The Beltway And Beyond
By Michael Green
3/21/2013--The World's Greatest Arcane Body
The U.S. Senate is often called the world's greatest deliberative body, and that usually leads to several jokes about its ability to deliberate itself out of action. But it's also an arcane place with strange rules..
One of the rules goes as follows. Suppose that you introduce a bill and it's voted down. In that case, only someone who voted against it may ask that it be brought up again for consideration. Otherwise, the bill's supporters could just keep bringing up a bill that would just keep getting defeated. But if somebody has changed his or her mind, THEN it can come up again. Does that make sense? No? It really isn't supposed to..
But when the Senate blocked consideration of the background check amendment proposed by Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Senator Harry Reid voted for the amendment and then voted against it. Why? Because of the rule mentioned above. It doesn't mean that Reid changed his mind. It means that he's trying to save the amendment in the future, if at all possible..
Meanwhile, some in Reid's party are criticizing him for switching his vote. Sigh. For what it's worth, the first Senate rulebook was written by a vice-president with nothing else to do. That guy was named Thomas Jefferson. It's a place with a lot of history and strange procedures, and history has produced those strange procedures. It's no wonder that senators often look tired.