnight votes happening tonight in the Senate into thinking that much was accomplished this work session in the Senate – there wasn’t.
When the Senate casts five roll call votes after the clock strikes midnight the Senate will gavel out and adjourn until after Election Day.
By all accounts, including directly from the mouths of Senators as well, this has marked one of the least productive sessions of the Senate in memory.
This year, this Senate has been in session for 106 days. Thirty-one of those days the Senate has done nothing but consider motions to proceed, not heavy lifting by any account. The senate has only voted on amendments and legislation on 21 of those days. One Senator quipped that this means nearly 30% of the time the Senate’s time this year has been “completely wasted,” legislating on only 21 out of 106 days.
To be sure, tonight’s vote is important.
The Senate will vote to keep the government funded for the next six months. But the need for the stop-gap measure is all because, Congress was unable to pass all 12 appropriations bills funding various pieces of the government in the first place.
With the fiscal year ending on September 30 the “continuing resolution” which the Senate is expected to pass through tonight, has to be passed in order to keep the government operating. The House passed the continuing resolution last Thursday so after the Senate’s anticipated passage tonight it will head to President Obama for his signature.
Among the four other bills on the floor tonight, is Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s bill to cut aid to Pakistan, Libya and Egypt.
“Why are they yelling and screaming and burning the American flag?,” Sen. Paul questioned on the Senate floor today, “It makes me mad. That’s one of the reasons I don’t want to send them money, they’re burning our flag.”
His bill is not expected to pass, with many even within his own party speaking out against the bill.
“Our message with the Paul amendment is adios, see ya around,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said sarcastically as he spoke out against his colleague’s bill on the Senate floor today, “nothing would be more welcomed in Libya today than if the Islamists and Al Qaeda, who are there, and other extremists would — nothing would make them happier than to hear that the United States had cut off all assistance to Libya. Nothing would encourage them more.”
The Senate is expected to adjourn after their midnight vote session and not return until after election day.
Leading up to tonight’s last hurrah, senators expressed a little disappointment in the state of the Senate but of course never pointing the blame on their own party.
Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, the most senior Senator after first being elected in 1962, declared this a “sad” day and blamed the liberal use of the filibuster in the operation of the Senate these days.
“This year, Mr. President, the senate has been held up, delayed and rendered ineffective for at least 30 percent of its time by the abuse of the filibuster. These filibusters were not to highlight important policy differences nor were they to protect a senator’s constituents. Instead, in virtually every case , to simply thwart the ability of the senate function.”
Inouye said at some point the Senate needs to “alter either its behavior or its rules.”
Senate Minority Leader McConnell, R-Ky., blamed the Democrats’ leadership for the lack of productivity.
“Never before — never — have a president and a majority party in the senate done so little to address challenges as great as the ones our nation faces right now,” McConnell said on the Senate floor this morning, “it’s a disgrace.”
Democrats placed blame on the other party as well.
“I am disappointed that this session of congress has been so unproductive, but I know the reason why. it isn’t for lack of effort,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said, “in the last six years since Harry Reid of Nevada has been the majority leader on the democratic side, the republicans have created 382 filibusters ….we have never, ever in the history of the united states senate run into such a consistent strategy of obstruction by one party in the senate.”
After five votes starting at midnight the Senate will adjourn until November.