With a mere 68 seconds of almost incomprehensible Senate legalese, the two top Republican and Democratic leaders together blocked any budget amendments, televised debate and roll-call votes over the myriad unpopular or popular, effective, dysfunctional or counterproductive measures in the $1.1 trillion 2016 omnibus spending plan.
The leaders’ surprise coup can be seen here, at 1.01 p.m, or 3.02:00 into this C-SPAN video, when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader, Sen. Harry Reid, jointly, quickly and quietly walked onto the Senate floor while a few other Senators were delivering minor speeches sought by their constituents or lobbyists.
“I see that the [GOP] Majority Leader and the Democratic leader are on the Senate floor and I believe it would be appropriate for me to yield to them,” said Maine Republican, Sen. Susan Collins, mid-speech.
McConnell walked straight to his desk, was instantly invited to speak by the Senator presiding over the Senate floor.
“I thank the Senator from Maine,” responded McConnell, who immediately began reading out the carefully written language that would set the rules for the Friday vote the trillion-dollar budget.
“I ask unanimous consent that when the Senate receives a message from the House to accompany H.R. 2029, the Majority Leader be recognized to make a motion to concur on the House amendments, further that if a cloture motion is filed on that motion, that notwithstanding Rule 22, the Senate immediately vote on the motion to invoke cloture, that if cloture is invoked, all post-cloture time be yielded back, the Majority Leader or his Designate be recognized to make a motion to table the first House amendment, that following the disposition of that motion, and if a budget point of order is raised, the Majority Leader is designated to be recognized to make a motion to waive the point of order, and that following disposition of that motion and the Senate the vote on motion to concur on the House amendments with no further motions or amendments in order, unless the motion to table is successful, or the budget point of order is sustained, and with two minutes of debate, equally divided, in the usual form, prior to each vote.”
“Is there…” asked the Senator presiding over the event, Sen. Deb Fischer, Republican from Nebraska.
She was trying to ask if any Senator present objected to McConnell’s plan.
The leaders’ “unanimous consent” no-amendment, no-debate plan would fail if even one determined Senator was on the floor, and ready to withhold consent — perhaps Sen. Jeff Sessions, or Sen. Marco Rubio, who had earlier promised to extend a debate — but the two leaders had timed their coup perfectly, and there was no Senator there ready to object or withhold their consent.
“No objection,” quickly responded Reid, off-camera, before Fischer could even finish her sentence, and before any other Senator rushed through the doors to stop the entire process with a single objection.
“No objection, so ordered,” Fischer said.
That was it.
If you want to count the time and money, it adds up to $16 billion dollars per second of Senatorial obfuscation.
On Friday morning, likely at 10.00 a.m., $1.1 trillion in spending will be swept through the Senate in only a few minutes, without debate, public observation, record-keeping, cheering and especially without dramatic amendments and unpopular roll-call votes that would be tracked, counted, measured and replayed over and over again in 2016 attack ads.
Since 1867, the U.S. Senate has periodically called itself “The World Greatest Deliberative Body.”
Once Fischer “so ordered,” Collins simply resumed her regular speech about “Section 179” expensing.