Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a stunning rebuke to Ted Cruz when the Texas Senator tried to offer an amendment that would essentially pave the way to end federal funding of Planned Parenthood.
Despite routinely letting Senators offer amendments even if they will fail, McConnell orchestrated members against Cruz, preventing his amendment from advancing.
Cruz then gave a passionate, hour long speech on the Senate floor, blasting leadership before he was cut off because of a time limit Cruz was unfamiliar with.
““I will give President Obama and the Senate Democrats credit,” said Cruz. “They are willing to crawl over broken glass with a knife between their teeth to fight for [their] principles. Unfortunately, leadership on my side of the aisle does not demonstrate the same commitment.”
“The people who show up at the polls, who elected you and me, and who elected this Republican majority, far too many of the Republican donors look down on those voters as a bunch of ignorant hicks and rubes,” said Cruz. “It wasn’t too long ago when the Washington Cartel was able to mask it all with a show vote or two, and they’d tell the rubes back home, ‘See, we voted on it, we just don’t have the votes…You don’t have to win every fight. You don’t have to fight every fight. But you do have to stand for something,”
>>>The Daily Signal caught up with the Heritage Foundation’s Rachel Bovard, “a veteran of the House and Senate, and now The Heritage Foundation’s director of policy promotion,” and she explains what went down.
“Q: Exactly what happened with the Cruz amendments?
A: The Senate vote on Monday was a cloture vote to proceed to a “clean” continuing resolution—meaning it included taxpayer funds for Planned Parenthood. It passed 77-19. In the process of filing the bill, Sen. Mitch McConnell “filled the tree,” meaning he himself inserted various amendments to then block out all other senators from offering their own amendments.
By the way, this was the same tactic used habitually by his Democrat predecessor, Harry Reid, to stifle debate and block senators from offering amendments.
After the cloture motion passed, Cruz sought to use the tools of the Senate to remove the amendment tree to offer his own amendment. He was then denied a sufficient second, and thus denied an opportunity to offer his amendment. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was the only one who rose in support.
Q: OK, but what about those who say one senator, such as Cruz, shouldn’t be allowed to hold up the business of the Senate?
A: To understand the significance of what happened, you need to know a few rules about the Senate.
First, the Senate is unique in that each senator has equal power. Unlike the House, which operates on seniority, each senator has equal authority under the rules of the Senate to offer bills and amendments for votes on the floor once they are recognized by the chair. It is a sacred right of all senators, unique to the institution.
Second, a sufficient second is required for a member to offer a bill or amendment up for a vote. The most important thing to note here is that, out of respect for each member’s institutional rights, sufficient seconds are nearly always given as a matter of custom, regardless of whether individual senators agree. For example, consider that Cruz and Lee gave Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., a sufficient second on his amendment to reauthorize the Export-Import bank, an amendment both of them oppose.
It’s simply what’s done out of senatorial courtesy and respect for the chamber.
Q: What does a “sufficient second” mean, and why couldn’t Cruz get one?
A: Technically, a sufficient second is one-fifth of the quorum, or 20 senators, if all members are present. The Senate generally operates in a “continuous quorum.” That is, for the purposes of doing business, they pretend that there is always a quorum present. That’s why members can go to the floor to conduct business, sometimes without any other members present. The Senate generally operates in a way where it is assumed that a quorum is present and members can have their sufficient second.
But in this case, McConnell decided that the way the Senate has historically operated no longer applies. As he did with Cruz this week, and as he did when Cruz and Lee tried to secure votes to repeal Obamacare and to defund Planned Parenthood on a transportation funding bill in July, he orchestrated other members not raising their hands and offering a second, and then required the chair to enforce the regular order (which, historically, is not enforced for this purpose).
So when Cruz wanted to offer his amendment, suddenly he had to have one-fifth of the members physically present and consenting to give him a sufficient second. Basically, McConnell is applying one set of rules to everyone else, and one set to Cruz and Lee, and in a completely arbitrary way in that he doesn’t tell anyone he’s suddenly going to enforce these rules”