Today in Washington - September 22, 2010

The House has 15 suspension votes scheduled for Wednesday.   The Senate will continue debate on the motion to proceed to S.3454, the Department of Defense Authorization bill, even though cloture failed yesterday.  Tomorrow, the Senate is expected to take up a motion on the DISCLOSE Act, S.3628. This is the same unconstitutional bill that received only 57 votes to shut down debate on July 27th.  The current expectation is that the House and Senate will pass a continuing resolution late next week then recess until after the elections. 


Yesterday, Senators blocked consideration of the Defense Authorization Act.  The Senate is not expected to take the bill up until after the November elections when they have more time to debate the controversial measures attached to the bill.  Although the left complained about “Republican Obstructionism” and the filibuster, this was more of a dispute over liberal obstructionism and the abuse of the Senate rules to block open debate and amendment.

The New York Times Reports that:

The Senate on Tuesday voted against taking up a major military bill that would allow the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, disappointing advocates of allowing gay Americans to serve openly in the armed forces but leaving open the likelihood of another vote later this year.

Many of the Senators voting to block debate, support repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  This vote was not a referendum on that policy, but it was a referendum on the leadership of Senator Harry Reid (R-NV).  Republicans and two Democrats blocked debate, because they protesting the declaration by Reid that Reid was only going to allow a handful of political votes on the bill.  Republicans held together as a block, because they are tired of the Senate Majority Leader blocking open debate and amendments. 


More from NYT:

But Senate Republicans voted unanimously to block debate on the bill, the annual authorization of military programs, after the majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said he would attach a number of the Democrats’ election-year priorities to it while also moving to limit the amendments offered by Republicans.

Reid was going to “Fill the Amendment Tree” to block any opportunity for amendments on the bill not authorized by Reid.  Under normal circumstances, the Senate would move to proceed to the bill and then the amendment process would commence.  Senators would come to the Senate floor and attempt to offer an amendment.  Under the Reid procedure, Reid would abuse his power as Leader to block all amendments, then he would serve as a gate keeper for Senators who want to offer amendment.  In other words, Reid would offer a series of technical changes to the bill for the sole purpose of blocking amendments to the bill, then he would be in a position to allow or block Senators from offering amendments. 

I explained how Reid would do this on a post at The Foundry blog:

Many students of the U.S. Senate see a disturbing trend by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) to abuse the rules of the Senate by using a procedural tactic to stifle debate and amendment. Reid is expected to use a procedure called “filling the amendment tree” to block any opportunity for Senators to offer amendments unless they get the consent of the Majority Leader. Reid will use the tradition of priority recognition for the Majority Leader to offer a series of amendments to the defense authorization bill.  Reid will fill up all of the possible amendments to the bill with technical corrections as a means to prevent Senators from offering substantive amendments. This will block out amendments from the other 99 Senators. A Senator will then have to get the consent of Reid to offer an amendment. This is not a good faith application of the Senate’s rules.


Even Senator Olympia Snowe (R–ME) was angry about the tactic.  Snowe said that she was upset about the limitation of amendments and she requested that the Senate use the regular order to conduct debate and a free flowing amendment process:

It is therefore imperative that Senate deliberations on the defense bill be conducted without limitations and in a manner that allows for the consideration of all related amendments that Senators may wish to offer.

The Washington Post reports that many on the left were angry, because they though this attempt to check the box on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was too little, too late:

The high-profile failure left some advocates of repeal feeling burned and blaming the White House and congressional Democrats for not acting sooner.

The Senate will take up these issues after the elections and this fake debate over Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was merely an attempt by the left to check the box and claim they tried to pass the bill.


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