The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The tort reform bill explained

Though not by me.

General mooching brings me to a piece at Wampum which explains (rising easily to the level of plausibility, at least) why the tort reform bill S 2062 - which could have passed last year - didn't.

Cliff Notes:
First, the GOP wanted to retain the issue for the 2004 election more than they wanted a bill passed, especially when John Edwards was a likely Vice Presidential candidate.

Secondly, they wanted to use Senate time to promote symbolic cultural issues such as flag burning and gay marriage more than they wanted the reforms to be law. Third, they wanted to deny credit for the passage of the bill to Democrats.

So a motion was engineered - to limit nongermane amendments - which was unacceptable to enough Dems for cloture on the motion to be defeated.

(Why Dems who would have voted for cloture on the bill in its then form wouldn't agree to bar nongermane amendments, I'm not sure. The principle of the thing, perhaps. The whole point of the ability of senators to offer nongermane amendments is (subject to contrary resolution) that they can tack them onto any old bill.)

In effect, if I understand it aright, the GOP motion acted like a killer amendment in the style of the notorious Powell amendment much discussed her in the last couple of months.

(Essential to the GOP tactics on the bill, it seems, was the practice known as filling the amendment tree. I confess to being hazy on the detail - even having ploughed through (er, half-way through - it's repetitious!) the section on amendments in Riddick's Senate Procedure.

Rule XV and the precedents made thereon provide for an order in which amendments are to be voted on; the introduction to the Riddick's chapter makes Rumsfeld's known unknowns excursion look the model of simplicity!

The trick seems to have been for the GOP managers to get GOP senators to present a raft of amendments to the bill which precluded Dem amendments to the same parts of the bill.)


Another account of what went on with S 2062.

Still doesn't explain what reason, apart from bloody-mindedness, pro-bill Dems had for protesting Frist and Co barring nongermane amendments.

(Which, it says, were
a reduction in global warming, a raise in the minimum wage, increased rights for native Hawaiians, and mental health equality in insurance.

None of which, I suspect, stood a snowball's chance in hell of passing the Senate, let alone Tom DeLay's House.

Couldn't the Dems have postured on some other bill?)

My suspicions rise that moderate Dems were as happy to have the nongermane excuse to filibuster the bill as the GOP was to lose that cloture motion.

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