26 March 2021

Our dysfunctional government

From an article at Axios:

Some tools at McConnell's disposal:

Demanding roll call votes on procedural points of order, forcing Democratic senators and Vice President Kamala Harris — the tie-breaking 51st vote — to live on standby at the Capitol.

Unnecessary quorum calls, pausing Senate business while the secretary issues a roll call vote to ensure all 100 senators are present on the floor. It only takes one member to call for it.

Rotating Republicans onto the floor for hours-long debate about motions and bills — reminiscent of the technique illustrated in the 1939 movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

Asking Senate secretaries to read through lengthy bills and amendments, similar to what Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) did before a vote on President Biden's coronavirus relief package — which took more than 10 hours.

Senate GOP aides say they could introduce 2,000-page substitute amendments to make the process particularly tedious...

"The Senate convenes. Quorum call. The presiding officer asks for consent to forgo reading yesterday’s journal. Republicans object. Roll call vote. The officer asks for consent to speed through 'morning business.' Republicans object."

"Democrats move to get on an issue. Point of order. Roll-call vote. Quorum call. Republicans object to the motion. Roll-call vote. A speech. Quorum call. Etc., and so on, until adjournment."

The other side: Democrats insist they've heard it before, and their supporters are sick of McConnell's rhetoric — especially after he changed the filibuster rule to let President Trump fill three Supreme Court seats.


  1. *shrug* It's only a matter of time until our government falls. Nothing lasts forever, and the pattern of history shows that republics almost always turn into empires/dictatorships. The question isn't 'will our current form of government fail us?', it's 'it already has, so what are we going to become next?' And the choices are fascist dictatorship, or social democracy. Choose wisely.

  2. Congress needs to learn to vote faster. I just looked up some voting in Dutch parliament. Several laws and amendments in 2 minutes and a few seconds.

    Now, voting in Dutch parliament is intended to be efficient. Most voting is at Wednesday noon, except is motions need to be voted on during a debate. Everybody is supposed to be there. However, the first question is whether there's objection to voting on party lines, and unless the opposition smells an opportunity where not enough members of the majority are present, nobody will object. After that, there's one person per any of the (roughly) 15 parties that will vote for the entire party and hoppa there it goes.


    If anyone objects to party line votes, it gets sussed out which vote the roll call is for, and that law will get voted on last, and alarm bells will ring throughout the building. Everybody has to show up, and a staff member will pull a number from a bag, and roll call will start at that number on the list of alphabetically ordered members. Names get called, whole thing takes a few minutes to get through all 150 members. Under COVID rules, it takes a little longer as the 150 members are divided in 3 (alphabetical) groups to maintain spacing.


    As there are (too) many small parties in parliament that have a hard time keeping up with all the work due to their small size, they do not have an incentive to frustrate and call for roll calls all the time. Also, I don't think individual members can force roll call votes. Custom is that requests get honored from individual members, but I think the rules require several members of different parties to support such a motion.

    Because Dutch parliament runs itself for itself, it's possible that the current president of parliament is not a member of the majority coalition, but of the opposition. Parliament runs itself to be efficient for the convenience of its members, not that of the government. This take the incentive away from opposition members to frustrate the functioning of parliament.

    In the Federal and Flemmish parliaments in Belgium, members have a button at their desk, and roll call votes can be taken in seconds. Here's a clip of a full roll call vote in 34 seconds in the Flemmish parliament. Federal parliament works exactly the same, except that it's in a different room and bilingual.


    No drama, no infinitely long open votes, just vote and over to the next person.

    US Congress can make its own rules. It chooses to keep them stupid.

  3. With respect, I'm pretty sure BOTH sides have played such games. As for reading the entire bill, THEY OUGHT TO. After all, why in the world would they pass a bill that might have some troubling small print?

  4. I'm pretty sure BOTH sides have played such games.

    Yes, but not nearly in equal amounts.

    Remind me of Democrats filibustering during the first two years of the previous president when his party controlled the entire government. And when was the last time Democrats stole a SCOTUS nomination?

    As for reading the entire bill, THEY OUGHT TO.

    Only if you want very few laws to pass. The point of having committees is that the details get hashed out there, so that not everybody has to sweat over every detail. It is hardly reasonable to expect every member of Congress to understand the full working of the US government.

    Especially when I would suspect a large number of members would have a hard time filling out the paperwork to run for office themselves.

  5. Point of order. Harry Reid changed the filibuster rules for Judicial Appointments.


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