Most of us of a “certain age” remember Arte Johnson’s Laugh In character who would emerge from undergrowth at points in the show and declaim “Veery interesting!”
A reader sent me a column that elicited a similar sentiment from me as it had from him. He wanted to know whether the legal points being raised were accurate. As I indicated, it’s an area far beyond what expertise I still–or ever–had, but I promised to do a bit of research.
The article itself, titled “Who’s Afraid of Mitch McConnell,” asserted that even in the absence of wins in Georgia, Kamala Harris has authority under the Constitution to call on any senator who will call up one of the numerous bills on which McConnell has refused to allow a vote. Lawyers who read this blog can click on the link and draw their own conclusions.
I did some limited research, but Dr. Google let me down, so I turned to a couple of lawyers I know, who met my very stringent criteria: they had to be good lawyers, they had to be politically savvy, and they had to be nice people who were likely to humor me. (So–one of my sons and a friend who is really, really smart. Both named David.)
That friend summed up the problem with the article’s thesis thusly:
Certainly not my area of expertise, but I see three problems with the analysis.
First, custom becomes rule. The idea that a VP could come in and do this without a massive response is pie-in-the-sky. The pushback would come from Democrats as well as Republicans, protecting Senate privilege and custom from interference from the Executive.
Second, it ignores the elephant in the room, cloture. Even if Harris could do this, it still takes 60 votes to stop debate, and Republicans not only have them, but such a strong-armed move would guarantee a complete shut down of the Senate, with no negotiation or compromise.
And third, it assumes today’s Republicans are capable of shame. The idea that bringing a vote to the floor would change their behavior is akin to assuming that putting a bow on a rabid pit bull will make it a poodle.
My son was–if possible–even more negative. His comment (edited slightly for profanities–he takes after his mother):
I agree with David. I would add (as I mentioned on the FB page of the guy who circulated this point a few weeks ago) that the ONLY thing the applicable clause of the Constitution says about VP and Senate is that the VP is the President of the Senate and gets NO vote unless the body is evenly divided…. hardly a textual position of strength to argue that the VP can come in and dictate who gets to preside and run the show.
Also, the argument is somewhat internally contradictory — on the one hand, the Constitution grants her sweeping powers to override longstanding, informal rules, on the other hand, the VP’s “priority recognition”-power IS one of those informal rules.
Of course, all the other practical/political/prudential reasons David noted are also at work.
I think it’s a fantasy, particularly in a world where EVEN IF Dems retake the Senate by winning both Dem seats in Georgia, f***ers like Manchin and Feinstein stand ready to kill any attempt to even soften the Filibuster that would defang McConnell.
Actually, his last sentence suggests his current mood, and may indicate a need for intervention–or at least, strong drink:
The country is doomed. The sooner we all move away, the more peace of mind we’ll have.
It would be lovely if the Constitution or some other part of the legal system had a shortcut we could use to repair what is broken. It doesn’t. We have a lot of work ahead of us–and failure to do that work would doom the American experiment.