In a bit of political theater, Senate Democrats plan to hold Republicans hostage on the floor and continually reject moving to debate on the Wall Street reform bill as a means to highlight the obstructionism and hopefully break the impasse.
Senior leadership aides told FDL News that live quorum calls, where the sergeant-at-arms is dispatched to bring all members into the chamber, will begin shortly after a press conference scheduled for 4:30 pm ET. Those live quorum calls, forcing Republicans onto the floor, will continue late into the evening. By 11:00 pm ET or so, Democrats will begin to ask unanimous consent to move to the Wall Street reform bill every hour, with debate continuing. It is expected that at least one Republican would deny unanimous consent on the bill.
There is a cloture vote that will ripen by 1:00 am, and there will be vote on that, probably after the all-nighter, at around 7-8 am tomorrow morning. During this whole time, the floor will be controlled mainly by freshman Democrats, who have wanted to force the issue on this.
A senior leadership aide described this stunt as similar to what they did when Jim Bunning would not give consent on the unemployment insurance extension. The press was very negative toward Bunning and the Republicans, and eventually they caved. Democrats are hopeful that they can force the hand of those who have wavered on the FinReg bill – George Voinovich, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and others – and “seal the deal” on moving to a floor debate on it. It is likely that Democrats would need more than one Republican to get 60 votes, as Ben Nelson “doesn’t seem like he’s budging,” the aide said.
Even Republicans have acknowledged that they will eventually allow the bill to go forward, so the real question is what happens at that time. Jeff Merkley and other Senators have recommended an open debate process with a majority vote on all amendments. The aide wasn’t totally sure about how things would proceed, but she did believe that an open amendment process could be a part of any deal with Republicans. The GOP has claimed that they would get blocked from allowing amendments on the floor, so opening up the process would have the effect of calling their bluff.
One other thing: Robert Byrd missed the earlier vote this afternoon on proceeding to the Wall Street reform bill, but the aide said that Byrd has been active around the Senate and doesn’t know anything about him being sick, so he should be available for the debate. I would doubt we’ll see him around all night, however.
…The AFL-CIO is patching through 400,000 calls tonight, according to spokesman Eddie Vale, to ramp up along with Reid’s effort.