Republicans against democracy: Michigan edition

This Rachel Maddow story seems implausible: (A) that it happened and (B) that it happened without making a fuss in the national press. But she’s a pretty good reporter, so I’m curious.

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Maddow’s claim is that the Republicans running the Michigan legislature are using false vote counts to evade the rule requiring a two-thirds majority to give a bill “immediate effect.” More than 90% of the current legislature’s laws, including the ones stripping away the powers of elected local governments and making it harder to repeal laws by referendum, have passed under “emergency” powers, although they’re passing on party-line votes and the Democrats have more than 1/3 of the seats in the legislature. The trick is that the Speaker just announces that two-thirds of the members on an unrecorded vote have voted to approve “immediate effect.” Maddow has video; the count takes less than five seconds. Apparently a court ruled against it, and the Republicans are challenging that ruling.

Questions:

1. Is this true? It seems to consist entirely of matters of easily checkable fact.

2. If it’s true, why hasn’t it been national news?

3. Isn’t it time for the President, and other national Democratic leaders, to start making an issue of the systematic violations of the norms of small-d democracy by the Teahadis? Or how about OSF and People for the American Way and the League of Women Voters and Common Cause?

Not just this stuff, but the systematic efforts to make it harder for poor people to vote. (Even if you believe in voter impersonation fraud – and the Tooth Fairy – what’s the justification for making voter registration efforts harder, or reducing the number of days of early voting? This stuff isn’t really subtle.)

Last time I checked, most voters thought democracy was a pretty good idea. So how about telling them that the other guys are against it?

They lie. They cheat. And they steal. Let’s take the gloves off.

Update Here’s the story from the Detroit Free Press. Apparently the Republicans don’t even deny that they’re cheating; they just claim that the courts can’t stop the legislature from cheating; when the Michigan Constitution says “two-thirds,” two-thirds just means as many as the Speaker says it means. One detail not in the Maddow report: the practice is apparently longstanding and bipartisan, though (as usual) the Republicans have decided to make what used to be an extraordinary procedure routine.

[And no, Google News can't find a single print or broadcast source outside Michigan, other than Maddow, that has covered this story: no NYT, no AP, no network news. Feh.]

Second update Kevin Drum does some Google reporting and tentatively concludes that the cheating isn’t new, but the scale of it is unprecedented. What’s not clear is whether the Democrats, when in power, got “immediate effect” by bargaining for Republican votes, or whether they cheated the way the Republicans are, by simply declaring that two-thirds had voted for “immediate effect” when that wasn’t the case. It also seems pretty clear that the Dems in the Michigan Legislature have been culpably passive in the face of outrageous tactics by the other side.

This story still needs an actual national political reporter to take the next step and Pick Up the Damned Phone, so (1) the questions get answered and (2) this gets to be a story past the Blogosphere.

What’s really appalling is how the Fox News echo chamber allows the Republicans to invent a phony scandal a week and get it on all the talk shows, while Republican abuse of power remains a topic of political-junkie conversation but forms no part of the mass discourse.

Comments

  1. Ken Doran says

    I saw the Maddow report as well, and my reactions were similar to yours. After I thought about it a bit, I wasn’t surprised to learn that this practice predated 2011. Even so, my question is why Michigan Democrats did not focus earlier on this as a tool to fight back against the abuses that were beginning to occur after the last election.

  2. J. Michael Neal says

    This segment demonstrates why I don’t like Maddow much more than any of the other bloviators: she’s dishonest. Skipping the part that this isn’t a new practice is dishonest. It’s a very important piece of information.

    I also strongly disagree with her over-the-top rhetoric about the emergency takeover law. I disagree strongly with the law, but it does not establish dictatorship. It just doesn’t. The manager is appointed by the governor. As you may know, the Michigan governorship is an elected position. Now, I think it is wrong to completely strip local officials of all power, but the residents do vote in statewide elections.

    The inexcusable behavior of Republicans just does not justify lies.

    • John Herbison says

      A lie is a statement of fact, known by its proponent to be false, spoken with intent to deceive. How does that apply to Ms. Maddow’s report?

      • Katja says

        Lying by omission. As I understand it, the practice is not new and has also been extensively used by Democrats in the past (the Detroit News is a conservative paper, but I have no reason to believe that they’re misstating the facts; for what it’s worth, Democrats did not have a 2/3 majority in the house in 2009, either, with 66 out of 110 seats).

        For additional reference, here is how a bill becomes law in Michigan.

        • MobiusKlein says

          Did the Democrats use it while they had the house? Yes.
          Did they use it as much as the Republicans have recently? Unclear.
          Did they use it in as many controversial cases? Unclear.

          But if you do stand up, and protest that the 2/3ds value was not met, seems the thing to do is to actually count.

    • repsac3 says

      It denies citizens local representation, though… It’d be like a president declaring that the governor no longer has any power in the state. Instead, he’ll appoint someone to rule Michigan, and you have no say or recourse, at least until you vote that president out…

      Who gave the state government absolute control over local mayors, town councilmen, school boards, etc., including the power to unilaterally abolish them and install someone of their choosing? Maybe it’s not a dictatorship, but it certainly isn’t any form of American government I’m familiar with… Here in America, the citizens vote for their representatives, even at the local level…

      • Anomalous says

        “Who gave the state absolute control…?”
        The legislature passed a law. The towns are incorporated under state law and are subject to the state government.
        It is unjust, outrageous and in general sucks but it is legal. Republicans say government is awful and when they get elected they make sure of it, just to prove their point. And because they seem to like screwing with people for fun and profit. Of course the people they like to screw with are always poor and mostly dark skinned.

        • Anomalous says

          Oh yeah, I forgot that they like to screw with women a lot too. Heck lately they’ve been screwing with most everybody. Sombody said they’re OK with caterpillers. If you heard the GOP is messin’ with caterpillers, well that’s just a bum rap.

      • J. Michael Neal says

        It’s not just that towns are incorporated under state law. That means that the state of Michigan might be held liable for a municipality’s debts if it defaults. If the state is the financial backstop, it has to have some way to take control of a town’s finances. And, frankly, the Detroit Public Schools *needed* to be taken over by someone. They had become such a disaster that there really wasn’t any other alternative.

        As I said, I dislike the specific law that was passed. It removed some desirable checks and balances, particularly in how the governor can declare an emergency. It made it explicit that the emergency manager can void labor contracts while also explicitly stating that he must pay off any bonds in full; it should be both or neither. It makes some bad changes in how the manager can be challenged in the courts, although the Detroit School Board has no one to blame but themselves for this provision since it is their continual filing of lawsuits to challenge the emergency manager they already had that prompted the new bill. (A lot of people don’t seem to be aware that the provision for takeover has existed in Michigan since the 1960s. This law just modified one that already existed.)

        However, I support the basic idea. If the state is on the hook, it needs the power to take over.

  3. Katja says

    Mark: Can a state governed by its legislature in violation of its constitution be said to enjoy either limited government or the Rule of Law? I doubt it.

    I’d have to agree here. The biggest concern I have is that gradually whittling away at the legislative process gradually undermines the checks and balances in the constitution and the legitimacy of both the government and its legislation. While I don’t think there’s any reason this can lead to a replay of the historical worst-case scenario, I don’t think that playing fast and loose with the supreme law of the land can in any way, shape, or form be good.

  4. Anomalous says

    “2. If it’s true, why hasn’t it been national news?”
    Mark: It isn’t national news because the GOP has figured out (under GWBush) that if they can do enough awful stuff all at one time nobody can keep up with it. Not only can nobody keep up but a kind of fatalistic wearyness sets in. It’s Whack-A-Mole to the Nth power.

  5. Brett Bellmore says

    Is this in any relevant way different from the federal practice of holding votes without any quorum present, by the simple expedient of holding voice votes, so said absence isn’t noted on the record? Sometimes leading to important decisions being made by as few as two or three members? This is still a lie about how many members were involved, even if tacit.

    Or even “Allinfavorsayayeallopposedsaynaytheayeshaveit”? Where a vote is purported to have taken place, but was not actually permitted?

    If the enrolled bill rule is sauce for the federal goose, it’s sauce for the state gander, even Michigander. I’d be glad to see it buried at a cross roads with a stake in it’s heart, for all levels of government. But let’s be consistent here.

    • Mark Kleiman says

      The difference is simple, Brett. If someone shows up on the floor of the House and yells “Quorum!” all business stops until a quorum is assembled. As far as I know, neither party has ever cheated on that point, though John Boehner and his Teahadis might get there yet. Everything that passes without a quorum present in effect passes by unanimous consent, and both parties make sure to keep one member on the floor at all times to prevent any hanky-panky.

      In Michigan, a clear provision of the state constitution requires a two-thirds vote for “immediate effect.” Republicans have been lying about vote-counts, and refusing Democratic demands for roll-calls. A court has stepped in to declare that illegal, and the Republicans have responded, not by denying what they’re doing, but by telling the courts they don’t have the power to enforce the constitution.

      Simple question, Brett: Is there anything the Republicans could do that would make you ashamed to keep defending them?

      • Brett Bellmore says

        “The difference is simple, Brett. If someone shows up on the floor of the House and yells “Quorum!” all business stops until a quorum is assembled.”

        And if you call the Senate into session, unscheduled, in the middle of a break, with only people you’ve arranged to be there, who is going yell “quorum”? That’s how Democrats passed the Brady Bill, to give but one example.

        I’m not defending the Republicans on this, I’m calling BS on the assertion that it’s some Republican innovation. It’s a bipartisan abuse, been going on for years.

        My personal preference would be for every single vote of the legislature to be a roll call vote. Every. Last. One. No more holding votes without quorums present, no more voice ‘votes’ that come out the way the leadership wants no matter who yells louder. Just record every last vote. Electronics make that easy, there’s no excuse not to.

  6. Brett Bellmore says

    “(Even if you believe in voter impersonation fraud – and the Tooth Fairy – what’s the justification for making voter registration efforts harder, or reducing the number of days of early voting? This stuff isn’t really subtle.)”

    Personally, I believe in absentee ballot fraud. But so many laws are lacking in a rational basis, (So called “rational basis” being something more like “not batsh*t crazy” basis.) that it’s hard to get upset about it. If we wiped the law books clean of every law with no more justification than voter ID, they’d be pretty empty.

    The justification for making voter registration efforts harder, is the practice of saving up huge boxes of registrations until just before the deadline, and then dumping them all on elections officials at the last minute, assuring inadequate time to check the registrations before the election.

    The justification for reducing the days of early voting is that there is some value in having everybody voting at about the same time, so that last minute news has an opportunity to effect everyone’s votes.

    Neither of these justifications are nonsensical, whether they’re sufficient to justify the law in question is a judgement call, which the legislature is hired to make.

    Early voting is a convenience, on the order of giving absentee ballots to people who are actually capable of making it to the polls on election day. It is scarcely obligatory. Next you’ll be insisting that the failure to offer free taxi rides to the polls is a fascist plot to disenfranchise people. Maybe hiring scribes, so that people can just describe their voting preferences, and have somebody else do the work of filling out the ballots.

    Must be heck to belong to a party with a base so lazy that the slightest inconvenience represents a threat to your election prospects. But that doesn’t make mild inconveniences “disenfranchisement”.

    • Katja says

      Brett: Early voting is a convenience, on the order of giving absentee ballots to people who are actually capable of making it to the polls on election day. It is scarcely obligatory.

      Early voting is an artifact of America having elections in the middle of the workweek, when it’s difficult for a lot of people to attend in person. It’s a throwback to when America was an agrarian society and farmers did come to town in the middle of the week. In the modern world, there’s no reason to not have elections during the weekend where, say, a single mom will not have to find a babysitter after work in order to exercise one of her most fundamental rights as an American citizen.

      Brett: Maybe hiring scribes, so that people can just describe their voting preferences, and have somebody else do the work of filling out the ballots.

      That is actually not unusual for disabled or illiterate voters. For example, in Michigan:

      If you require voting assistance, ask the election workers for help; a reason for the needed assistance does not have to be stated. Two inspectors will assist you in the voting station. An elector who is blind, disabled, or unable to read or write may be assisted with his or her ballot by any person of the voter’s choice, except the following: the voter’s employer or agent of that employer, or an officer or agent of a union to which the voter belongs.

      • Brett Bellmore says

        Katja: We have long allowed people who could demonstrate genuine hardship in making it to the polls on election day to vote absentee. Allowing it to people who simply find voting on election day inconvenient is a “convenience”.

        Similarly, we give assistance to people who physically can’t fill out a ballot. Providing somebody to do this to someone who simply finds having to fill out the ballot themselves annoying would be a “convenience”.

        What we’re talking about here are conveniences. That Democrats describe trivial inconveniences as “disenfranchisement” or a “war on voting” out to be an embarrassment to you.

        There’s no particular reason to hold elections on a specific day, any day would do. There are in fact reasons not to hold elections on weekends; You’d be holding them on one or another religion’s holy day. I don’t know of any religions which hold Tuesday to be a holy day.

        My polling place, in fact, is a church. It would not be available on weekends.

        These are the sort of balancing tests legislatures routinely apply, it is their job to apply them.

        • Katja says

          One major difference between us is probably that I think that voting is a right, not a privilege, let alone a citizenship test (per the 15th Amendment).

          Regardless, my main concern is not so much that any given individual may be deprived of that right, but that we’re looking at systematic election manipulation strategies.

          These strategies need not be illegal: Gerrymandering is a pretty common variant that, annoying as it is, does not generally break the law (at least in America, in some other countries, it can potentially even result in elections being voided). Similarly, strategies that make it more difficult for the electorate of one party to vote may be legal, but still despicable. If it becomes harder for the poor to vote, for example, then this may not disenfranchise any given person, but it will have a statistically noticeable effect.

          The Texas voter ID law, as Kevin Drum describes, is almost depressingly transparent in how it not only creates obstacles for traditionally Democratic constituencies but also bends over backwards to make it easier for traditionally Republican groups to vote (or are gun owners and the military so lazy, per your categorization, that they have to be coddled?).

          Much as you may snobbishly talk about lazy people, I personally find it unbecoming of a democracy that voters, after sometimes having to wait in line for hours after a workday at their local polling station, then have to deal with the capriciousness of the election bureaucracy of the day.

          As always, it is really interesting to see how much libertarians like intrusive government when it suits their goals. Honi soit qui mal y pense.

          And just in case, let me remind you that I’m not a Democrat. Most of my life I lived in Michigan, having Chicago right next door. I know quite well what Democratic corruption looks like. “Democrats did it, too” or “Democrats are/were much worse” doesn’t work for me, not only because I don’t see why I should be bound by the actions of a party that I’ve never belonged to, but also because I don’t see why it would excuse Republicans fixing elections now. And that’s really what we’re talking about. Not just disenfranchisement, but trying to fix elections. Mayor Daley would be proud.

          • Brett Bellmore says

            “Regardless, my main concern is not so much that any given individual may be deprived of that right, but that we’re looking at systematic election manipulation strategies.”

            Indeed, we are. Motor voter, (And the relentless failure to enforce the registration list cleansing provisions of the same.) same day registration, multiple day voting, absentee ballots without cause, these too are systematic election manipulation.

          • MobiusKlein says

            Those are not in any way manipulation, on their face.

            You may say, when you provide evidence, that they are used to manipulate elections.
            And by manipulate, I presume you mean more than ‘influence the set of folks who legitimately cast their ballots.’

            Merely helping more folks vote is just plain old democracy.

          • Brett Bellmore says

            Mobius, that makes no logical sense: Making voting harder is “manipulation”, making it easier isn’t? Those can’t both be true.

          • MobiusKlein says

            Manipulation has a nefarious implication.

            You make it sound like there is outright CHEATING.

            Getting folks to vote is, yes, democracy. Stopping them from voting is not.
            Setting up laws that make it harder to vote for some demographics is a different deal.

          • Brett Bellmore says

            “Manipulating” means “moving stuff about”. Not “cheating”. Any election law change made with an eye to how it will effect outcomes is “manipulation”, and the changes I listed were as much manipulation as anything Republicans do, because they were adopted with the changes they’d make in electoral outcomes in mind.

            Here we have, for instance, “Motor voter”, which had two major provisions: Easier registration, at DMVs, AND states cleaning up their voter rolls. Notice that Democrats have been all over the first, but under Democratic administrations the official stance has been that they won’t lift a finger to enforce the second half of the bill. That’s because it doesn’t advance the Democratic party’s prospects.

            That’s also a major contributor to the lack of bipartisanship in Congress today. You can’t achieve bipartisan compromise, once it’s demonstrated that only the part favorable to the party in power will actually be enforced.

          • MobiusKlein says

            Brett, you know full well that “Manipulate” carries strong connotations of subterfuge, cheating, shady dealings, or conniving.
            You do not comport yourself well by resorting to proof by dictionary.

    • Mark Kleiman says

      Yes, Brett, we understand. It’s hard for you to get upset when your side cheats. You don’t quite justify it, but you never criticize it. As to the question of why it’s legitimate to try to make it easier for qualified voters to cast their ballots but manipulation to try to make it harder for qualified voters to cast their ballots, let’s leave that as an exercise for the reader.

      • Brett Bellmore says

        No, I think that’s clear enough: Making it easier to vote is thought to benefit the Democratic party, and hence is legitimate. Making it harder is thought to benefit the Republican party, and hence is manipulation.

        • Katja says

          Making voting easier is generally in order to make voting more accessible. To make sure that everyone who wants to can exercise their right to vote. That is not a nefarious goal; that is something that everybody who believes in democracy should be able to get behind. Well, everybody who does not want to make the right to vote contingent upon passing a citizenship test or paying income tax or prove their literacy.

          I would have a lot more reason to take voter ID laws and such seriously if they were paired with attempts to inform voters and make it easy and free for them to get IDs (such as low-income voters for whom getting a state ID may mean not being able to afford dinner or voters who have no cars but live far away from whatever office hands out IDs, whether that’s the DMV or the Secretary of State). Then they wouldn’t look so much like attempts to entrap the unwary so that they find out on election day that they are excluded. And because we’ve had these kinds of laws before and know what they are for. Dixiecrats then, Tea Party Republicans now: “Let’s keep the icky brown and poor people away from the polls where proper citizens don’t have to tolerate their presence, and they don’t vote for us, anyway.”

          In general, the reason why we don’t worry too much about voter fraud is that it practically never matters in an election, is furthermore difficult to organize at a level that could even potentially swing elections, and would require the collusion of thousands of voters willing to expose themselves to criminal penalties. It is, in short, very unlikely to be a systemic problem. Fixing elections in ways that are actually likely to affect the outcome happens at the level of officials that have the power to manipulate the process on a sufficiently large scale without being caught.

          • Brett Bellmore says

            “I would have a lot more reason to take voter ID laws and such seriously if they were paired with attempts to inform voters and make it easy and free for them to get IDs”

            The Virginia law that started this trend off involved free IDs being mailed out. Didn’t stop the Democratic party and NAACP from opposing it. The S.C. Voter ID law provides free ID, along with a free ride to the DMV to get it. The DOJ still refused preclearance.

            I’d take opponents of Voter ID laws more seriously if they weren’t indiscriminately opposing all such laws, without regard to whether or not the ID is free. Given how much ID is used in modern society, these laws would actually improve the lot of the poor.

            But this isn’t about improving the lot of the poor, it’s about the Democratic party’s prospects.

          • Katja says

            Brett: But this isn’t about improving the lot of the poor, it’s about the Democratic party’s prospects.

            So, let’s be clear, you’re agreeing that Republican state governments have passed laws whose effect will be to depress Democratic voter turnout? (Because you seem to be saying that without these laws, Democratic election prospects would improve, which is mathematically one and the same.)

            And you are surprised that people think this is fishy?

          • Katja says

            And let me add something else. I couldn’t really care as much which party has the dirtier hands.

            What I want is not to feel like the citizen of a third-rate banana republic where scheming over electoral tricks is the order of the day.

            If you want to genuinely improve our electoral system (and by god, it could use some improvement), then you’ll need some other approach instead of having the government of the day force a law down the opposition’s throat that will just be repealed the next time majorities change. When you start doing that, you just make elections a valid target of partisan legislation and that’s about the last thing this country needs.

        • Katja says

          On a totally unrelated note, I’d love to have a preview ability — it’s difficult to check your spelling and grammar when it’s all mixed up with HTML markup, especially links. And yes, I realize that this may mean an awful lot of work for our gracious hosts, so I totally understand that this may not be in the cards. But it would still be a wonderful thing to have. :)

        • MobiusKlein says

          Making it easier to vote helps a democracy accurately represent the will of the populous.

          I take that as a good thing, and would do so regardless of the party it would benefit.

          Whom should not get to vote? Blind people? Deaf people? People with IQ less than 80?
          Citizens who do not speak English well? Folks who have recently had to move? College students?

          In MobiusLand, it’s going to be easier to vote.

  7. says

    Here’s the problem: State legislatures often, for purposes of expediency, ignore certain very clear and sharply defined rules. A case in point: The Maryland General Assembly has an annual session of 90 days beginning on the second Wednesday in January. That session ends at mid-night on the 90th day.

    Typically, the work of the General Assembly is not completed by midnight on the 90th day. Thus, the clocks in the legislative chambers are, literally, stopped several minutes before midnight and only turned to a minute or so before midnight once the votes on relevant bills, according to the presiding officers of the two houses, have concluded. Often, this takes several hours and concludes, in real time, well into the morning. Of course, since the work is concluded before the “official” clocks have hit midnight, the presiding officers declare that bills passed, even those passed after actual midnight, have been legally enacted.

    No one really objects to this procedure since it is not generally used to gain any sort of partisan advantage. My guess is that the “two-thirds” rule in Michigan has, heretofore, been used in a similar manner. That is, to enact bills efficiently and have them in place earlier than the constitutional “default” mandate would allow, but applying the rule in a generally non-partisan manner.

    Currently, however, the Michigan practice has been turned to obtain partisan advantage. For instance, a bill that limits voter participation is given a “two-thirds heckser” so that it hobbles Democratic electoral gains in November, 2012. If it did not have a “two-thirds heckser,” it would only become effective in the November, 2014, election. Because all of the seats in the Michigan House of Representatives are up for grabs in November, 2012, and a change of 9 seats (out of 110) will be sufficient to turn control in that house over to the Democrats, the “two-thirds heckser” is nothing more than an attempt to use every effort by the Republicans to hang on to power.

  8. Brett Bellmore says

    “No one really objects to this procedure since it is not generally used to gain any sort of partisan advantage.”

    People do actually object to this sort of thing, all the time. They’re generally dismissed as “cranks”, and don’t have enough political/legal leverage to get anything done about the abuses. But they ARE objecting, and let’s not pretend otherwise.

    Just as we shouldn’t pretend it’s not routinely used for partisan advantage. Even if people don’t like to admit the things they favor are matters of partisan advantage.

    • says

      I should have said that I am not aware of anyone ever objecting to this procedure. My guess is that it is used to wrap up and pass legislation that has, in essence, already been agreed to by the legislature and where the final vote is a formality. This certainly distinguishes this procedure from the Michigan situation where there has been a substantive difference in outcome due to the willful application of ignoring the “formal” rule that, informally, is more often than not ignored so long as no one’s partisan toes are being stepped on.

  9. Bruce Wilder says

    It is telling that precedent is cited by several commenters as a test of legitimacy for this authoritarian practice. No doubt, we will, eventually, have Obama to thank for the legitimacy of the fascist state imposed by some future Republicans.

    • Katja says

      Just to be clear, I did not cite it as a test of legitimacy. I was merely pointing out that Rachel Maddow’s reporting was oddly incomplete.

  10. Brett Bellmore says

    Is anybody going to address how this differs materially from the federal practice of holding ‘voice votes’ which either never actually take place, or are simply ways of disguising the absence of a quorum? Both are lies, albeit tacit, intended to circumvent constitutional requirements.

  11. Brett Bellmore says

    J., anybody who’s watched CSPAN is aware of the ‘voice votes’ with no time allowed for anybody to voice a vote. As for using them to disguise the absence of a quorum, perhaps the most notorious example is this: (Near the bottom.)

    I know the Gun Owners of America, another group, have a little
    different view. They are blaming me for the Brady bill that passed
    because I sat here with the majority leader and everybody else had gone
    home, and we made an arrangement. We let that bill pass. I was
    picketed, and they called me a traitor, and everything else, and some
    things I cannot repeat, because that happened. They said it was my
    fault. I could have stopped it. We are being deluged with calls now
    saying, “Filibuster, don’t cave in. You can do it, stop it. Stop this
    bill.”

    Dole is referring to his getting together with the Majority leader to pass the Brady bill, without a quorum present. “After everybody else had gone home”.

  12. Brett Bellmore says

    J, the bill was under filibuster, 3 senators got together for the cloture vote, after which 99 voted on the actual passage.

    I’m sure this won’t offend you, but it’s still a violation of the Constitution’s quorum requirements in order to get something passed that wouldn’t have otherwise.

    • J. Michael Neal says

      It should be noted that all you have is a quote from nine months later that is pretty vague as to what it actually means. For instance, all Dole actually says is that he came to an arrangement with Mitchell after everyone else had gone home. This in no way states that cloture was ended there; it is perfectly plausible that Dole talked to his caucus and that they agreed to drop cloture the next morning. You have an extremely thin reed here to support your position.

      My skepticism is reinforced by a couple of things. The first is that a filibuster cannot be broken simply by a majority of those on the floor. It takes a vote by 60% of sitting Senators, not merely those in attendance, to invoke cloture. The last I checked, 60% of the sitting Senators in November, 1993 would be a lot more than three. So, if they were playing games, it was with a lot more than just the quorum rules.

      The second reason I’m deeply skeptical is that there is nothing in the Congressional Record that indicates that opponents of the bill were upset by the process at the time. You can find the relevant bits here:

      http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?r103:1:./temp/~r103y1lHgP:e0:

      It includes quotes from Dole to the effect that both Larry Craig and Bob Smith, ardent opponents of the bill, were satisfied with the process. Further, the motion to proceed to the vote (which, for those that haven’t researched this, was for the vote on the conference report, not the initial passage of H.R. 1025) was agreed to by unanimous consent. Somehow, I don’t think that would have been the case if the events had gone the way you claim. I think that it’s pretty clear that the Republicans dropped their filibuster as a group, not just Dole by himself.

      As for your objection about quick voice votes in the House, again this doesn’t mean quite what you claim. The CRS has a report on the voting procedures in the U.S. House here:

      http://www.senate.gov/CRSReports/crs-publish.cfm?pid=%26*2%3C4P%2CS3

      It takes exactly one representative to force a standing vote, in which the ayes and nays are actually counted. It takes 20% of the representatives on the floor to demand a recorded vote. If you can’t get even one member who is sufficiently opposed to demand a standing count, I submit that there is nothing terribly controversial passed this way.

  13. Brett Bellmore says

    Or the reason you don’t have a quorum is that you made sure only supporters of the vote were present.

    The reason you find this confusing is that you’re mixing up “opponents of the bill”, and “Republican Congressional leadership”. In that time frame they were practically disjoint, but political realities compelled the Republican leadership to pretend they were opponents of gun control. Opponents who were quite happy to be defeated, if it could be arranged to happen in a deniable fashion. Like one fall guy ‘betraying’ his party on the Brady bill, or arranging months in advance rules of debate on the AWB that precluded a filibuster.

    It took years of elections to produce a GOP leadership which won’t doublecross gun owners at the first opportunity.

    Now, I will grant that faked votes are generally not a partisan matter. They’re usually about transferring power from the general membership to the leadership, an aim leadership of both parties are agreed on. But fake votes and vote totals are scarcely an innovation.

    • J. Michael Neal says

      In other words, you have nothing. You have no evidence and your response to the opposing evidence rests purely on speculation that there wasn’t a single Republican in the Senate chamber who opposed the bill sufficiently to object to a unanimous consent motion. You desperately want to believe that there were shenanigans, but there doesn’t seem to be any there there.

      As for fake votes being a method to transfer power to leadership, that rests upon the idea that no Representative will ask for a standing vote. Not one. Do you honestly think that there would be *no* objection to a voice vote on a bill where passage was at all in doubt?

  14. Joe Doaks says

    I had been wondering why the Michigan Democrats weren’t screaming bloody murder over this, why tens of thousands weren’t marching on the Michigan State House, a la Wisconsin. Apparently the reason is that this sort of thing is business as usual in Michigan and, if the commenters are accurate, damn near everywhere else, too.

  15. Phil says

    All the sneering about what is and isn’t mere inconvenience when it comes to exercising the franchise would perhaps be easier to swallow from someone who hasn’t argued passionately on this very site that being required to change clips more frequently than he’d prefer when “plinking at cans in the backyard” (wink, wink) represents an immoral, unconscionable violation of his Constitutional rights.

  16. Barry says

    Mark, I’d like to point out that at this time, simple Bayesianism weighs heavily against the GOP.

  17. says

    is this action not what comunisem like cuba is about i think my family will have to rethink our lake side vacations