Monday, September 28, 2020

What can Senate Democrats do to slow down Barrett's confirmation?

 According to Politico, here is what Senate Democrats can do to slow down the GOP stampede to insert a new justice on the Supreme Court five weeks before a presidential election:

The “two-hour rule”

Schumer’s opening salvo last Tuesday was to invoke the rarely used “two-hour rule,” which can be used to halt all committee business after the Senate has been in session for more than two hours.

The move caught senators and aides by surprise, and it caused the cancellation of several important committee hearings — most notably, a closed Senate Intelligence Committee briefing with William Evanina, the nation’s top counterintelligence official, on the subject of election security.

Republicans quickly derided the move as a “temper tantrum” on Schumer’s part. When Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) asked for consent that his panel hold its scheduled session with Evanina, Schumer objected.

“Because the Senate Republicans have no respect for the institution, we won’t have business as usual here in the Senate,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

While the move made no difference to Republicans’ timeline to confirm a new Supreme Court justice, it was one of several ways Democrats could disrupt the chamber’s activity.

Perhaps most importantly, when the Judiciary Committee holds its series of confirmation hearings for Barrett in October, the sessions will almost certainly last longer than two hours. Democrats could then invoke the two-hour rule to halt the hearing for the rest of the day.

Slow down legislative business

The Senate can finish up its work on a bill or a nomination quickly with the agreement of all 100 senators. But that rarely happens, and McConnell and Schumer often spend their days haggling over floor time to reach a consent agreement.

On Thursday, Democrats refused to give consent for the Senate to quickly pass a government funding bill, requiring McConnell to file cloture and set up a final vote possibly for as late as Wednesday, just hours before the Sept. 30 deadline. The move also prevents senators up for reelection from campaigning while they tend to Senate business next week.

“Right now I think they're just trying to throw a wrench into anything we do,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters. “Obviously it's retribution for the decision on the court, and they just want to be difficult. I don't know why. It doesn't make sense to me either to bring everybody back next week when we could finish this today.”

Object to recess

When the Senate concludes its business for the day, it requires the consent of all 100 senators. Any one lawmaker can object to recessing.

Democrats could force the chamber to remain in session even when Republicans want to close up shop for the day or for a couple of weeks in October to allow vulnerable incumbents to head home and campaign for reelection in the final stretch before November. Still, even if the Senate doesn’t formally recess, individual senators could still leave Washington.

Deny a quorum

In order to conduct business, the Senate requires a quorum, or a majority of senators to be present. Any one senator can move to require a quorum call. If just a few Republicans are absent for any reason, Democrats could boycott the quorum call, effectively preventing the Senate from doing business.

Points of order and motions to adjourn

Any senator can raise what is dubbed a “point of order” to ask the presiding officer a procedural question. If the senator disagrees with the presiding officer’s ruling, he or she can appeal it and trigger a roll call vote, requiring senators to spend time voting on the objection. Democrats could theoretically do several of these in a row, which could stall proceedings for hours, even days.

They can also force a series of votes on motions to adjourn or to recess, further occupying valuable floor time and delaying the Senate’s business.

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