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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Wow!

Wow! I didn't think they had it in them, but the Democrats are actually beginning to learn how to use parliamentary procedure to screw the Rethuglicans. Kagro X has the details at Daily Kos:

The House is picking up on a long-overdue lobbying reform bill today -- and when I say, "long-overdue," I mean, "obstructed by Republicans."

Lobbying reform has been one of the top priorities in the new, Democratic Congress -- in fact it was the first bill introduced, S. 1, in the Senate. But a funny thing happened on the way to actually passing that reform. Although it passed the Senate on January 18th, by a vote of 96-2 (Coburn and Hatch, if you're wondering), and a reform bill passed the House on May 24th by a vote of 396-22 (1 present -- Hulshof, if you're wondering), no further movement on the bill has been possible. Why not? Because Republicans in the Senate have filibustered the motion to go to conference.

... So what to do? Well, the purpose of a conference committee is to get representatives of each house together and work out a compromise bill that can pass both the House and the Senate, and then go vote on it, right? So that's just what they did. Sort of.

In a somewhat unusual move that they're calling the "ping pong" strategy, the House and Senate leadership have decided to agree on a compromise version and have both chambers vote on it, only they're not doing it in a setting they're calling a conference committee. They're just deciding to do it. So there's no motion to go to conference needed. Instead, they'll just send the same exact bill to both the House and the Senate, and "ping pong" it with exactly the same language between both houses.

In the House, debate begins and a vote is expected today. The bill will come to the floor under suspension of the rules, an expedited procedure usually reserved for non-controversial bills. That procedure requires a 2/3 majority to pass a bill (which shouldn't be a problem, considering the last House vote totals on lobbying reform), but it also has the advantage of disallowing all amendments and motions to recommit on the bill, which will protect it from being changed in any way and thereby blowing up the "ping pong" strategy.

In the Senate, of course, the bill would be subject to filibuster, as usual. But again, this will be pretty close to the measure which passed the Senate 96-2 back in January. Filibustering a motion to go to conference is one thing. That's pretty obscure. But filibustering the bill itself is something the Republicans haven't been willing to do yet. They may yet find it in them to do so, even after their overwhelming support in January, but hey, there's only so much hypocrisy you can prevent, you know?


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