In the Senate, No Doesn't Always Mean No
To the uninformed outsider, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) appeared to turn his back on the anti-war movement Monday when he joined almost every Republican in short-circuiting the debate on a no-confidence vote regarding President Bush's proposal to send 21,500 new troops in to Iraq.
The vote was no flip-flop by Reid. Serious students of the Senate know that his "no" vote was driven by one of those obscure parliamentary rules that only about 14 people truly understand.
Here at Capitol Briefing, we turned to one of those 14 people: Eric Ueland, the ex-chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and longtime parliamentary expert.
As only Ueland can explain (he began his Senate career in the bowels of the Capitol watching the chamber on the internal TV feed and writing up summaries of what was going on for other GOP staffers), Senate Rule XIII gives special privileges to those senators who are on the winning side of a vote.
"ANY MEMBER on the winning side of any vote has the right to move to reconsider that vote within three days after the vote. If he/she does so, that motion is then put on the Senate calendar ... This reconsideration is very high priority, and can be triggered without debate-- a powerful tool when you are in charge of the schedule, but dangerous if any of the other 99 senators do it," Ueland explained in an e-mail to Capitol Briefing.
So, in this case, Reid needed to get to 60 votes to invoke cloture, the rule that, once invoked, stipulates very strict guidelines in terms of how to proceed with the debate on an issue.
Because Reid didn't get to 60 votes (Democrats mustered just 49 votes, with 47 Democrats and two Republicans supporting the motion to begin debate on the Iraq resolution), he was considered a loser on this motion.
In order to bring this resolution back to the Senate floor at some future date, Reid would have had to go through all the procedural hurdles that are required, including filing another cloture motion. Once a cloture motion is filed, it takes a set amount of time before that motion is considered ripe and ready for a vote. For instance, if Reid decided today he wanted to re-file a cloture motion to force the debate to begin on the Iraq resolution, the earliest he would be able to hold that cloture vote would be Thursday.
"So that's why Reid switched his vote," Ueland said. "Now, he can try again without refiling cloture and waiting two days for that process to lumber to fruition."
Posted by: Claire S. | February 6, 2007 3:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Anchorhead | February 6, 2007 4:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Neerja | February 6, 2007 5:45 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Karen | February 6, 2007 5:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Stuart | February 6, 2007 6:00 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Stephen | February 6, 2007 6:06 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bigben | February 6, 2007 6:14 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ballardpolitics | February 6, 2007 6:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lonewolf | February 6, 2007 7:03 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.