Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Cruzing" by the Rules

If you didn't make the rules for the game then you had better learn them.  Otherwise, you will lose by the rules even if you play the better game.

We see it in football.  Sometimes the better team loses on penalties.  When they don't follow the rules they are penalized to the point that touchdowns may be called back, first downs may be negated, or any of hundreds of other scenarios in which skillful play is defeated by minor infractions.

Today we are seeing the necessity of both skillful execution and knowledge of arcane rules as Senator Ted Cruz works to defeat ObamaCare.  On the surface, his move to block a bill that would defund the legislation yet fund government is the opposite of that goal.  It is not.  There is an obscure, but sometimes used rule called Cloture that is in play. 

Cloture is a motion to stop debate on a bill.  It is used typically to prevent filibuster.  The article linked here is a good treatise on how it is used.  (The quotes below are from the article.)

"Although not explicitly provided for in Senate rules, it has become common practice for the
majority leader to make a motion to proceed to consider a measure, immediately file cloture on
that motion, and then withdraw the motion to proceed. This allows the Senate to conduct other
floor business while the cloture petition is “ripening” in the background. At the time appointed by
Rule XXII, the cloture petition on the motion to proceed is automatically laid before the Senate
for a vote."

This is where it gets tricky.  Once cloture has been invoked, all amendments to a bill are subject to ruling by the Presiding Officer on their germaneness.  Any language in a bill that has been added as amendment can be stripped by the Presiding Officer. 
"If an amendment has been offered to a bill, the Senate may invoke cloture either on the bill or on
the amendment. Sometimes Senators prefer to invoke cloture on an amendment instead of a bill
because after the Senate invokes cloture, it may consider only amendments that are
germane. This germaneness requirement applies to amendments that are pending at the time that cloture is invoked as well as to amendments that Senators offer after the Senate has voted for cloture. Thus, if the Senate invokes cloture on a bill, the presiding officer immediately rules on whether any
pending amendment is germane. If the amendment is not germane, it falls and is ineligible for further consideration."
The original Cloture Rule required a 2/3 "Super Majority" to invoke.  That was changed in 1975 by a Democrat majority so that it now takes only 60 Senators in most cases to invoke.  This rule has been used to "ram through" legislation that would not otherwise have passed because of the way it gives the Presiding Officer extraordinary power to rule on the germaneness of amendments. 
Yeah, it's a bit complicated.  The ability to amend legislation is how the Founding Fathers envisioned the Legislative bodies compromising so that the resulting laws would not favor either extreme but, would more closely align with the wishes of the majority.  So, Cloture allows for a concentration of power not intended by the Constitution.
Now, what about the Filibuster?  Its definition is basically "to pirate the process."  It is not a specific rule but is based in each Senator's "Right to Debate" a question before the Senate body.  (see Filibusters and Cloture in the Senate)  They must be allowed to debate uninterrupted once recognized by the Presiding Officer who must eventually recognize any Senator seeking recognition.  It is important that each and every Senator have the ability to debate questions before the body.  Otherwise, a majority could hijack the process and silence all dissent.
So, my point is this:  Knowing the rules of the game is important.  They might work for you or they might work against you.  But, if you don't abide by them you will surely lose.

I personally do not believe that a 2,000 page legislative document that was passed without debate in a very short period of time can possibly be legitimately in the best interest of the people of this country.  I have not read it.  The excerpts from it that I have seen portend an expensive disaster and further loss of personal liberty for the people of this country.  I find it even more disturbing that it is supported by large corporations -- particularly insurance companies.  When have they ever had the best interest of the people at heart?  There are many "bleeding hearts" who naively buy in to the story that the current Administration is trying to help the little guys.  Don't believe it.  This, like most other legislation, is about power and control.  It shouldn't just be "de-funded" it should be killed.

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