THE SAPIENT SPARROW: conservatism for commoners

"What has always made the State a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven."–Holderlin


I know that President Obama says that “the time for talk is over”, but I just can’t help myself.  So here goes.

Last night on Fox News, former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) explained how Republicans could impede the Healthcare Bill reconciliation process in the Senate.  He stated that even though a reconciliation bill requires only a simple majority to pass, there is a way to delay the final vote.  The given time for debate of a reconciliation bill is 20 hours.  However, unlimited amendments can be offered to a reconciliation bill at any time during the debate time, or after the “20 hour clock” has expired.  Time spent in offering amendments during the debate itself are not deducted from this “20 hour clock”.  Hence, offering amendments during debate will actually stop the “20 hour clock”.  After each amendment is voted on, the debate clock would restart.  Amendments can continue to be offered after the “20 hour clock” of debate has ended.  These need to be “germane” amendments.  (The Senate Parliamentarian rules on the relevance of the offered amendment).  To dispense with each amendment, according to Senator Santorum, takes approximately 20 minutes.  As long as amendments are being offered and must be voted on, the final vote cannot be taken.  This is called a “vote-a-rama”.  It can be thought of as a “filibuster by vote-a-rama”.

Jeff Davis, legislative expert, has a thorough discussion of this process at, of all places, The New Republic site.  It is worth reading to better understand the process.  Below is an excerpt of the article from The Patriot Room blog:

Interesting lesson on what the GOP could do if Democrats try reconciliation. Here’s a portion:

Some critics of the modern filibuster process have expressed a “bring it on” mentality towards the prospect of filibuster-by-vote-a-rama, since it would require Republicans to be physically present during their dilatory tactics, like in an old-school Mister Smith Goes to Washington filibuster. But it would also require most Senate Democrats to be present at all times, to prevent any Republican amendments from actually passing and torpedoing the deal. So under the current precedents, the vote-a-rama will last until the opponents of the bill are physically unable to continue standing up and offering amendments.

What a mess – almost sure to widen Americans’ “trust deficit” with government.

President Obama is expected to ask for an “up or down” vote on Healthcare Reform, thus initiating the reconciliation process.  The potential fallout from using the “nuclear option” has been discussed in various places by various authors.  They all agree that the outcome will be grim for the Democrats.  I agree.
In the days to come, however, what is most important is the degree of opposition that the Senate Republicans will offer.  If they can continue to delay the ultimate vote until the Congressional Easter break, we the people will at least have the opportunity for one more shot to make our voices heard by our elected representatives.  Indeed, if that opportunity is given to us, we must take complete advantage of it.

The actions of the House, of course, are still in question.  Should Speaker Pelosi be unable to convince her members that the problems with the Senate Healthcare bill will be fixed, but only after the present version is passed by the House, then the “filibuster by vote-a-rama” may be unnecessary.  We can hope that the original close vote in the House to pass their version of healthcare reform cannot be repeated under the present circumstances.

This is not the time to surrender, Sparrows.  As this process unfolds, stay engaged.  Encourage or shame your elected representatives, as the case may be.  If we are to go down, at least we can go down fighting.


Filed under: congress, LEGISLATION, POTUS, U.S. GOVERNMENT, , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: