Rule Of Law Dead In U.S. Senate

Redstate.com’s Erick Erickson describes a rather shocking scenario which took place on the Senate floor yesterday, after Tom Coburn (R-OK) had objected to a unanimous consent request to dispense with the reading of socialist Bernie Sanders’ 767-page “single-payer” amendment to the health care bill and had the Senate clerk commence reading it…

For over 200 years, the Senate’s rules have ensured orderly and very fair debate. The minority has rights that the majority has never and would never trod upon. One of the chief rules of the Senate is that when one Senator has the floor, no other Senator may act.

Tom Coburn had the floor. He made the clerk read the amendment. Somehow, however, Senator Sanders was able to have his amendment yanks mid-reading.

Under Senate rules, that is flat out impossible.

Erickson then quotes from Senate rules as described by Riddick’s Senate Procedure

Under Rule XV, paragraph 1, and Senate precedents, an amendment shall be read by the Clerk before it is up for consideration or before the same shall be debated unless a request to waive the reading is granted; in practice that includes an ordinary amendment or an amendment in the nature of a substitute, the reading of which may not be dispensed with except by unanimous consent, and if the request is denied the amendment must be read and further interruptions are not in order.

According to the American Spectator, this breach of the Senate rules hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Republicans. “In allowing Sanders to do that, it appears the parliamentarian has broken the standing rules of the Senate,” a Republican aide emails. “We’re looking into the implications of this and working on where to go from here.”

This isn’t the first time the parliamentarian has allowed such a breach, as something similar happened in 1992. But Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell took to the floor yesterday and explained why that’s no excuse…

But one mistake does not a precedent make. For example, there is precedent for a Senator being beaten with a cane here in the Senate. If mistakes were the rule, the caning of Senators would be in order. Fortunately for all of us, it is not,” he said, adding: “It’s now clear the majority is willing to do anything to jam through a 2000-page bill before the American people or any of us has had a chance to read it — including changing the rules in the middle of the game.

Frankly, caning doesn’t sound like all that awful an idea. The depths to which the Democrat leadership in the Senate are willing to go in pursuit of politically-suicidal legislation are astounding, but we haven’t seen the beginning of the real fireworks yet. The Senate Republicans expect that what is being debated now is a “vapor bill,” a sideshow which matters not at all. The real bill will come in the form of a “manager’s amendment” submitted by Reid at the last minute – as in, the minute Reid believes he has 60 votes for whatever permutation of giveaways, bribes and policy tweaks he can combine for passage.

At this point it’s apparent that the Republicans will throw every procedural objection they can in front of that manager’s amendment, including forcing the Senate clerk to read it (it’s going to be a good 2,000 pages, so a reading will take days). But after what happened with the Sanders amendment yesterday, it’s even money or better that the leadership will circumvent the Senate rules again. Remember, all of this is only going to happen when Reid thinks he has 60 votes for cloture.

With the Senate rules now tied up and locked in a closet, it may be that the American people are the only thing standing between this horrid bill and the president’s signature.

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