-By Warner Todd Huston
Apparently for at least ten years our U.S. Senators have been creating operating rules that allow them to get out of doing one of their most important jobs: actually voting on legislation. As it happens ninety three percent of the approved measures that have come out of the Senate never got a roll call vote.
This means that the massive spending that the Senate has approved for the last ten years has simply sailed through the so-called most deliberative body in the world without all that annoying deliberating stuff being forced on our busy, busy Senators. In the Washington Examiner Tina Korbe highlights the Senate’s use of the “unanimous consent” rule that allows bills to flow quickly through the Senate by dispensing with Senators having to actually sit down and hit the “yea” or “nay” button before a bill is passed on to the reconciliation phase of the lawmaking process.
Unanimous consent is a procedural device used to speed up the legislative process — as long as no senator objects. In practice, the Senate arrives at unanimous consent not by debate or by thoughtful consideration of bills, but by the Senate “hotline,” an informal telephoned request asking senators to allow measures to be approved by the Senate without debate or amendment.
Korbe goes on to say that a bill will pass automatically unless any senator calls the majority leader on the phone and asks for a “hold” to be placed on the bill. And if a senator isn’t in his office? Well, if he misses the “unanimous consent” why then his absence is taken as consent to pass the bill.
Those “holds” also remain secret. Once the “unanimous consent” attempt is stopped by a “hold” no one knows which senator placed that hold on the process (unless that senator announces his hold vote, of course).
So, what is Harry Reid’s Senate doing? Is it trying to get rid of the “unanimous consent” rule so that votes are transparent and known to the voters and so that our senate actually has to do the work they were sent there to do?
Harry Reid’s majority is trying to get rid of the secret holds so that the “unanimous consent” can go even easier. This way, you see, the senate doesn’t have to do any actually “deliberating” to earn their long-time reputation as the most deliberative body in the world and the massive spending that Democrats and Obama want can be passed without any mess and fuss of all that silly “voting” business.
Now, there are some things that the senate does where the “unanimous consent” procedure makes sense. When these people pass their silly, time-wasting resolutions for sports teams or praise for local folks back home, a roll call vote really would be a waste of time. In these cases a constant roll call vote really would unnecessarily slow down the actual legislative process.
Of course, why our senate is wasting its time congratulating little league teams, or creating the name-your-month months is another question, one that we should be requiring our senators to justify. Get rid of all such nonsense and the “unanimous consent” rule won’t be needed… unless, dear senate, your goal is to hide your vote from the public and continue your outlandish, wasteful spending.
As Korbe says, this new congress is the ideal time to address these idiotic rules. Let’s have some of that transparency that President Obama claimed for years that he’d foster. But let’s actually have that transparency instead of the president’s empty promises.