They tried voting "nay" en masse. They tried threatening to filibuster. They tried painting reconciliation as some sort of abomination. And the Democrats passed health-care-reform legislation anyway.
So what do Republicans do now? They refuse to work past 2 p.m.
You read me right. As Think Progress's Amanda Terkel reports, "There is a little-known rule in the Senate stating that [committee and subcommittee] hearings can’thappen after 2:00 p.m. each day without unanimous consent. However,every day, at the start of business, the Senate generally agrees, byunanimous consent, to waive this rule and continue with the necessarybusiness of holding hearings."
In the midst of a hearing yesterday, however, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) suddenly announced from the Senate floor that he had to stop the proceedings because of Republican obstruction. "I have just been advised by my staff that on the floor of the Senate there has been a move to stop all the proceedings in hearings that are going on in the Senate, and we are compelled to stop at this point in time," Carper said. "I feel very badly about that. It’s not my doing."
The subject of the hearing? Government transparency. Good to see that the GOP has its priorities straight.
The point here, of course, is not just to block Senate Democrats from moving forward on heath-reform fixes passed earlier this week in the House. It's to stop them from doing anything at all. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), for example, had to cancel a hearing on the bark beetle.
But while roundabout parliamentary maneuvering is not unusual in either party nowadays—back in the Bush era, Dems routinely blocked judicial nominees—this could be a new, childish low. Taking half-days will probably be an effective way to bring Senate business to halt. How it will play with the 30 million jobless or underemployed Americans currently dying to work whatever hours they possibly can—well, that might be a different story.
UPDATE, 2:00 p.m.: Apparently, according to Ezra Klein, Democrats have employed this tactic before, way back in 1997:
Protesting GOP handling of several issues, Minority Leader Daschle invoked the "two-hour rule" but attempted to exempt the Governmental Affairs and Foreign Relations committees. But Lott said the Democrats could not pick and choose which committees could meet for more than two hours, forcing all Senate panels to adjourn for the day.
Why am I not surprised?
Still, if Republicans choose to make half days a regular feature of the Senate going forward--which is what seems to be happening, as the GOP scuttled an Armed Services Committee hearing this afternoon featuring U.S. military commanders who traveled all the way from Korea and Hawaii to testify--the Democrats should speak up. I like Steve Benen's suggestion:
Have the leadership hold a press conference and announce, "We're stunned that Republicans won't let the Senate function after 2 p.m. American workers don't [have] the option to just stop working at 2 because [they don't feel] like it, and there's no reason their Republican senators should just call it a day after lunch. Republicans have gone from the party that only says "no" to the party that's too lazy to say anything at all."
Infantile? Perhaps. But that's apparently what the U.S. Senate has come to.