The Corner

Point of Parliamentary Procedure

I have a question for Ramesh, Rich, Dan, Robert, and/or any other Cornerite who understands how stuff on the Hill works.

According to reports, including Robert’s, Congress adjourned last night and blew out of town without taking action on extending the Bush tax cuts. The only thing lawmakers apparently agreed to address was a stop-gap measure without which the government would have shut down after today.

Here’s my question: Did Republicans have to agree to conduct a vote on the shut down, or could they have prevented a vote — at the risk of shutting the government down — in order to force the Democrats to vote on extending the tax cuts? I believe there are some budget issues on which the rules for filibusters, holds, amendments, etc., are different than they are for other types of legislation, but I don’t know if this was that sort of situation.

Given the outrageously out-of-control spending and the obscenely large salaries of government employees (now almost double the size of private-sector counterparts when benefits are factored in), I believe the American people would look a lot more favorably on a government shut-down than they did circa 1995-96. I also think the GOP complaints about Democrats’ failure to vote on the tax cuts before the elections has less force if the GOP had a way to force a vote but failed to exploit it. But I confess I don’t know if that’s what really happened here.

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