The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Capitol Hill for Tuesday Night
Per Pergram/Rowland-Capitol Hill
The House Rules Committee meets tonight at 5:40 pm et to prepare the House GOP’s revamped plan for the floor later tonight. The Rules Committee is the gateway to the floor where they set the parameters for debate on the bill. If you don’t have a “rule” you can’t bring the measure to the floor.
We are expecting this Rules Committee meeting to be shorter than usual…perhaps only 20 minutes or so.
So..if they start on time…and end a bit after 6 pm et…they could have the “rule” on the House floor as early as 6:30 pm et.
The debate on the rule should last around an hour or so…so that gets us to 7:30-7:45 pm et before a vote series on the “rule.”
That probably gets us to 8:15 pm or so…before they actually start debate on the bill.
We would expect that debate to run to 9:15-9:30 pm. Then a vote series on the actual new measure…perhaps wrapping up by 9:45 pm or 10 pm.
That said, there is a wild card in all of this..
The House GOP does not necessarily have the votes nailed down on this…and one source described them as “scrambling” to get votes.
If they don’t have the votes, the measure could fail on the floor (which is why they didn’t want to do this on the floor when the market was open..as they remember the phantasams of TARP in September 2008 when the bill failed and the market slipped a one-day record 777 points).
If they don’t have the votes, they could just yank the bill off the floor.
That completely puts the onus on the Senate to start the process…and takes a lot more time.
Note that Heritage Action is recommending a no vote on this.
But if the bill passes…it goes over to the Senate in a matter of minutes.
It is unclear precisely what the Senate may do with the measure at this point.
We would expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to speak on the floor…and maybe file cloture. We’ll get to that in a moment.
But….if things go swimmingly, it’s POSSIBLE the Senate could stay in late tonight to try to wrap this up. But that is completely unclear right now.
So…here’s how this bill would work once it arrives in the Senate late tonight:
It’s rather complex…but as one Senate Republican aide just explained, the bill is “privileged” — which means that it could be subject to only ONE cloture motion and not two as is the case with normal contentious bills in the Senate (where Reid would cloture twice – first to get “on the bill” via a motion to proceed – and then to cut off debate on the bill).
So, IF/WHEN the Senate were to receive the bill, Reid would have three choices. He could:
1) just accept it as is (note that this is unlikely given the Vitter language on Adminstration members/Congressional staff on Obamacare);
2) he could strip out the Vitter language through a simple majority vote (this is what the Senate did with the House’s initial CRs if you recall; Reid was able to strip out the stuff Democrats didn’t like with a simple party line vote), then file cloture on the remaining bill; or
3) finally, he could have a substitute amendment ready and file cloture on that and vote on that own version.
**this is pure speculation but given that the Vitter amendment could be a tough vote for red-state Democrats, Reid may prefer option 3).
THE CAVEAT BEING THAT A SINGLE SENATOR COULD REALLY SLOW THINGS DOWN – Two general things to remember about cloture here that would apply in each of these three cases though they are different scenarios. First off, a cloture motion requires at least one intervening day to “ripen”, meaning that if Reid were to file cloture on Wednesday and not secure an agreement with Republicans to move up the vote, the vote on cloture would not occur until Friday. If cloture were to be secured through 60 votes, there is up to 30 hours of post-cloture debate time. That means if a single senator wanted to delay a final vote, he or she could do so and we wouldn’t see a final vote until Saturday.
HOWEVER, THINGS COULD REALLY SPEED UP IF THEY WANTED TO – if Democrats and Republicans were strike a “unanimous consent” agreement, they could speed this all up very quickly. Indeed, they could have a vote on cloture followed by a vote on the bill itself Wednesday if both sides agreed to do so. And given the concern and market implications it would not be surprising if this happened.
So in other words, IF THE HOUSE SENDS THE SENATE THIS BILL, the Senate could hold a final vote soon upon receiving it OR things could go as late as Friday/Saturday. It all depends on a) when they get the bill b) whether any senator insists on burning the full procedural time.
LASTLY, this is obvious but keep in mind. Both options 2) and 3) would mean that the Senate would have changed the bill … and it would still need to go back to the House.