We don’t have an answer yet (Paul and I both made some calls to some Democratic offices on the subject–I called the offices of Sen. Harry’ Reid and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, while Paul called Sen. Russ Feingold’s office), but we did take seriously Robert Bluey’s suggestion that in addition to playing phone tag with the staffers of Republican Senators, we also call Reid’s office to find out if the Majority Leader would put the bill on the legislative calendar as an alternative to last week’s thwarted attempt to get unanimous consent to consider the bill. There’s more than one path for a worthy transparency bill to get through the Senate, and if anonymous Senators close off one, it’s worth asking whether there’s a “plan B.”
But one thing worth noting is that plan B isn’t as good as plan A, if passing a clean, noncontroversial measure is your goal. Sen. Russ Feingold explains why unanimous consent is preferable:
Basically, the way to get around an objection to action by unanimous consent is for the Majority Leader to bring up the bill and schedule a cloture vote on the motion to proceed to it. That vote takes place two days after a cloture vote is filed. I have no doubt we would win such a vote handily, maybe even unanimously. But then the bill would be subject to amendment and there are many controversial and contentious campaign finance amendments, or even amendments on other topics that might be offered. And the only way to limit those amendments would be to schedule another cloture vote to limit debate. So the process could take several days under the best of circumstances.
All of that could be done, but there are many other worthy bills competing for floor time. This bill is not controversial. No one has given a single reason to oppose it, or even debate it. It is exactly the kind of good, non-controversial bill that should pass the Senate by unanimous consent, and with your help, I hope it will.
Robert Bluey writes that we should respect the Senate’s longstanding traditions, and I agree, but asking for unanimous consent on a noncontroversial bill does not represent a radical departure from tradition. Nor does larding up a popular measure with pork and other unrelated items, nor does killing a measure by tacking on poison pill amendments, both of which are possibilities if unanimous consent is thwarted and the bill ends up going on the calendar.