July 23, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Riddick’s Tome Unlocks Quirky Senate Powers

Courtesy Library of Congress
Assistant Doorkeeper Isaac Bassett would push back the hands of the Senate chamber’s clock at the request of the vice president to forestall adjournment, a procedural trick that he wrote saved “a number of the most important appropriations bills.”

The first version of the amendment is usually an innocuous decoy so that no other Senator blocks calling up the proposal. Then, before anyone asks for a roll-call vote, the Senator moves to modify the amendment, inserting new language that opponents would rather avoid putting to a vote.

Republican Sens. James Inhofe (Okla.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) pulled out this trick this year to force a debate on allowing more long-haul flights to and from Reagan National Airport, over the objections of Senators from Virginia and Maryland who would prefer to maintain restrictions.

Proceed Without Debate (p. 760)

In the modern Senate, 60 votes are often required to proceed to legislative business because the motion to proceed itself can be subject to a filibuster — and often has in recent years. Reid does have a trick to get around this obstacle, should he ever choose to do so.

During morning-hour debate, a motion to proceed is not debatable and thus cannot be filibustered. Deeming the actual morning hour expired each day blocks these simple-majority votes.

It would seem that Reid could avoid filibusters on motions to proceed simply by holding the votes in the morning hour. But the process is used infrequently because there are a number of retaliatory delaying tactics.

Drinking Milk (p. 758)

This particular precedent isn’t exactly magic, but it is perhaps the most unusual of the lot.

Senators are generally provided with water during their speeches, but under a precedent set in 1966, sipping milk is permitted. No similar precedent exists for other drinks, though.

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