Did the Senate Breaks Procedural Rules?

Misleading headline by Josh Rogin?  It doesn’t sound like the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee procedure was “broken” but rather that there was some inherent flexibility–e.g., discretion of the chair.

According to Senate rules, hearings should be notified seven days in advance, business meetings should be notified at least three days in advance, and members should have 24 hours to consider legislative text before having to vote on it. A spokesman for Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) pointed out that the chairman and ranking member of the committee have the discretion to call a business meeting earlier if they both agree.

“This has been an open process under a shortened timeline where senators’ views from across the spectrum have been solicited and welcomed. With an agreement between the chairman and ranking member to proceed after hours of hearings, briefings, and meetings, the committee pursuant to the rules is proceeding with the business meeting,” said spokesman Adam Sharon.

via Senate Breaks Own Rules in Rush to Vote on Syria War – The Daily Beast.

The role of chairperson has its privileges.

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3 thoughts on “Did the Senate Breaks Procedural Rules?

  1. jmmorgan242 says:

    I can’t help but feel that the US Government is bent on rushing into a war in Syria. If what this article says is correct, then the House and the Senate seem to be competing with each other to see who can pass a resolution first rather than working together to further the best interests of the American people (which is their job, though sometimes I think they forget that). What is happening in Syria is devastating, and an atrocity, but it is not solely the responsibility of the United States to put a stop to it. If the economic burden and loss of life, that will surely be brought about by a war in Syria, are going to fall squarely on the shoulders of the American people, then the government ought not to push us into war. If this was a shared effort by the members of the UN Security Council, then I would support the world taking a stand against the violence that is occurring in Syria, but as an American citizen, I feel that we don’t have a right to interfere in Syria without the rest of the world by our side.

    However, I’m not convinced that the Senate is thinking about this. I hope that their willingness to bend the rules of senatorial process in order to rush this resolution to the floor means that they have some information about the situation that is not being made public, and that this information is serious enough that it merits another war.

  2. bfissa says:

    I’m torn on what the right thing to do in Syria is, but I strongly agree with jmmorgan242, the Obama administration does seem to be rushing. While the decision to seek authorization from congress is commendable, it still seems we are moving very quickly.

    I can’t help but wonder if domestic politics and timing have something to do with the the urgency. Many Republicans, especially vocally Senator John McCain, were very critical of the President’s response to the crisis in Egypt. It’s no secret that some Americans disagreed with the administrations more reserved response, even as news media broadcast accounts of the use of deadly force by the Egyptian military against protests that were often peaceful.

    Perhaps part of the administration’s urgency is to try to restore credibility not only with other potentially dangerous nations, but also with the American people. Many of the proposed steps against Egypt were not always politically favorable. The most obvious example would be reducing or eliminating US aid to Egypt. Other nations had already volunteered to step in and replace the aid lost if the United States did so, and this would diminish US influence in the region.

    Although a strike on Syria is not universally popular with the American people, perhaps the Obama administration thought it would restore some of his credibility with those who heavily criticized the lesser response in Egypt.

  3. Considering the Obama Administration’s recently dismal international performance (the Russian non-reset, apparent thumb-twiddling amidst obligatory talking points on Egypt, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, Snowden’s revelations, etc.), it is possible that a rush to decisive action in Syria is viewed as a necessary maneuver for recapturing domestic confidence and international respect.

    If the Administration can prove its “red line” rhetoric to be well founded and backed by its own muscle, then any future restrictions, ultimatums, or deadlines doled out by the White House are far more likely to be given a second look. If chemical weapons are used in Syria and the White House does nothing, then the Administration’s next “red line” warning will likely fall upon deaf ears throughout the international community. White House supporters in Congress almost certainly understand this; it could be an explanation for the largely Democratic rush to authorize President Obama’s request for legislative backing on a military response.

    And the White House does need the backing of Congress for any significant military action in the Middle East; a large part of the Democratic Party’s election, re-election, and persistent scapegoating strategies revolve around maligning the preceding administration’s penchant for unilateral action. Seeking Congressional approval prior to engaging in a military strike allows the Democratic Party to retain the public role of inclusive debaters subservient to the mandates of due process.

    Unfortunately, the Obama Administration might ultimately find itself forced to choose between its two possible goals of domestic confidence and international respect. According to the Washington-based Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 48% of Americans oppose the idea of US airstrikes in Syria (http://www.people-press.org/2013/09/03/public-opinion-runs-against-syrian-airstrikes/). A much smaller 29% of Americans—ironically consisting mostly of the White House’s opposing Republicans—is supportive of action, while 23% remain undecided. If the Administration and its congressional supporters engage in such a widely disfavored course of action as strikes in Syria with the intent of proving their mettle and conviction to the world, then they will do so without the consent of the war-weary governed for whom they have long professed to speak.

    Perhaps this is the truth at the heart of the matter: the Obama Administration has already made its choice, and a speedy push through Congress will minimize the opportunity for overwhelming expressions of dissent before a military operation and its inevitable consequences can be carried out. In fact, the legality of the push itself is most likely irrelevant in the eyes of a cross-party, pro-war coalition that—one way or another—will see its agenda pursued with or without popular constituent support.

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