“We know there are no votes [to block the nominee], but do what you can to call attention to it, “said Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.), the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent who could be pulled off the campaign trail as a result.” The problem is that this is a power take. “
“We can’t do business as usual in such an extraordinary situation where Republicans are breaking their word to hasten a candidate so they can kill the Affordable Care Act,” added Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) . “We can’t just say, oh, yeah, that’s normal. Sorry.”
The goal, senators and collaborators say, is to highlight what Democrats see as hypocrisy and a blatant abuse of power by McConnell (R-Ky.), Who blocked President Barack Obama̵
Democratic senators were quick to justify the retaliatory effort, which began with only less than 40 days in the November 3 election.
“The trial is everything,” said Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). “So if you intend to use the process to try to steal an election, we will use it to try and do everything to prevent that from happening.”
Some Democrats have already said they will refuse to meet Barrett, just as many Republicans have snubbed Obama’s 2016 pick, Merrick Garland. But the party still plans to abide by some rules; Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have decided to participate in confirmation hearings, despite calls for a boycott from the left.
Indeed, McConnell told his members that they should be prepared for such tactics by the Democrats, which could complicate campaign programs for vulnerable GOP incumbents.
Here’s what Senate Democrats have in their toolkit:
The “two hour rule”
Schumer’s opening salvo on Tuesday was to invoke the rarely used “two-hour rule” which can be used to halt all committee activity after the Senate has been in session for more than two hours.
The move took senators and aides by surprise, and resulted in the cancellation of several major committee hearings – most notably, a closed Senate Intelligence Committee briefing with William Evanina, the nation’s top counterintelligence officer, on the subject of security. electoral.
Republicans quickly mocked the move as a “whim” on Schumer’s part. When the president of the intelligence committee Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) Asked for consent for his panel to hold the scheduled session with Evanina, Schumer objected.
“Since Senate Republicans have no respect for the institution, we will not have business as usual here in the Senate,” Schumer said during the Senate session.
While the move made no difference to the timing of Republicans to confirm a new Supreme Court justice, it was one of several ways Democrats could disrupt the chamber’s business.
Perhaps most importantly, when the judicial commission holds its series of confirmation hearings for Barrett in October, the sessions will almost certainly last more than two hours. Democrats could then invoke the two-hour rule to stop the hearing for the rest of the day.
Slowdown in legislative activity
The Senate can quickly finish its work on a bill or nomination with the agreement of all 100 senators. But that rarely happens, and McConnell and Schumer often spend their days haggling over the time it takes to reach a consensus agreement.
On Thursday, Democrats refused to give Senate consent to swiftly pass a government funding bill, requiring McConnell to file the cloture and set a final vote perhaps until Wednesday, hours before the September 30 deadline. . The move also prevents senators from being re-elected from the campaign as they go about Senate affairs next week.
“Right now I think they’re just trying to throw a wrench into everything we do,” Senate Majority John Thune (R-SD) told reporters. “Of course it’s a punishment for the decision on the pitch and they just want to be tough. I don’t know why.It doesn’t even make sense for me to bring everyone back next week when we could finish this today. “
Subject of withdrawal
When the Senate concludes its business for the day, it requires the consent of all 100 senators. Any legislator can oppose the suspension.
Democrats could force the House to stay in session even when Republicans want to close shops for a day or a couple of weeks in October to allow vulnerable incumbents to return home and campaign for re-election in the final stretch sooner. of November. However, even if the Senate does not formally withdraw, individual senators could still leave Washington.
Deny a quorum
To conduct business, the Senate requires the presence of a quorum or a majority of the senators. Any senator can move to request a quorum call. If only a few Republicans are absent for any reason, Democrats could boycott the quorum call, effectively preventing the Senate from doing business.
Recalls and proposals for updating
Any senator can raise what is called a “regulation call” to put the president on a procedural question. If the senator disagrees with the president’s decision, he can appeal and activate a roll call vote, requiring the senators to take time to vote on the objection. The Democrats could theoretically do several of these in a row, which could block proceedings for hours, even days.
They can also force a series of votes on adjournment or suspension motions, further occupying valuable time and delaying the Senate’s work.
Take the house aboard
There are a number of actions the Democrat-controlled House could take to force the Senate to engage in unrelated activities.
One of these is a resolution on war powers, which, if passed by the House, can also be placed in the Senate by Democrats, who are in the minority.
Some Democrats have launched the highly unlikely possibility of impeaching President or Attorney General William Barr, which would force the Senate to go to trial. But the idea quickly faded and Republicans could simply vote to dismiss the trial altogether.
Delaying a final committee vote
After the Supreme Court candidate’s confirmation hearings on the Senate Judicial Commission, any senator may decide to delay the commission’s final vote by one week. The commission’s vote formally advances the nomination to the Senate chamber.
According to the current schedule, even if the vote in the committee is postponed by a week, the appointment could arrive in the Senate the week before the elections. But the Senate could also vote for the candidate in the lame duck session.
But how far are the Democrats willing to go?
Individual senators are known to cause a procedural brawl here and there in the Senate chamber, but if Schumer develops a cohesive strategy and has the backing of the entire Senate Democratic Committee, it could quickly become one of the most disruptive sets of delay tactics. in recent memory.
Also Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Who voted in favor of confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and is considered the most conservative Democrat in the Senate agrees with Schumer’s initial effort. He was quick to justify Schumer’s use of the two-hour rule, which interrupted the committee’s work on Tuesday.
“Hell, we don’t do anything around here anyway, we have plenty of time to have meetings,” Manchin said. “They can reschedule.”
Moderate Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana said he has no plans to “rethink” Schumer, in part because he sees the destruction of the Senate as the alternative.
“I don’t know the Senate will ever be what it once was. Mike Mansfield would shake his head today,” Tester said in an interview, referring to the longest serving Senate majority leader. “There’s no sense of fair play, it’s all about power, it’s all about keeping power, it’s about cheating people.”
Other Democrats have said the disruption and obstruction strategy could prove useful as the party seeks to further highlight the Senate’s inaction on resolving the pandemic, which stalled for weeks after negotiations broke down.
“We are in the midst of a recession and a pandemic, and it will apparently move heaven and earth to ram a partisan candidate for the court, but is there no time for us to solve it?” Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), A member of the judicial committee, said in an interview.
At the same time, some Democrats warn that there should be limits to delaying efforts, particularly when it comes to interfering with Senate activity that remains bipartisan, such as the Intelligence Committee briefing that was demolished last week.
“You have to be selective about it,” Kaine said.