Yesterday I reported that the GOP storm on health care seemed to be subsiding. Indeed, reconciliation looks on schedule to go through by Friday, though Senator Tom Coburn says he believes he’ll be able to successful strip out certain provisions forcing the Senate to send the bill back to the House for final passage. It seems, though, that some Republicans are taking their frustration out in other ways. As the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein reported earlier today, for the second day in a row Republicans have withdrawn their consent for hearings to continue, so work is grinding to a halt. Having failed to block health care, Republicans now seem intent on blocking everything else.
A Judiciary Committee hearing was canceled today, as was a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on bark beetles, an intrusive species of insect that are destroying Western forests and causing damaging fires. “Disappointed. Rs refusing to allow hearings today. Had to cancel my oversight hearing on police training contracts in Afghanistan,” twittered Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat. Even national security oversight has been affected: a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing where three commanders – one of whom flew in from Korea and another from Hawaii – were to testify was also called off.
I emailed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office this morning to ask if this is a leadership coordinated effort or just some angry senators going rogue: no response.
The tactic isn’t new — Dems have employed it themselves in the past. The obscure Senate rule:
Standing Rules of the Senate Rule 26 5. (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of the rules, when the Senate is in session, no committee of the Senate or any subcommittee thereof may meet, without special leave, after the conclusion of the first two hours after the meeting of the Senate commenced and in no case after two o’clock postmeridian unless consent therefor has been obtained from the majority leader and the minority leader (or in the event of the absence of either of such leaders, from his designee). The prohibition contained in the preceding sentence shall not apply to the Committee on Appropriations or the Committee on the Budget. The majority leader or his designee shall announce to the Senate whenever consent has been given under this subparagraph and shall state the time and place of such meeting. The right to make such announcement of consent shall have the same priority as the filing of a cloture motion.
And, though, reconciliation looks like it’ll wrap up in time for the Senate’s planned two-week Easter recess, there’s a chance Republicans could block another month-long extension of unemployment benefits ala Jim Bunning. If the Republicans are aiming to shed that ‘Party of No’ label, they might want to rethink these strategies.