Monday, May 23, 2005

The rules they're going to break

Were you thinking it would be a simple vote, a majority overturning merely one long-standing rule? That was my impression. But here’s Senator Kennedy on the rules and precedents that Frist will have to break in order to force through his new rubberstamp rule on judicial nominations. This list has been entered into the Congressional Record, May 18, 2005, Page S5410.
  • First, they will have to see that the Vice President himself is presiding over the Senate so that no real Senator needs to endure the embarrassment of publicly violating Senate rules and precedent and overriding the Senate Parliamentarian the way our Presiding Officer will have to do.
  • Next, they will have to break paragraph 1 of rule V, which requires 1 day's specific written notice if a Senator intends to try to suspend or change any rule.
  • Then they will have to break paragraph 2 of rule V, which provides that the Senate rules remain in force from Congress to Congress, unless they are changed in accordance with the existing rules.
  • Then they will have to break paragraph 2 of rule XXII, which requires a motion, signed by 16 Senators, a 2-day wait, and a three-fifths vote to close debate on the nomination itself.
  • They will also have to break rule XXII's requirement of a petition, a wait, and a two-thirds vote to stop debate on a rules change.
  • Then, since they pretend to be proceeding on a constitutional basis, they will have to break the invariable rule of practice that constitutional issues must not be decided by the Presiding Officer, but must be referred by the Presiding Officer to the entire Senate for full debate and decision.
  • Throughout the process, they will have to ignore or intentionally give incorrect answers to proper parliamentary inquiries which, if answered in good faith and in accordance with the expert advice of the Parliamentarian, would make clear that they are breaking the rules.
  • Eventually, when their repeated rule-breaking is called into question, they will blatantly, and in dire violation of the norms and mutuality of the Senate, try to ignore the minority leader and other Senators who are seeking recognition to make lawful motions or pose legitimate inquiries or make proper objections.
  • By this time, all pretense of comity, all sense of mutual respect and fairness, all of the normal courtesies that allow the Senate to proceed expeditiously on any business at all will have been destroyed by the preemptive Republican nuclear strike on the floor.
  • To accomplish their goal by using a bare majority vote to escape the rule requiring 60 votes to cut off debate, those participating in this charade will, even before the vote, already have terminated the normal functioning of the Senate. They will have broken the Senate compact of comity and will have launched a preemptive nuclear war. The battle begins when the perpetrators openly, intentionally, and repeatedly break clear rules and precedents of the Senate, refuse to follow the advice of the Parliamentarian, and commit the unpardonable sin of refusing to recognize the minority leader.
I fail to see how anyone could walk through this process and say with a straight face that they were doing right by the United States of America.

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