It was a historic morning in the Senate Thursday, when the Dalai Lama gave the Senate’s opening prayer in place of Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black.
Attendance, however, left something to be desired. A good number of staffers were gathered on the floor and in the galleries, but the chamber was by no means packed. Perhaps a dozen senators were present when Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., brought the Senate into session and yielded to the Dalai Lama for the morning prayer.
“We make our world. Speak or act with a pure mind, and happiness will follow you,” he said. “This is my favorite prayer. Daily I pray this.”
Following the opening prayer, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., requested that the Senate recess in order for senators to meet with the Dalai Lama. Full story
“I don’t say that lightly,” Harkin said. “I was here during the impeachment process, trial for President [Bill] Clinton. I kind of thought that was a sham, but that didn’t compare to what happened today.”
Harkin, the sixth-longest serving member in the 113th Congress, criticized the Senate for what he called an “emotional vote.”
“I will not name any names, but I had one senator say, ‘my head tells me that he should be confirmed but my guts, my emotions say no.’ Shame, on all of us here; especially the lawyers.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Leader Harry Reid traded floor speeches on Wednesday, accusing the other of partisanship while calling for an end to obstructionism.
The Kentucky Republican criticized the “nuclear option” invoked by the Nevada Democrat in November, but he emphasized he was not trying to “point the finger of blame.”
“My purpose is to suggest that the Senate can do better than it has been and that we must be if we’re to remain as a great nation,” McConnell said. “This is a behavioral problem. It doesn’t require a rules change. We just need to act differently with each other.”
Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell laid out their best arguments for and against the “nuclear option” to end filibusters of most judicial and executive branch nominees on Thursday.
Watch Roll Call’s best moments from Senate floor debate this week:
As of Wednesday evening, no opponents of the measure had spoken on the floor. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., became the first member to do so Thursday morning. Coats expressed concern about protections for religious institutions that are opposed to same-sex relationships.
The debate surrounding the government shutdown has been white hot in the Senate over the past few weeks, leading some lawmakers to complain about a lack of decorum.
Indeed, twice over the past two days, senators reminded their colleagues of Senate rules.
“I think we’ve all here in the Senate kind of lost the aura of Robert Byrd, who was such a stickler for Senate procedure,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday morning on the Senate floor. “I think we’ve all let things get away from us a little bit. The Senate is a very special place with very particular rules.”
Longstanding Senate precedents tied to the Senate’s original rules require senators to speak through the presiding officer, as noted in “Riddick’s Senate Procedure.”
“Senators in debate should address each other through the Chair and in the third person,” the book of precedents explains.
Additionally, Senate Rule 19 states: “No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.”
“The latest plan came from the junior senator from Texas [and it] is to cherry pick parts of the government he likes,” Reid said. He added that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., “is following Cruz’s idea specifically. Sen. Cruz is now joint speaker. He lectures the House on occasion, as he does people over here.
Reid’s reference quickly drew criticism, particularly because Cruz was not on the floor at the time to defend himself. Full story
“To somehow allege that many of us are nor haven’t fought hard enough, I think, does not comport with the action that took place on the floor of the Senate,” McCain said.
But he took particular affront to Cruz’s statement during his all-nighter that the people who say Obamacare can’t be defunded are similar to former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, whom Cruz described as saying, “accept the Nazis. Yes, they’ll dominate the continent of Europe, but that’s not our problem.” Full story
Sen. Ted Cruz compared the fight against Obamacare to the battle against Nazi Germany and mused on the intimidating nature of the moon. The Texas Republican talked about the deliciousness of White Castle mini burgers, how he doesn’t know Ashton Kutcher personally, and how he is a coward when it comes to wearing boots versus comfortable shoes. And he found time to read some bedtime stories to his daughters.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell doubled down Tuesday on his opposition to Sen. Ted Cruz’s proposal to filibuster a House-passed spending bill that would keep the government funded past Sept. 30.
But McConnell said that is exactly why Republicans should support the motion to invoke cloture on the bill — because it will put pressure on Democrats to affirmatively support the controversial 2010 health care law. Full story
Niels Lesniewski has covered the Senate for CQ Roll Call since January 2010, and more recently as a staff writer and resident procedure guru for Roll Call. Niels holds degrees in both government and theater but sometimes can't tell the difference between the two. @nielslesniewski
Humberto Sanchez covers the Senate for Roll Call. Prior to joining, he covered the budget and appropriations process for Congress Daily and now NJ Daily for three years.@hsanchez128