Is there a difference between voting no and voting to filibuster?
It's common these days to hear conservative Democrats say that they view procedural votes as indistinguishable from actual votes. Voting against a bill, and voting against allowing a vote on the bill, are exactly the same, they say. Bruce Bartlett e-mails to say that that wasn't always true, at least not when Republicans were in charge.
When I worked in the Senate there was a widely held, possibly universal, view at least on the Republican side that you never voted against a member of your own side on a procedural motion. You could vote as you wished on final passage of a bill or amendment, but you never voted to table a measure offered by a member of your own party. Everyone understood that one’s vote on a procedural matter didn’t necessarily indicate one’s substantive view on an issue. That was reflected only on final passage.
Today it seems as if this is very much a minority view. I don’t know why, but I suspect that the easy availability of votes online and the proliferation of groups doing vote ratings have a lot to do with it. People may also be more sophisticated about congressional procedure and now understand, as they may not earlier, that a yes vote to table is actually a no vote on the legislation itself.
Perhaps this is an area where partisan pundits on both sides could help their own side. If they helped bring back the understanding that it’s necessary to enforce party discipline on procedural votes as long as the freedom to vote one’s conscience on final passage is maintained then I think Congress would work better for everyone except ideologues. It seems to me that ideologues are per se the enemies of partisans.
Any other old congressional hands have a perspective on this? My e-mail is atop the page.
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