On the floor of the U.S. Senate on Sunday evening, something remarkable—a little bit insider-y in Washington, but remarkable nonetheless—happened: The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, his entire leadership team, and most of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate voice voted through measures to fund Planned Parenthood in its entirety and to help protect President Barack Obama’s nuclear arms deal with Iran.
The reason the voice vote is significant is because McConnell, especially, and his Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), purposefully launched what appears to be an unprecedented effort to duck accountability for their votes—and the votes of every other GOP member who joined with them in supporting Obama’s Iran deal and funding for Planned Parenthood.
The way it went down is a little bit confusing, and procedurally awkward, but it’s truly odd—and highly unusual—for members in the United States Senate to purposefully avoid roll call votes when they are asked for one by a member of the Senate.
Here’s what happened: McConnell offered to the highway bill a non-germane amendment—which was deemed germane by his colleagues this weekend—that would reauthorize the highly controversial Export-Import Bank. In response, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) offered two amendments on Sunday evening to McConnell’s non-germane-to-the-highway-bill-amendment-that-was-later-inaccurately-deemed-germane.
The reason why Cruz and Lee offered amendments to McConnell’s amendment—essentially second tier amendments, or amendments to an amendment—rather than to the highway bill itself is because McConnell engaged in a tactic made popular by his predecessor, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, called “filling the amendment tree.” Doing that ensures that there is no opportunity for senators to offer any extra amendments, and it is a tactic designed to stifle open and honest debate.
Cruz’s amendment would have, when it comes to President Obama’s nuclear arms deal with Iran, kept sanctions on Iran until it recognized the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state and until Iran released the four Americans it is currently holding hostage in their country. Lee’s amendment would have defunded Planned Parenthood—which has gotten lots of extra attention as of late, as new covert videos have emerged showing executives from the taxpayer-funded abortion-providing institution seeking to sell aborted baby body parts.
Cruz’s came up first,and when he offered it, it was shot down by the chair in the Senate—the presiding officer—as non-germane to McConnell’s Export Import Bank reauthorization amendment. Cruz appealed the ruling of the chair—a vote that requires just 51 Senators, or a simple majority in the Senate—and instead of actually having a recorded roll call vote, the yeas and nays, GOP leadership including McConnell and Cornyn ordered it voice voted down. Since the vote threshold to overturn the ruling of the chair is a simple majority, and there are only 46 Democrats in the Senate, it means that McConnell and Cornyn would have needed to deliver at least five Republicans to kill Cruz’s motion, assuming all the Democrats voted that way. Instead, by voice voting it down—in fact, only Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Lee seconded Cruz’s motion for a roll call vote, not a sufficient number to get a recorded vote—they kept themselves from having to make five Republicans walk the political plank to vote against something they say they support.
Voice voting means a whole bunch of senators just yelled out that they didn’t support Cruz’s effort to restrain Iran from hurting Israel, because McConnell and Cornyn didn’t want evidence of which (at least) five Republican senators would join presumably all the Democrats to vote down the amendment’s chances.
The same exact process played out a few minutes later when Lee moved to do the same.
In response to this process happening on Sunday evening, in a public statement on his website, Cruz hammered McConnell.
“We’ve just seen something extraordinary on the Senate floor,” Cruz said in the statement. “The American people elected a Republican majority believing that a Republican majority would be somehow different from a Democratic majority in the United States Senate. Unfortunately, the way the current Senate operates, there is one party, the Washington party.”
Cruz hammered McConnell for working with Reid to achieve a non-Republican agenda. He said:
Senate leadership consists of the McConnell-Reid leadership team. They operate as a team. They support the same priorities. If you look at what has occurred in the United States Senate since the Republicans took a majority, we immediately returned after winning a historic majority to pass a trillion dollar ‘cromnibus’ bill filled with corporate welfare and pork. Then, the so-called Republican majority voted to fund Obamacare. Then, the so-called Republican majority voted to fund President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty. Then, the so-called Republican majority voted to confirm Loretta Lynch as attorney general. Then, just moments ago, the so-called Republican majority voted to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, an egregious example of cronyism and corporate welfare. Every one of those is the priority of the Democratic leader Harry Reid. Every one of those is the priority of the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell. They operate as a team, expanding Washington and undermining the liberty of the people.
Specifically about the voice-vote tactic, Cruz called it “unprecedented” in U.S. Senate history. He went on:
What we just saw a moment ago is unprecedented in the annals of Senate history. It consisted of the majority leader and the minority leader denying members the ability to have votes on their amendments and indeed the ability even to have a roll call vote. The denial of a second, as you just saw a moment ago, which was aggressively whipped by the majority, is an extraordinary measure designed to gag Senators and enforce the will of the McConnell-Reid leadership team. It saddens me as a Republican to see Republican leadership lead the effort to kill an amendment that would have prevented lifting sanctions on Iran unless and until Iran recognizes Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and unless and until Iran releases American hostages. Make no mistake – granting a sufficient second for a roll call vote is done customarily in the United States Senate. Denying it is extraordinary, and it is done as a consequence of the majority leader Mitch McConnell being afraid for his members to be on record on this issue. We then, subsequently, saw Senator Mike Lee from Utah bring up his amendment to defund Planned Parenthood. We have seen in recent weeks gruesome videos of senior officials of Planned Parenthood discussing the selling of body parts of unborn children. These videos are horrifying, and yet it saddens me greatly that the Republican leader led the effort to continue the taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood.
McConnell’s office and Cornyn’s office did not respond to a request for comment from Breitbart News about the matter.
But Reid’s spokesman, Adam Jentleson, said that even he has never seen actions like what McConnell engaged in against the Republican members of the Senate. Jentleson told Breitbart News in an email:
I’ll defend filling the tree as a tactic when the leader is facing an opposition determined to use every tool available to oppose everything he does. But unlike Senator Reid, that is not the situation Senator McConnell faces; he has a cooperative minority but is filling the tree to block and silence members of his own party. Senator Reid never did that. Furthermore, Senator McConnell is going beyond filling the tree to deny his own members a sufficient second, which may be entirely unprecedented.
Jentleson added that McConnell’s fecklessness and inability to solve problems within his own party—and his efforts to shut down intra-Republican debate—prove he’s not an effective leader.
“For whatever reason, Senator McConnell appears unable to resolve the concerns of his more conservative members and seems to think he has no recourse but to resort to procedural maneuvers to silence them,” Jentleson, who has worked for Reid for years, told Breitbart News. “Senator Reid filled the tree when he felt he’d reached an impasse with Republicans, but as far as I can recall he never filled the tree or denied a sufficient second to members of his own caucus.”
This theme that McConnell is more interested in working with Democrats than he is in accomplishing GOP priorities is one that is not new. A few months ago, Breitbart News broke down empirical vote data showing that McConnell as Majority Leader this year has not accomplished any GOP priorities and has not succeeded in getting any legislation through the Senate and signed by the president without overwhelming support from the Democratic conference.
Back then — something that clearly continues — Jentleson was gleeful that McConnell is acting more like a Democrat than a Republican.
“While Republicans have done nothing to create jobs and help the middle class, on other topics like passing clean funding for Homeland Security and confirming Loretta Lynch, Senator McConnell has done the right thing by bringing bills and nominations to the floor that Democrats can support,” Jentleson said back then. “Democrats hope this trend will continue.”
It clearly has. According to nationally syndicated radio host Mark Levin, it will continue even longer unless McConnell resigns as Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate. Levin said on his Facebook page:
It is time for Mitch McConnell and John Boehner to resign for the good of the nation and the Republican Party. The nation and GOP are both suffering as a result of the unwillingness or inability of McConnell and Boehner to effectively defend either. Instead, these politicians are consumed with consolidating their own power on Capitol Hill and silencing opponents who dare to challenge their ironfisted rule. Sadly, they rarely act in the best interests of America’s future. Indeed, time and again they have delivered victory after victory for Obama and his radical agenda — from spending, borrowing, and Obamacare to illegal immigration, Iran and ‘trade’ power. Never before has a Congress controlled by one party been so thoroughly impotent. This is due to the disastrous leadership of McConnell and Boehner. It is time for younger, wiser, and more courageous Republican leaders — constitutional conservatives who understand the role of a statesman in perilous times — who are willing to truly lead the nation and the Republican Party based on America’s enlightened principles, advance the cause of liberty and republican government, and make the case everyday to the American people.
Of course, just a day after this effort on the Senate floor on Sunday, McConnell forced the Export-Import Bank reauthorization amendment to the unrelated highway bill through the Senate late Monday evening.
In response, Cruz issued a scathing statement:
Tonight, the McConnell-Reid leadership team pushed through another win for the Washington Cartel, and they did so at the taxpayers’ expense. By casting votes in favor of cronyism and special interests, the Senate made clear what group matters most to them… and the answer is not the American people,” Cruz said in a press release. “Worse still, the one person who had the ability to make sure the Ex-Im Bank remained expired was the majority leader. Rather than keeping the promise he made to every member of his party, he turned his back on the American people and allowed one of the worst examples of corporate welfare our nation has ever known to be resurrected from the dead.
Cruz added that McConnell is doing all this while ignoring issues that matter to Americans.
“Instead of taking up issues that really matter to the American people, like defunding Planned Parenthood, standing up against Iran, passing ‘Kate’s Law’ and ending sanctuary cities, the Senate chose to satisfy the demands of big businesses with even bigger pocketbooks,” Cruz said. “Fortunately, leaders in the House have indicated this bill is dead on arrival. I hope that my colleagues in the House remain true to conservative principles and stand firm in refusing to surrender to the Washington Cartel.”