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May 17, 2007

Senate Procedures and the Amnesty Bill

Can the anti-Amnesty forces filibuster this abomination? Probably not. Over at the Corner, Rich Lowry says that supporters of the bill probably have 70-75 votes, which would easily invoke cloture if true.

However, there is a parliamentary maneuver that can embarrass the bill's managers: any Senator has the right to demand that the bill be read in it's entirety by the Clerk. Once this point of order is invoked, the Clerk must read the bill outloud, and, more importantly, the Senate can not (if I remember the rule correctly) take any action to prevent the Senator who made the demand from being able to sit there and hear the whole thing.

This rule is often invoked as a "quasi-filibuster". Often, a Senator will use it to demand that a bill that is, say, 1000 pages long be read, knowing that it would take hours, if not a couple of days, for this to actually be carried out. This greatly annoys Senate Leadership, as it prevents them from conducting business on the floor.

The only way I know of for the request to read the bill to be overruled is if the Senate agrees, by Unanimous Consent, to waive the reading of the bill once it's started. As long as the Senator who asked for it to be read objects to the UC request, however, the Senate floor is brought to a stop.

I have no doubt that the lawyers who work for the Senate Legislative Counsel are feverishly drafting language as we speak, and will be doing so through the weekend.

However that doesn't mean it will get done, does it? In fact, it very well might not be finished.

It really would be embarrassing if a Senator went to the floor and demanded a bill be read only to have the clerk say that "we have no bill or legislation before us to read" wouldn't it?

Similarly, it would be awfully helpful to have the Senate tied up so that the American people could make their voices heard, I think.

So when you are contacting your Senators, ask them to demand that the bill be read in its entirety.

They shouldn't have the luxury of voting for something as early as Monday that we all know neither they nor their staffs have read in full.

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posted by Jack M. at 08:59 PM

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