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."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Quorum of One?

According to various news reports, the House and Senate passed a five-week extension of the Patriot Act with very few congressmen present.

The extension was approved by voice vote in sparsely attended sessions in the two chambers. With most lawmakers having already left town for their holiday vacations, just one senator, John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia, was on hand. Mr. Warner presided over a session that lasted four minutes.

Could somebody please explain how this is possible? Just one Senator present? I mean, how does one even second a motion?


Anonymous said...

Quorum for the senate is three. But if nobody "suggests the absence of a quorum" then nobody will count. Plainly, this was done with the concurrence of all leaders.  

// posted by LTG

The Law Talking Guy said...

I should add that a senator can suggest the absence of a quorum as a point of order, then disappear before counting and not answer the roll call. So it's easy to force quorum calls if wanted.

Anonymous said...

I'll also add that this is considered something a victory for the Democrats. The White House was trying to blackmail moderates on the issue by insisting that the entire Patriot Act permanent (including controversial measures involve fishing expeditions in library records etc). If they didn't get everything they wanted they were saying that they'd veto the entire bill. This extension will enable Democrats to renegotiate the entire bill in the context of the NSA domestic spying revelations.

Congressional sources say that the only reason this deal was made at all was because of the NSA story. The entire vote count on the Patriot Act is up in the air now.

It's a sad Christmas for President Grinch and Vice President Scrooge. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

RxR is right: the last-minute, five-week extension of the Patriot Act is a defeat for Bush and Cheney. I'm sure we all remember how, not two days ago, the Republicans were saying "permanent or nothing," while the Democrats wanted a 90 day extension to iron out differences. Bush lost this game of chicken.

I am still fascinated by the parliamentary maneuvers of the House and Senate. And this business of 1 Senator conducting the business of 100 is bizarre to me. What are the real rules of the Senate?

Anonymous said...

The bottom line rule of the Senate is that, with unanimous consent, anything is possible. And the senators essentially delegate that power to their leaders. So if Frist and Reid agree, then they will permit a single senator like Warner to be "in session." As with courts, if nobody objects, almost any rule can be sidestepped. The Senate demands this "unanimous consent" for most of its working procedures, as the official rules would take much longer. Sensibly, they have accustomed themselves to sidestepping most parliamentary procedure with 'unanimous consent.' But without it, when Reid threatnes to withdraw it for all cases in the nuclear option, the Senate will slow to a crawl. 

// posted by LTG