Scrutinizing the Senate

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GOPProgress’s Liz Mair provides more information on the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that is holding up consideration of S. 223. While she hasn’t found the whodunit yet, her sleuthing has turned up a number of interesting new angles–among them this one…

…while at least one (almost certainly Republican) Senator has objected to this legislation and thereby prevented it passing quickly and expeditiously (which, in my opinion, sucks), Harry Reid as Majority Leader is apparently completely capable of putting this bill on the calendar and raising it for a swift, ordinary, straight up-or-down vote any time he likes. So, while whichever Senator or Senators placed an objection and a block on this legislation being passed by the fast-track route is still pretty lame, in my opinion, ultimately, Harry Reid has the final say on getting this bill passed– and he should stick it on the calendar and bring it to an ordinary, boring old vote quickly.

A few thoughts: I don’t know if this is accurate or not (I’ve been out of the S. 223 loop for a while now, both figuratively and literally–I’m writing this from Los Angeles), but if what GOP staffers are telling Liz is true, it raises some interesting questions, not the least of which is, when S. 223 is put on the calendar, would the objecting (or some other) Senator then place a secret hold on it? And would we all have to start this all over again from scratch?

Second, it’s amazing to see, as we did in the Coburn-Obama secret hold investigation, the power of the Internet and of asking questions. A relatively obscure measure to change the way the Federal Election Commission gets records from Senate campaigns (one that was proposed and died a quiet death in the previous Congress) is suddenly front and center–with bloggers and blog readers asking a whole lot of questions about the usually opaque world of the Senate sausage factory.

Third (and if I may put on my objective reporter’s hat for a moment), what I like about this investigation is that not only have people been calling Senators, they’ve been learning and revealing a lot about Senate procedure–and how easy it is for one member, at any point of the process, to anonymously stop something from happening. I have no problem with Senate rules allowing a member to object to any bill for any reason, but those reasons and that Senator should be on the record.

And finally (keeping the hat on), I think you’ve got to follow what your reporting tells you. We called this a secret hold because that’s what we were hearing had happened. Liz’s sources (and sources for other folks) said this wasn’t a secret hold, and she reported what she was hearing. What we’ve all made clear is that there’s pitifully little transparency in how the Senate goes about its business, which gives all sorts of opportunities for members and staffers to misrepresent what’s actually going on, and divert attention from “the man behind the curtain.” You end up hearing, “Don’t blame us, don’t blame me, blame the fellow from the other party.”

That shouldn’t work anymore. As Liz writes,

Senator(s) who objected to the Unanimous Consent, whoever you are, whatever your reasons, your actions are under close scrutiny. They look bad. They arouse suspicion. Bear it in mind, going forward. The blogging community is bound to find out who you are. I certainly will continue to root. People want this bill to pass, and they want it done swiftly.

I think we’re all agreed that that’s the important thing.

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