Saturday, June 16, 2007

What will this new Senate agreement contain? How will it function? Over at the Corner, Kathryn Jean Lopez posts a very interesting scenario from one of her Senate sources:
Here is what we expect to happen next week, though it is far from clear yet. In short, we expect it to come up this week, and if Senators (as we expect) object to unanimous consent agreements, it will take the better part of 6-8 days to get this done. They will not get it done this week (but Reid threatens to stay in next weekend).
1. We expect Reid, in conjunction with support from McConnell, Lott and Grand Bargainers Kyl, Martinez, Graham and McCain, to introduce a brand new piece of legislation - and use Rule 14 to put the bill immediately on the Senate calendar without going thru committee - which of course, the first bill did not do as well.
* It is possible that Reid will choose a different procedural path - but we expect the effect to be the same.
2. We expect that the new bill's drafters (White House, Kennedy, Kyl, Graham, et. al.) will use close to the same language as the original substitute amendment (the first immigration bill) as amended by the 14 Democrat and 13 Republican amendments adopted the the first go round.
3. A new Rule 14 bill takes 1-2 days to ripen, and then we expect Reid to file cloture on the motion to proceed (a step he will need to take because numerous Senators are objecting to any unanimous consent agreements). The cloture motion takes time to ripen, so that adds a full day and change before the vote (60). Then, there is 30 hours of "post cloture debate" that a number of Senators will refuse to allow to be shortened.
4. When the 30 hours expire, Reid will have the vote on the motion to proceed to the bill (majority).
4. Once on the bill, Reid will again file cloture (to shut off debate - again, a number of Senators will continue to object to unanimous consent agreements) - this time on the bill itself.
5. The guessing begins at this point - but we expect Reid - with the help and support of certain Republican leadership and the Grand Bargainers - to do something that we believe has never been done in the history of the Senate... he will use an arcane Senate procedure that allows a single amendment to be divisible into many - in this case, into the 20-odd amendments the Grand Bargainers are trying to cobble together to keep 60 votes in support of the bill. Traditionally, that amendment has been used to protect minority rights - but in this case, it will be used to PREVENT the minority from getting additional amendments called up and from being able to fully debate the amendments in question. It is, to our knowledge, unprecedented.
6. Once the cloture motion ripens (again, another day and change), the cloture vote can occur (60 votes) and then, again, there is 30 hours of "post cloture debate" during which Reid will run, in order, through the panoply of amendments offered by way of the division.
7. Finally, there will be a vote on final passage.
If Reid does this, with the help of certain Republican leadership and the Grand Bargainers, they will shut off the ability of Senators with concerns of the bill to offer additional amendments and to debate the amendments in question.
In the end, this means that if they have 60 lined up to support it - there is little that can be done procedurally - so it has become far more important than ever for Senators to hear from their constituents.

Step 5 in this scenario seems a very interesting tactical move. Is this source referring to Senate Rule XV Section 3? This section reads:
If the question in debate contains several propositions, any Senator may have the same divided, except a motion to strike out and insert, which shall not be divided; but the rejection of a motion to strike out and insert one proposition shall not prevent a motion to strike out and insert a different proposition; nor shall it prevent a motion simply to strike out; nor shall the rejection of a motion to strike out prevent a motion to strike out and insert. But pending a motion to strike out and insert, the part to be stricken out and the part to be inserted shall each be regarded for the purpose of amendment as a question, and motions to amend the part to be stricken out shall have precedence.

UPDATE 6/17: A "leadership source" emails K-Lo. It is Rule XV (3):

your correspondent makes a point about an amendment procedure (often called a "clay pigeon" amendment) under Rule XV (3) of the Senate Rules that needs a bit of clarification. It is rarely used, but it has been used in the Senate as recently as last year. Sen. Coburn used the procedure last April in an attempt to strip pork from an appropriations bill.

Also, Reid won't need the help or support of any other Senator (leadership, grand bargainers or otherwise) to get this bill on the Senate calendar under Rule XIV. He can get the bill on the calendar under the rule with no help at all. To get it on the floor (under the motion to proceed) will require either unanimous consent (which it won't get) or a cloture motion. That takes 60 votes.

The Republican leadership gave Reid no assurances about cloture on the bill; the final makeup of the bill after amendments will determine whether or not cloture is invoked on the bill itself. And, unlike before the last cloture vote, the leadership was successful in getting another dozen or so Republican amendments pending to the bill. There will now be more GOP roll call votes on amendments than on last year's bill when the GOP was in charge (not counting the committee amendments).
Update 6/17: K-Lo's original staffer writes back. Says that he meant Sen. Reid's use of Rule XV would be "unprecedented" in its use of the rule to block minority debate. Otherwise quarrels with this "leadership" source's statements.