Slow and slow voting in the Senate could impact Biden’s nomination for Supreme Court.
D-Ariz. Sen. Kyrsten Silema, D., is one of the filibuster’s greatest contemporary champions. is wrong in this regard. However, she is correct about one thing: The Senate’s voting system is absurd. Bloomberg News reported Tuesday she lost her cool with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) during a prolonged voting period.
“Could there be some discipline in our votes, ever?” a frustrated Sinema asked Schumer. This was audible from the seating area of the press gallery. “You are in charge!”
After Schumer appeared to placate Sinema, Sinema replied “Fine!” and left the chamber. This is not the first time that senators have complained about the chamber’s procedures. They use manual counting of votes instead of electronic voting.
Although it pains me to admit this, Team Sinema is here. The Senate voting process is slow, inefficient and encourages senators to be anywhere except the Senate floor. This is absurd.
Most business in Senate happens via unanimous agreement. This assumes that everyone is happy with the action being taken. Votes are most commonly taken via roll-call vote. In a slow and glacial manner, the clerk calls out each senator’s name to confirm their vote. This takes longer as the 100 senators are not even in the same place. You can often hear the Senate voting on C-Span 2, but you will not be able to hear anything except for a few seconds of silence.
The House’s electronic voting system, which has been in place since the 1970s allows C-Span to quickly gather votes from its 435 members within minutes. In 2013, the Senate’s former Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), hinted that it might move in a similar manner. It hasn’t.
The House also approved proxy voting in March 2020 to allow for less members to crowd together during the pandemic. The measure was initially rejected by the House Republicans who are generally less supportive of Covid mitigation efforts than Democrats. appealed unsuccessfully to the Supreme Court for intervention. The rule change will expire in. However, it may be popular enough to become permanent.
Regardless of whether there is a pandemic or not, senators still need to vote in person. If they can’t, it’s still one vote less towards the required majority. (Unless you are trying to defeat a filibuster which requires 60 votes regardless of how many people actually sit in the chamber. Even at the heights of Covid’s spread in Kentucky, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was outspokenly against the idea for proxy voting within the Senate.
In the next few weeks, we’ll likely see the consequences of this choice. Over a year, Democrats have held the Senate’s control by the smallest margins. This is the longest ever evenly divided Senate. Now, Republicans will have more members and vote until spring.
NBC News reported Wednesday that Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) is still recovering from a stroke and will not be able to vote again for at least four to six weeks. This could indicate that Democrats will be waiting at least one month to take any difficult votes that would require the tiebreaking vote from the vice president. Lujan’s absence may have an impact on President Joe Biden’s selection for Supreme Court justice. He will need to find at least one Republican senator who would support him.
There are times when it is strategic to keep votes open for longer periods of time. The Senate took five hours in 2013 to allow Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D.N.D., back to Washington and defeat the GOP’s filibuster of President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. A vote that started in the morning was kept open until the evening in order to allow Democratic presidential candidate to return from a forum held in Miami. The Senate set a new record in 2021 for longest open voting. It took 11h and 50m as Democrats tried to get the support of Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) for unemployment benefits under the Covid relief bill.
Sinema believes that everyday votes shouldn’t last for hours and that there should be some discipline. Schumer could have the chair stop voting after 30 minutes, for instance. It’s unclear how this would work in the Senate where each member views themselves as a leader, and not a follower. What if proxy voting is allowed in return for shorter votes? This could be the combination that gets the sclerotic body moving at an appropriate pace for the year 2022.