GOP Delays Aimed At Political – Not Legislative – Victory

December 21, 2009 6:27 a.m.

Republicans acknowledge that it’s not going to be possible to block the health care bill from clearing the Senate chamber.

So why the delay?

One reason the votes have been held at wacky hours is that GOP leaders have forced the full 30 hours required between cloture votes and objecting if Democrats try to shorten that time window. They also are taking advantage of Senate rules that are often waived to make sure that leadership has to file three cloture votes.

There’s no going back since the trio of votes were set in motion, so it’s highly unlikely the health care bill would be able to clear final passage before the scheduled 7 p.m. Christmas Eve vote, even though the total is a foregone conclusion.

Still, Republicans are complaining about “dead of night” votes.Over the last week, Republicans pushed a sort of lazy man’s filibuster, forcing Senate clerks to read long amendments aloud rather than holding the floor for their own debate.

But, as Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) pointed out last night, they didn’t stay to listen to the bill being read aloud.

Democrats complained about the extra hours and painted the GOP as obstructing.

On the other hand, the delay couldn’t have been too tough since the chamber actually adjourned early after the amendment reading burned up several hours.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) told the New York Times the Senate’s designation of the “world’s greatest deliberative body … has been destroyed” thanks to the partisan delay tactics.

Republicans only have 40 members, so there aren’t many maneuvers in their political toolbox.

The trio of cloture votes is not a new tactic, though the recent examples of amendments being read aloud have been the most extreme the chamber has seen this year.

The Republicans also forced three cloture votes on an unemployment extension – even though it ultimately passed with a unanimous vote.

The defense spending bill passed 88-10 but took days to get through because of parliamentary delay tactics designed to mess with the health care bill.

The Hill reported that Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said on CNBC the Republican caucus is deciding today whether they will slow down an expected upcoming vote on increasing the nation’s debt limit.

They may not be gaining anything legislatively, but view it as a political victory, especially pointing to poll numbers that sink as the days wane.

Republicans don’t want to look like grinches by keeping the chamber in for the holiday, but felt delay could help their cause. It also portrays the Democrats as ineffectual and prolonged the party infighting they are exploiting as often as possible in the lead up to the 2010 midterm Congressional elections.

The GOP also considers it a big win that they forced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to cancel a planned fundraiser a few weeks ago.

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