Sunday, March 28, 2010

Senate Republicans refuse to work past 2 p.m.

Original Link:

By Ezra Klein

"There is a little-known rule in the Senate stating that hearings can’t happen after 2:00 p.m. each day without unanimous consent," explains Amanda Terkel. "However, every day, at the start of business, the Senate generally agrees, by unanimous consent, to waive this rule and continue with the necessary business of holding hearings."

Every day, that is, until now. Republicans angry about the passage of health-care reform are invoking the dreaded half-day maneuver. Terkel explains:

Today, during a Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing on transparency, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) announced that he had to stop the proceedings because of Republican blocks. ... The AP also reported today that Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) had a hearing on the bark beetle canceled today “after Republicans angry over the passage of health insurance reform legislation blocked it by using an obscure Senate rule requiring a unanimous consent to hold hearings scheduled after 2 p.m.”

I could imagine a lot of smart ways to begin obstructing the chamber and making life miserable for Democrats. But declaring that you won't work after 2 p.m? Do Republicans really think the average American is going to rally to that battle cry?

Update: My colleague Paul Kane notes that this isn't specifically a 2 p.m. rule. Rather, the Senate needs unanimous consent to continue work two hours after it's gaveled into sessions. So it could be earlier than 2 p.m. And it turns out to be an old minority trick that Democrats have used too. This is further evidence, I think, that it's long past time to clean the Senate rulebook and get rid of the minority's ability to throw these procedural tantrums.

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