Some pretty remarkable drama in the United States Senate overnight as the Democrats tried their overnighter stunt again after failing miserably to block Betsy DeVos’ nomination to be Education Secretary. Ms. DeVos was of course confirmed by a 51-50 vote, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie. The vote was closer than it should have been, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. No one in America, left, center or right, can recall the confirmation vote roll call of any living current or former cabinet holder, and even if you could, it still wouldn’t matter.
Tuesday night, the Democrats tried to show their base they’re willing to get off the mat and get back into the ring, this time to unsuccessfully block one of their own, a man they all like personally, but have to now verbally destroy to satisfy their base, Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Why? He’s going to be a rather effective Attorney General, and the left hates that. So deep into the night, up rose Massachusetts Senator and apparent partial Native American, Elizabeth Warren. She began to tear into Senator Sessions and used a Coretta Scott King quote to demean his character, without him being present to defend himself, by the way, on the Senate floor, and continued to ramble on until she began to notice there was a stir going on in the normally empty chamber whenever she speaks. The stir was Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who interrupted her, appealed to Montana’s Steve Daines, who had drawn the short straw in serving as the chair for the evening. The appeal? Rule XIX. Here’s what unfolded:
Rule XIX, for those of you not steeped in the rules of the United States Senate, deals with the decorum Senators must maintain when exercising floor debate. Sub-section 2 of Rule XIX says this:
2. No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.
When Elizabeth Warren accused, even by covering it in Ms. King’s words, Senator Sessions of “using the awesome power” of his office to chill the vote of black citizens, which is demonstrably untrue, she was warned by the chair. She continued. Mitch McConnell then cited sub-section 4 of Rule XIX when he arrived on the floor to put a stop to this nonsense:
4. If any Senator, in speaking or otherwise, in the opinion of the Presiding Officer transgress the rules of the Senate the Presiding Officer shall, either on his own motion or at the request of any other Senator, call him to order; and when a Senator shall be called to order he shall take his seat, and may not proceed without leave of the Senate, which, if granted, shall be upon motion that he be allowed to proceed in order, which motion shall be determined without debate. Any Senator directed by the Presiding Officer to take his seat, and any Senator requesting the Presiding Officer to require a Senator to take his seat, may appeal from the ruling of the Chair, which appeal shall be open to debate.
Senator Daines, who again was bored out of his mind five minutes earlier listening to this drivel, suddenly perked up when McConnell showed up and made the appeal. Suddenly, his job in the chair got fun as he heard the appeal, remembered Rule XIX, and told Ms. Warren to take her seat. Instantly online, the lefty trolls, who 24 hours earlier were celebrating the attempt by the left to silence a woman, Betsy DeVos, were now up in arms that the Republicans were silencing a woman. Their hypocrisy Hallmark card should be arriving in the mail any time now.
Back to McConnell, though, for a minute. Using Rule XIX is very interesting to me, because it is a seldom used rule on the Senate floor, and although McConnell is a veteran of exactly how the chamber operates, one could wonder how he was able to conjure up the rule and pounce on it so quickly. Well, this may have something to do with it.
Sean Davis over at the Federalist has been brushing up on his reading of Rule XIX, and wrote an article that mapped out how the rule could be invoked to close down debate on a filibuster and move to a floor vote on Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court pick, without having to blow up the filibuster under the Reid Rule. In short, sub-section 1(a) of Rule XIX states:
1. (a) When a Senator desires to speak, he shall rise and address the Presiding Officer, and shall not proceed until he is recognized, and the Presiding Officer shall recognize the Senator who shall first address him. No Senator shall interrupt another Senator in debate without his consent, and to obtain such consent he shall first address the Presiding Officer, and no Senator shall speak more than twice upon any one question in debate on the same legislative day without leave of the Senate, which shall be determined without debate.
No Senator can speak more than twice on any legislative day on the same subject. Them’s the rules. So Leader McConnell could easily deem the floor debate on Gorsuch one legislative day, provided the Senate is not gaveled into recess, meaning he turns the debate into a true filibuster…ish. Democrats would have the floor to talk it out, but once each Senator runs out of gas and tag teams out, they can only sub back in one more time. McConnell could probably have them all run out of gas within a 48 hour period. After they’ve all had two reps on the floor, whether it be at Noon or 2am, they’re done. Once they’re done, and there’s no one left legally, under Rule XIX, to take the floor in order to continue the debate, McConnell deems the debate over by rule and calls for the final confirmation vote. There is no 60 vote cloture vote necessary. Once the two-speech rule has been applied to all who wish to speak, debate is done. Over. McConnell then schedules a final floor vote, and Neil Gorsuch is your next associate justice on the Supreme Court with a final vote, I’m predicting, around 58 or better. Regardless of how it turns out, it seems to me that Senator McConnell and his staff must have been reviewing Rule XIX already, and may have led to how they responded so fast.
Senator Warren, I realize you’ve been a Senator for a few years now, but let me officially welcome you to the new and improved United States Senate, where rules are now apparently enforced. You’ve just been Mitchslapped.