Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Guerrilla Legislative Tactics

There are threats that Republicans may try to declare filibusters unconstitutional in this new term. Called the 'nuclear option' by some, it has never been done. The declaration would be by simple majority vote, i.e., just 51. The result, as Democrats have pledged to a man (except possibly for Ben Nelson and Lieberman, who had cojonectomies a while back) will result in chaos. Here's one tactic that may be used:

This is taken from the US Senate's official website.

"Recent news stories describing members of the Texas senate fleeing to New Mexico to avoid being counted for a quorum bring to mind traditions of “quorum busting” within the U.S. Senate.
The framers of the Constitution sought to prevent such behavior by providing that a minority of members may “compel” absent colleagues to attend. But the Constitution leaves it up to each chamber to determine precisely how.
For its first eighty years, the ever-collegial Senate adopted no rules to enforce attendance. It simply provided that no member may be absent without the Senate’s permission and that the sergeant at arms could be sent to round up missing members, without actually arresting them. As one senator explained, “It has always been supposed that a Senator acting upon his honor would report himself when his attendance was requested.”
In 1877, in response to proliferating filibusters that employed tactics designed to keep the Senate from attaining the 51 percent quorum needed to conduct business, the body amended its rules to allow the sergeant at arms, upon receiving Senate orders, to arrest members.
But what happened if senators, sitting in the chamber, responded to a quorum call and then refused to vote on the legislation before them? During a major filibuster in October 1893, senators demanded the yeas and nays for a vote, but then remained silent when the clerk called their names. The presiding officer announced that the necessary majority had not voted, even though there were enough senators in the chamber to make a quorum. When that officer again ordered the clerk to call the roll to determine if a quorum was present, a majority of members answered. But when the roll-call on the pending measure was then taken, the filibusterers declined to vote. In one frustrating forty-hour-long session, this tactic produced thirty-nine quorum calls, but only four votes.
Four years later, in 1897, the Senate agreed to a procedure that basically ended this delaying game. This prompted a return to the tactic staying away from the chamber.
Over the following decades, the Senate occasionally directed its sergeant at arms to arrest members. But the first openly physical act of compulsion did not occur until 1988. On February 24, 1988, in an attempt to establish a quorum on a campaign finance reform bill, Capitol police carried Oregon Republican Senator Robert Packwood into the chamber feet first at 1:17 a.m."

Let them drag in Harry Reid by his feet as he swears to defend Social Security. Let them wrestle nine Democratic women as they shout about defending Social Security. Let them do a perp walk with Obama for all the black churches that supposedly are warming to Bush. Let them try to get Mikulski at all.

The Senate has many other tactics of note. The anonymous hold is one. A senator notifies his party's leader that he intends to object to bringing a bill to the floor. Because the Senate proceeds by unanimous consent so often in adopting voting schedules, this effectively prevents any vote. If Republicans try to destroy the Senate and its two centuries of tradition to get their legislation through, a solid Democratic opposition will win the public relations game.


Raised By Republicans said...

I didn't think that the cloture rule was in the constitution. Did you mean that Senate Republicans are planning to remove/change the cloture rule in the internal rules for the Senate?

Dr. Strangelove said...

If Democrats refuse to show up, refuse to vote, or insist on their right to filibuster, they will be painted as losers and obstructionists--not heroes. If Harry Reid is dragged into the Senate swearing to defend Social Security, most people will just see Harry Reid being dragged around. That is a bad strategy.

Democrats need to be on the attack, not desperately trying to circle the wagons. They need to get together, draw up a coherent legislative plan, and push it hard. I want to see the Republicans using parliamentary tactics to bottle up popular Democratic initiatives in committee. I want to see Senator Harry Reid on the steps of the Capitol demanding that the Republicans let "the people" have an "up or down vote" on a Democratic bill to raise the minimum wage, on a Democratic resolution declaring that the Social Security trust fund will not be raided, on a Democratic initiative to balance the budget, on Democratic initiatives for campaign finance reform, on a Democratic bill to fix election problems around the nation, on a Democratic bill to save the forests and the skies, etc.

I want to hear Democrats complain of "gag rules" that stifle debate; I want to hear Democrats complain of "poison pill" riders and "straitjacket" rules that forbid amendments; I want to hear the Democrats complain of "pocket filibusters" by the Majority Leader Bill Frist and committee chairs that "abuse" the system. I want to see the spectacle of Rep. Nancy Pelosi leading 200+ Democratic representatives to the floor of the House (when it is out of session!), to "debate" bills that Hastert refuses to bring to the floor. I want to see the Democrats outnumbering the Republicans on the floor of the House and Senate as much as possible--at 6 AM, at midnight--grabbing C-SPAN time and cheering each other on, while they just sit on their hands while Republicans speak.

In short, I love LTG's idea of guerilla legislative tactics, but they need to be offensive tactics, not defensive ones. The Republicans have never really seen what a unified Democratic party looks like. If the Democrats on the hill can get their act together, they can stop playing catch-up with Bush and start setting the agenda themselves. If you want to be the majority party, act like it.

The Law Talking Guy said...

RBR, Republicans are claiming that unlimited debate for the purpose of interfering with judicial nominations is a violation of separation of powers.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Violation of Separation of Powers? Now that's just plain silly.

US West said...

I nominate Dr. Strangelove for DNC chair!

Dr. Strangelove said...

USWest: thanks. But I'm too afraid of the Deaniacs :-) If the Democrats could show unity for something rather than just against Bush, they would be able to stand tall. Is there a party-organization reason why the Republicans were able to put together a "Contract with America" but the Democrats can't seem to do squat?