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I had the pleasure of attending a luncheon in honor of Senator Bill Frist at the Minneapolis Club this afternoon. The Senate Majority leader spoke on a wide range of topics, which will form the basis of at least a couple more posts today and tomorrow. Senator Frist also met privately for half an hour with myself, Scott Johnson, and John Hinderaker from Power Line.
I'm working on the transcript of the entire interview, but I want to be sure that CQ readers read what Senator Frist told us about the Coburn-Obama federal budget database bill, S. 2590. An anonymous Senator has placed this bill on hold, but as Frist explains, it's not as much of an obstacle as first thought.
EM: I’d like to change the subject. We’re looking at S2590 –
EM: -- the Coburn-Obama bill that came to the Senate, and you were going to schedule it to come to the floor. There’s been a hold put on that bill. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about the hold and your options. I know you’ve been a supporter of this bill. You’ve already been asked if you put the hold on it and said no.
BF: I’m a supporter of it. I’m the one trying to take it to the floor. I’m a strong supporter of the bill.
EM: Do you know who’s holding the bill? Is that something that’s within your knowledge?
BF: I can find out, Ed. What a hold is – a lot of legislation has come to the floor and things are moving kind of fast – but what a hold is, is the ability of someone to say “Slow down and protect me on the floor.” You hear all the arguments about last-minute holds or holds occurring right before a break, and people will say, “Slow it down so we can take a look at it.” Part of it is that things come to us so quickly, and this particular bill probably most people didn’t see it because we were doing so much those last two or three days. But an individual can’t stop it or hold it from coming to the floor. What it does mean is “Put a pause on it until I can see it and protect our rights on the floor.” It’s a way to support the comity of the Senate. It doesn’t mean it can’t be taken to the floor.
EM: Are you going to take it to the floor?
BF: I did try the other day. The first step is to put it out there so people can read it. Probably only ten of 100 people have read it. But, when we get back people will know about it, because you all have done such a great job with it. The fact that I endorse the bill, that I’m trying to take it out [onto the floor], means everyone will have to go on record, because the Majority Leader is taking it out. Then they will have to say no, you can’t get unanimous consent to do it. The problem with that – people say yes, you can bring it to the floor, but gives us 24 hours, 72 hours to look at it. The 72 hours is not exact, but somewhere in there.
So what will happen is if I take it out to the floor, whoever it is – Democrat or Republican – will have to say, “I object.” And if you object, the problem with that is that it takes up to six days of votes to get it to come out to the floor. You have to file cloture positions and motions to proceed, and there have to be three of them. The first cloture is two days, the second is two days, and the third is two days. So that’s the advantage to the leadership to getting rid of these holds. I’ve not talked to the Democrats specifically about it. I’ve talked to Harry Reid.
EM: And he’s come out publicly and stated his support for the bill, as have a number of Democrats.
[Senator Frist's press liaison intejects with a detailed explanation that working behind the scenes to clear the hold is more efficient than using the six-day procedure]
BF: And I have a hundred other bills besides this one that need attention. It’s a huge disadvantage for me not to get all the people who have these holds and objections to proceeding with unanimous consent into a room like this. After that, the holds and objections typically go away. Typically they don’t put a hold on because they don’t like the bill – it’s because they don’t like something else someone’s doing. It’s petty politics. Now on this bill, I’ll just talk to everyone and if there’s still someone who wants a hold on the bill, I’ll take it to the floor and let him object.
JH: How big a problem are the Senate rules?
BF: You heard me in there [earlier] tell you what the biggest problem is. It’s filibusters. Filibusters are a good tool for legislation, but not for nominations. Someone took the rule and bent it for their political advantage, and I broke it. They may try it again, and I’ll break it again. So that’s challenging.
The holds are used by both sides. There would be a lot more spending going on without them. People would try to push spending through and try to sneak it it – well, not sneak it in but try to get it by if someone didn’t say give me 24, 48, 72 hours to look at it and then address it. The hold system in and of itself isn’t a bad system, but what it means is that you force people to the table, instead of just stopping petty things. There’s good things that has to be done in government today. I’ve got mixed feelings. It can be abused and at times it’s abused, but for the most part it forces people to the table.
Some people would say if there’s a hold out there, you ought to publish it in the Congressional Record. The problem with that is if you put it in the Congressional Record, people get locked down. They become “heroes”, and after that you never can move them at all. It’s much better to have an opportunity to talk to them one on one, Democrat or Republican, and work through it, which you can do 95% of the time.
I'll have more later. It appears that Senator Frist is very committed to getting this onto the floor for a vote, and he can accomplish that regardless of the holds.
UPDATE: I forgot to link to Senator Frist's own post on this subject at Volpac. It states less explicitly that he will take the legislation to the floor regardless of the holds, but also calls on all Senators to answer blogger calls on the hold honestly. One commenter already noted that Kit Bond's staff treated her rudely when she called. I'll have more information on status calls in a later update.
UPDATE II: Dean Esmay says he feels suckered with all of the Secret Holder publicity, saying that all we would have lost without the Porkbusting effort was six days. However, this means six legislative days, and there are only 15 of them before the election, according to Frist. The hold would make the calendar very tight, especially considering all of the appropriations bills awaiting action in the Senate. And don't forget that the House still has to take up S. 2590 after the Senate passes it.
Also, one should consider the message that our effort sent. The national attention should convice politicians that a new era of openness in government has come, even if we have to thrust it upon them.Sphere It he feels suckered with all of the Secret Holder publicity, saying that all we would have lost without the Porkbusting effort was six days. However, this means six legislative days, and there are only 15 of them before the election, according to Frist. The hold would make the calendar very tight, especially considering all of the appropriations bills awaiting action in the Senate. And don't forget that the House still has to take up S. 2590 after the Senate passes it. Also, one should consider the message that our effort sent. The national attention should convice politicians that a new era of openness in government has come, even if we have to thrust it upon them.&topic=politics"> View blog reactions
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» Ed Morrissey: Bill Frist Pledges To Take S 2590 To Floor from Old War Dogs
I had the pleasure of attending a luncheon in honor of Senator Bill Frist at the Minneapolis Club this afternoon. The Senate Majority leader spoke on a wide range of topics, which will form the basis of at least a [Read More]
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» Hmmmmm from Dean's World
If this story is true, then suddenly I feel suckered.
I mean, it's nice to see the Senate responsive and all--which is as it should be--but if it's ...[Read More]
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» Think This Will Affect His Bid For Re-Election? from The Bullwinkle Blog
TPM Muckraker has a pretty good case for Ted Stevens (R - AK) being the “secret senator” that’s holding up the Coburn-Obama bill. Specifically, he quotes from the Fort Smith Times Record: One of the senators most criticized for his pe... [Read More]
Tracked on August 30, 2006 11:06 AM
» The Lowdown on Secret Holds from The Right Angle @ HumanEvents.com
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Tracked on September 1, 2006 11:06 AM
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