Tuesday, October 6, 2015

On Congressional Kabuki Show of Show Votes, Spending Sprees and Shutdowns

Last week, Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) engineered passage of a Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded for the first two months of FY2016.  To prevent the possibility of a shutdown due to riders which might derail cloture, McConnell borrowed a trick from his predecessor Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and he "filled the tree" by precluding any such amendments to be considered thus a clean CR.  This allowed the must pass legislation to easily achieve a 77-19 majority.

Republican Presidential hopeful Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) was truly displeased with not being able to effectively attach a Defund Planned Parenthood Amendment on an otherwise clean CR.  Cruz took to the Senate floor for an hour to educate the public about show votes, spending sprees and shutdown threats.

In today's Washington, there are three kinds of votes. There are, number one, show votes.. Votes that are brought up largely to placate the voters where the outcome is fore –ordained,, where most Republicans will vote one way, Democrats will vote the other, Republicans will lose, and the conservatives who elected Republican majorities in both houses are supposed to be thrilled that they have been patted on the head and given their show vote that was destined to lose. We had a vote like that in recent weeks on Planned Parenthood. Leadership told us: ‘You should be thrilled. We voted on it. What else do you want?’ We voted on it in a context where it would never happen. And indeed it didn't.
 The second kind of vote are votes that simply grow government, that dramatically expand spending, expand corporate welfare, and those votes, Mr. President, those votes pass. Because you get a bipartisan coalition of Republican leadership and Democrats, both of whom are convinced that career politicians will get reelected if they keep growing and growing government, and in particular, handing out corporate welfare to giant corporations. Oh, boy, if you’ve got the lobbyists on K street pushing for something, you can get 60, 70, 80 votes in this chamber because Republican leadership loves it, and Democrats are always willing to grow government.  
And then there's a third kind of vote. Votes on must-pass legislation. In an era when one side, the Democratic Party, is adamantly committed to continuing down this path that is causing so many millions of Americans to hurt, must-pass votes are the only votes that have real consequence in this chamber. They typically fall into one of three categories – either continuing resolution, or an omnibus appropriation bill, or a debt ceiling increase. Each of those three are deemed must-pass votes, and if you actually want to change law, those are the only hopes of doing so. But I mentioned before you have got one side that has preemptively surrendered. Republican leadership has said: ‘We will never, ever, ever shut down the government.’ And suddenly, President Obama understands the easy key to winning every battle. He simply has to utter the word ‘shutdown,’ and Republican leadership runs to the hills.

 Even after this stirring speech which stuck it to the Cocktail Party in the District of Calamity (sic), people not Between the Beltways still have difficulty fathoming this truth.

As  Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is rising in the polls, out come the attack dogs.  One of the charges is that Senator Rubio missed a crucial vote on Cloture, which could have defunded Planned Parenthood.  While Senator Rubio will not get a gold star for his attendance record while in the United States Senate, a clean C.R. precluded serious consideration of defunding Planned Parenthood. The trick was to get  a Defund Planned Parenthood Amendment attached to must pass legislation.

The highway bill in July was one such vehicle.  It would have forced President Obama to stop funding all federal highways to save funding for Planned Parenthood.  But Leader McConnell would never allow the power of the purse to force the hand of this President, so he arranged for a stand alone Defund Planned Parenthood bill, which inevitably could not gain enough votes for cloture, but establishment politicians could claim "We tried but the votes weren't there.".  Hence a show vote.

Now if a Defund Planned Parenthood Amendment were attached to a budget bill, the Byrd Rule quashes cloture so it could pass on a majority vote in the Senate. But that would require Republican leadership to have a backbone.

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