The problem with 150 amendments
The Senate convened today at noon, and Republicans raised a stink about it. Why so late? Important business to attend to!
It had to do with the 150 amendments that EPW committee Republicans brought with them to the markup hearing. The long and short of it is that, by Senate rules, any senator can object to the continuance of any committee meetings that continue beyond the first four hours that the Senate is in session.
If the committee meeting and the floor session had, as usual, started close to the same time, the markup might have ended at 1 pm. This buys them two-and-a-half additional hours at least — a helpful gesture from the Senate leader in the face of this sort of obstructionism. His floor statement and an unofficial transcript of this morning’s proceedings are reprinted below the fold:
M. President, those well-versed in Senate procedure — and those who are devout C-SPAN watchers — will note that we are opening today’s session at 12:00, instead of the usual Wednesday time of 9:30.
At this time of the year — with so much work still ahead of us — why would we have to do this?
The answer is yet another example of Bush-Republican obstruction.
The Environment and Public Works Committee has been scheduled to begin markup on a crucial piece of legislation today: a bill that will take a major step forward in the fight against global warming.
Under the Senate rules, any member has the power to object to a committee meeting beyond the first four hours that the Senate is in session.
It is unfortunate that the Republicans are taking their marching orders from the White House, Senate Republicans are intent on stopping this bill.
Mr. Reid: mr. President?
The presiding officer: the majority leader is recognized.
Mr. Reid: today there will be a period of morning business for an hour. The time will be equally divided and controlled with the majority controlling the first half, the republicans controlling the final portion. When that time is up, we’ll have to see what we can do, mr. President. Mr. President, those who watch c-span and people who are watching us in other ways are many times well-versed in senate procedure. And people would note today that we didn’t come into session until 12:00 noon. Of all the many things we have to do, why are we taking the morning off, so to speak? We have so much work to do, and yet most people’s work day is half-completed and we’re just starting. Mr. President, the reason is we have another example of obstructionism. The reason we had to come in late today is because we have an extremely important piece of legislation that is being marked up in a committee. The environment and public works committee has been scheduled to begin the markup of a crucial piece of legislation today, a bill that will take a major step forward in the fight against global warming. If there were ever a time when we had to unite as a country and as world communities to fight, it would be against a scourge of global warming which is taking place every place. You can’t listen to the news without hearing something that global warming has affected. Yesterday on public radio, there was a wonderful piece about finland, how the glaciers are melting in finland. Under senate rules, any member has the power to object to a committee meeting beyond the first two hours after the senate is in session. That’s why we had to start the senate late today, so that committee could go forward with its markup, so that they can hopefully report a bill to the floor by 2:00 this afternoon. Had we started at 9:00, they would have to stop at 11:00 because we were told that republicans would object to the hearing going forward.
Mr. Mcconnell: would the majority leader yield?
Mr. Reid: i would be happy to yield.
Mr. Mcconnell: there were no objections on this side. I think maybe the leader was anticipating an objection that did in fact did not exist.
Mr. Reid: that could be the case, mr. President. We start at noon today because under the rules anyone can stop us from holding a hearing beyond We were told that that’s what was going to happen, and that’s why we did this.
Mr. Mcconnell: but would the leader yield?
Mr. Reid: it’s very easy for people to say we didn’t do it. Of course they didn’t do it. But had the meeting started at 10:00, they would have done it. It is easy to come after the fact and say we wouldn’t have done that. Mr. President, we can see from what’s taking place in the committee about the amendments being offered to try to stop this bill from coming forward. The committee that’s meeting has one brave republican that’s joining with us: john warner from virginia. Every other member of that committee, unless there’s some sudden light that one of them sees, is going to vote against that bill. And they indicated they would do everything they could to stop the markup from being completed today. Now, i’m very happy that now the republicans are saying, well, we would not have done that. The only way that we can protect ourselves after having been given a direct warning that that’s what was going to take place is start the senate late. Now, mr. President, if this were the only case of the republicans doing everything they could to slow us down, then maybe it would be something that would need to be looked at very closely. But this doesn’t have to be looked at very closely. Everything that we’ve tried to do since we took the majority — and a slim majority it is, mr. President. As we all know, about a year ago, senator johnson was stricken with a bleed in the brain; almost died. So our majority on that day went from 51 to 50. 50-49 Was our majority, and we’ve struggled with that until senator johnson was able to return a couple months ago.
But during this period of time this year, the republicans have done everything they can to slow down and in many times stop what we’re doing. Look at the numbers. We’re now at 57 necessary cloture petitions we’ve had to file. As i said yesterday, this is filibusters on steroids. Within just a few days, and we’ll break the record for a congress having clotures filed. We were forced to begin this session late to give the committee a chance to begin their work. It’s unfortunate we’ve reached this point of overt obstructionism. If this republican-blocking tactic is a sign of what is going to come, we’ve already seen it. It can’t get worse than what it is, i don’t believe. The remaining weeks is going to be interesting. We know we’ve been stopped from going forward on the farm bill. We have tried everything we could to move forward on the farm bill, mr. President. I even said you can have have ten amendments, we’ll have five. No. I talked to senator harkin today. He said, now i think we can do it with — i don’t know the exact numbers. 17 And 14 or something like that. I said if you can get a deal like that, take it. We want to move forward on legislation, and we’re having a difficult time doing that. Global warming, mr. President, is something that we should be joining together to work on to solve the problem. The work done by senators lieberman and warner is bipartisan in the true sense of the word. It’s a way to address global warming in an important way. Nations throughout the world are demonstrating their commitment to reducing greenhouse emissions. As we speak, there is a conference taking place in bali that we have 10,000 people there worried about global warming. Australia, with the change of leadership they had there in the recent elections within the past couple of weeks, has now signed the kyoto protocols. Who is the only industrialized nation not to have signed those? This administration, this country. Mr. President, president bush would not acknowledge the words global warming until the past six months. He’s now at least been able to say the words and is doing some futile things to help. And even those small gestures are a welcome — are welcome to this country and to the world. I want to talk a little bit more about the farm bill. I have spoken to senator chambliss on a number of occasions. I haven’t sought him out. We’ve been on the floor and talked. I don’t want to go around my
friend, senator mcconnell, unless i tell him i’m going to do that. But i have had conversations with him in front of everybody. He indicates he would like to do the farm bill. We want to do the farm bill. Mr. President, at this time, there are 287 amendments pending on the farm bill, amendments dealing with drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, all kinds of other amendments that have nothing to do with the farm bill. And as a result of some of my conversations with my friends on the other side of the aisle, it doesn’t appear we can work anything out on the farm bill. How much more reasonable could we be? I’ve said if ten and five isn’t good, how about taking, as i’ve just said, harkin and chambliss supposedly, according to my conversation with senator harkin this morning, now have it worked down to less than 40 amendments. That will be fine too. Let’s move forward with this. I’ve even said, to show we’re trying to be reasonable, have a couple of nongermane amendments. That’s fine. We’ll be happy to take a shot at those. I don’t know what they would be. I’ve been told, i think one of them may be dealing with driver’s license. But we’ll be happy to do whatever needs to be done to help the american farmers and ranchers get some relief that they need. Now, mr. President, we have also pending something that i think is pretty important. In addition to the farm bill, we have a.M.T.