Nice piece in the Washington Post by Joel Achenbach on the weird hi jinks going on over the health-care bill in the Senate. Here’s an excerpt. Note the generational roles being played here. Lieberman (1942), Bernie Sanders (1942), and McCain (1936) are all Silent (born 1925-1942). Blindsided by the disappearance of politeness and process, they are expressing utter perplexity. Franken and Coburn, of course, are (very) Boomer (born 1943-1960). I’m sure they’ve never felt so alive.
Love the final reference to the “smoking tweet.”
Lieberman discovered to his great surprise how the tension of recent weeks has altered the Senate. Holding forth on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon, he reached his time limit and made a routine request for an additional moment to speak. Presiding was the freshman senator from Minnesota, Al Franken. Party leaders had told him to be strict about time limits. Franken said, “I object.”
“Really???” Lieberman said, astonished.
He didn’t take it personally, and later said he realized Franken was just following orders. But the incident raised the hackles of Republican John McCain (Ariz.), who sensed comity going out the window.
“I don’t know what’s happening here in this body, but I think it’s wrong,” McCain said. “I’ll tell you, I have never seen a member denied an extra minute or so, as the chair just did.”
What’s happened is that there is no such thing anymore as a routine “unanimous consent” request. That notion died on Wednesday, when Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, used his senatorial prerogative to insist upon the line-by-line reading of Sanders’s 767-page, single-payer amendment. Three hours of droning by clerks later, Sanders had to pull his amendment.
Later, Illinois Democrat Richard J. Durbin said he’d found irrefutable evidence that Republicans had no goal other than to delay a vote on health care. His people had intercepted a Twitter message authored by a Republican senator that revealed an obstructionist intent.
“I have in my hand,” Durbin told assembled journalists, “a smoking tweet.”