View Full Version : Who's Responsible for the Senate's Middle-of-the-Night Vote?

12-22-2009, 12:40 AM
"Harry Reid The Father Of All Liars,Sounds Familiar Doesn't it ?"

Why did the Senate gather at 1 a.m. Monday for a vote to move ahead on the Reid Amendment to the Democrats' national health care bill? Democrats blame Republicans.

"Everyone knows we're here at one in the morning because of my friends on the other side of the aisle," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said moments before the vote.

On CBS Sunday, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu said, "We don't have to vote in the middle of the night, but [Republican Sen. Tom Coburn] is the one making us do it -- not Harry Reid, not the Democrats.

It is a Republican obstructionist that is making us vote in the middle of the night."

Coburn has no doubt slowed debate on the bill. But the fact is, there is no reason the Reid Amendment vote could not have been held at a more reasonable hour.

One a.m. Monday was the earliest moment that Senate rules allowed a vote, but there is no rule keeping the Senate from voting at some time after 1 a.m. If Reid had scheduled the vote for, say, 11 a.m. Monday, that would have been fine.

If he scheduled it for 4 p.m. Monday, or 10 a.m. Tuesday, that would have been fine, too.

But Reid is determined to pass the national health care bill by Christmas, and to do so he has to get the cloture vote on his amendment done at the earliest moment.

The timeline is Reid's and Reid's alone. "The bottom line is, Sen. Reid schedules the floor," says one well-connected GOP aide.

"He is the only one who can schedule the floor."

If Reid had scheduled the vote during business hours on, say, Tuesday, a final vote would not have taken place until the day after Christmas

-- an outcome Reid apparently found unacceptable.

This is how it works.

Reid introduced his amendment Saturday morning.
(It's the one that has the Sen. Ben Nelson Medicaid buy-off and other curious features.)

Senate rules say there has to be an intervening day between the introduction of the amendment and a vote on limiting debate on the amendment.

That intervening day was Sunday. That meant the cloture vote could be held Monday, or any time thereafter.

The rules also say that the vote has to be held at least one hour after that next day has begun.

So the Senate's Monday business began at 12:01 a.m., and the Reid Amendment vote could be held at 1:01 a.m.

(As it happened, Reid himself spoke last, and his remarks went over the mark by six minutes.)
After the middle-of-the-night vote, there will be a maximum of 30 hours debate on the amendment.

Then there will be a 30-hour period for a Republican substitute bill, followed by a 30-hour period on the final bill. Reid's schedule calls for a final, final vote on the health care measure to take place at about 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Voila!

The bill will be passed by Christmas. That couldn't be done unless the Reid Amendment cloture vote were held in the earliest hours of Monday morning, setting off the final chain of votes and waiting periods.

"This is purely to satisfy a self-imposed, arbitrary deadline," says the GOP aide.