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October 21, 2014

House Members Fail Pop Quiz on Senate Procedure

Lawmakers debating a rule for the House budget resolution revealed a surprising lack of knowledge about Senate procedure Monday – a sign perhaps of how little time the chambers have spent talking to each other about budgets in recent years.

Later this week, the Senate will consider a budget resolution on the floor for the first time in four years. Despite the shift back to regular order, South Carolina Republican Mick Mulvaney and Florida Democrat L. Alcee Hastings insisted at a Rules Committee markup Monday night that Senate Democrats might not have the 60 votes needed to bring their own spending blueprint to the floor.  Of course, budget resolutions are one of the few measures that cannot be filibustered, which means Democrats only need 51 votes to bring up the resolution.

Mulvaney was first to make the mistake, while defending his push to hold a vote this week on a Senate Democratic budget proposal that has only been approved in committee.

Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern said Mulvaney was trying to “make political points,” by forcing votes on a plan that has so far only been backed by committee. “Why not wait until the Senate has acted if there’s such serious interest in this body taking up the Senate budget?” McGovern asked.

Mulvaney retorted the Senate is unlikely to take up a budget resolution.

“I doubt that they have 60 votes to even begin debate on this,” Mulvaney said.  Hastings followed that same logic, saying that the Senate might not have the votes to consider the legislation because of Republican obstructionism.

About 15 minutes later, the issue resurfaced, and Mulvaney urged Colorado Democrat Jared Polis to “recognize the political realities over there.”

“There’s a possibility, probably a likelihood that it’s not going to change … there will be no further debate on it, they won’t have the votes to move forward,” Mulvaney said.

Polis skeptically asked Mulvaney why he thought the Senate would not vote on and pass the Democratic budget resolution. Soon after, Texas Republican Michael C. Burgess cleared up the situation.

“If I’m correct, on a budgetary measure — it’s not subject to a filibuster,” said Burgess, mainly refuting the claim from Hastings that Republicans have held up the budget process in the Senate. “Democrats in the Senate can pass a budget, they just haven’t been able to pass a budget for the last three years, just simply with their own votes.”

Glad they cleared that up.

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