"The Senate currently works an average of 2.5 days a week. Yes, 2.5 days. They come in on Monday night, vote on an inconsequential nomination, and then they leave town after lunch on Thursday."
Dear Republicans: To end Senate Democrats' obstruction, make them talk, make them work, make them vote
The first and most obvious, is to make them speak. When most Americans think about a filibuster, we are reminded of Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Yet today, what do we see when we turn on CSPAN to watch a so-called filibuster?
Most often, you will see nothing happening, and there will be a note on the TV screen saying, “the Senate is conducting a quorum call.” But the clerk is not reading the names. This is because the Senate Majority Leader has instructed the clerk to read the names slowly as a delay mechanism.
In effect, it is not the Democrats who are filibustering; it is the clerk! One easy change would be to instruct the clerk to actually read the names at a normal pace. Once the roll is called and a quorum is produced (this usually takes 15 minutes), the Democrats would either be forced to do an actual filibuster, or the Senate would immediately vote on the pending bill or nomination.
The second thing is to make them work. The Senate currently works an average of 2.5 days a week. Yes, 2.5 days. They come in on Monday night, vote on an inconsequential nomination, and then they leave town after lunch on Thursday. Not only is this resulting in an anemic pace of legislative achievement, it is helping the Democrats win re-election.
Twenty-six Senate Democrats and only five Republicans are seeking re-election this year. Seven of those Democrats are in Republican-leaning states and two more are in toss-up states. With the exception of Dean Heller of Nevada and the seat currently held by Jeff Flake of Arizona, who is not seeking reelection, all the Republican senators seeking re-election are in relatively safe seats.
In other words, it is the Democrats who want to go home and campaign. Holding the Senate in town on Fridays and weekends would advance the Trump agenda while preventing the Democrats from going home to campaign for re-election. Before the Virginia elections last fall, the Senate recessed on Thursday, November 2 at lunchtime, allowing Virginia’s senators to barnstorm the state all weekend, while Trump nominees languished without any votes.
Third, deploy the Two Speech Rule. Senate Rule 19 restricts senators to two speeches on any bill. Far from being nuclear, this rule is as old as the Senate. Indeed in Jefferson’s Manual. By keeping senators in town, making them talk, and restricting them to their allotted two speeches, you would force the Democrats to actually work. Eventually they would tire, filibusters would end, and votes would commence.
Finally, trust the American people. Notwithstanding the media noise and the inside the beltway blather, the American people have common sense. They see through the games.
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