So I haven’t had many posts on Congressional action lately. Really, it’s just felt pointless to put the effort into anything the House passes, as it’s controlled by Republicans who aren’t inclined to vote for anything that Senate Democrats or President Obama are likely to support. There’s not really much incentive to research and write up bills that aren’t likely to ever become law. Meanwhile, the Senate is gripped by rules that prevent it from doing anything without bipartisan support. Which means Republicans have to admit that they don’t have a majority in the Senate and can’t expect votes on all of their proposals. Of course, under Senate rules, amendments don’t have to be germane to the bill that they’re proposed to, so we get this:
Democrats are upset Republicans killed the EDA funding bill earlier in the week by loading it with dozens of non-germane amendments and voting down a procedure that would have brought debate to a close. A Small Business Administration funding bill saw similar demise earlier in the year.
The EDA funding bill referred to was sufficiently noncontroversial that it was reported out of committee by voice vote without any committee member feeling the need to file additional views. If a bill like that can’t go through the Senate, don’t hold your breath for anything that’s actually somewhat contentious.
So what did the Senate actually pass today?
Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 – Exempts certain presidential appointments to cabinet-level agencies, independent commissions, and boards in the executive branch from the requirement of Senate confirmation (advice and consent).
Establishes the Working Group on Streamlining Paperwork for Executive Nominations to: (1) study the streamlining of paperwork required for executive nominations, and (2) conduct a review of the impact of background investigation requirements on the appointments process.
Yeah, the one bill that the Senate actually managed to pass (79-20) is a bill to reduce the Senate’s workload. AWESOME. While this isn’t a bad thing considering how broken the Senate is, the country has some fairly major problems (say, the anemic rate of job creation) that are a bit more pressing.
But good news!
Mr. Reid (NV): Mr. President, it is often said that with liberty comes responsibility. We should take that responsibility seriously. I’m confident we do. That’s why the Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, the day after the 4th. We’ll do that because we have work to do. We’ll be in session that week—that’s next week, with—with our first vote on July 5. We’ll determine what time that vote will be, likely in the afternoon because of the travel problems of the previous day. There’s still so much to do to put Americans back to work, to cut our deficit and our economy back to work. It is really important that we do this. That moment is too important, the obstacle is too steep, and the time too short to waste. Even I hope my Republican colleagues will put politics aside and help Democrats fulfill Congress’s responsibility to the American people.
Good luck with that. Every indication is that the debt ceiling negotiations are at an impasse. I predict a week full of quorum calls.
Really, the Senate needs procedural reform so a majority can actually pass legislation. I appreciate the value of allowing open debate and amendments—I don’t want the Senate to be a mirror of the House, in which the majority can do whatever it wants—but there have to be safeguards to stop the minority party from completely blocking everything. The Senate leadership missed its opportunity to enact such safeguards in January. The country is paying a price for it now.
UPDATE [20:16 CDT by Goobergunch]: The Tuesday vote will be Yet Another Cloture Motion. This time it’s on the motion to proceed to S. J. Res. 20, authorizing the limited use of force in Libya. House prospects: If it even gets a vote, it’ll fail by an approximate vote of 123-295.