Monday, October 22, 2007

The "Hotline" To Legislative Hell

I came across a story in Parade magazine about a practice called “hotlining,” which to me sounds like some kind of a buddy-buddy arrangement between Sens. Harry Reid and Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao (why Reid would consent to a sham of an arrangement like this is something I cannot fathom; it is as mystifying as his behavior towards Chris Dodd).

This link provides more information, notably the following (according to Repug Jeff Sessions of Alabama)…

"In each Senate office there are three telephones with hotline buttons on them. Most evenings, sometimes after business hours, these phones begin to ring. The calls are from the Republican and the Democratic leaders to each of their Members, asking consent to pass this or that bill--not consider the bill or have debate on the bill but to pass it. Those calls will normally give a deadline. If the staff do(es) not call back in 30 minutes, the bill passes. Boom. It can be 500 pages. In many offices, when staffers do not know anything about the bill, they usually ignore the hotline and let the bill pass without even informing their Senators. If the staff (member) miss(es) the hotline, or do(es) not know about it or (is) were not around, the Senator is deemed to have consented to the passage of some bill which might be quite an important piece of information." Source: Sessions' website
The one reason that comes to my mind right away as to why this is a bad practice is because it gives the Repugs more ammunition to attack the Democratic “leadership” over passing legislation without truly understanding what the legislation represents (even though both parties are culpable, the Dems are allegedly in charge here).

And how ridiculous is it anyway to pass a bill on the basis of whether or not someone is able to answer a phone call?

Do you or I leave important decisions affecting our families and our kids, for example, up to chance like this? Do we just assume that our son and daughter received a phone call that their school bus is going to pick them up later if they don’t tell us themselves that they know that?

Well then, why should it be any different with legislation?

I and many others have been beating the drum for hardcopy verification of electronic voting records, but all the while, our senators have apparently been voting on bills in such a manner that no one can verify with total certainty that they really supported what they consented to. It’s hard for me to fathom how truly ridiculous this is. So while we press for ballot box paper records, they apparently have no discernable method for tallying their own votes.

I’d love to be wrong about this – I know I’m relying on some Repug-friendly sources here, so I’m automatically suspicious – but I can’t come up with any other conclusion other than that our Senators have tried to pull another fast one on us, but they were nailed for it.

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