Good afternoon from Capitol Hill.
The House and Senate are both in session this week, before they both depart for the two-week Easter recess.
This week, the House will take up H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Cost Act. H.R. 1 is a compilation of energy bills, aimed at reducing the cost of energy in the United States. In the U.S. House of Representatives, the majority will reserve the H.R. 1-10 numbers for what they view as their agenda. The majority considered these bills as the promises they ran on and important bills they want to message on. So H.R. 1, to the majority, is a key legislative centerpiece and has 173 amendments filed to the bill, 37 of which were made in order.
As previously mentioned, the Senate will vote on the repeal of two Authorizations for Use of Military Force, 1991 and 2002, but what has been unusual about the Senate since the end of last week, has been the votes on amendments, which have virtually become extinct in the upper chamber.
Last week the Senate held 5 amendment votes and this week voted on another 6 amendments. These amendment votes, while set at a 60 vote threshold, still provide valuable insight into where Senators stand and have long been avoided to protect their voting records. The adage “the Senate is where legislation goes to die” has become all too real in recent years, mostly shutting Senators out of providing a real voice for their constituents in their home states.
The unexpected breakout of legislating in the Senate is a good thing for restoring the Senate, but is a great thing for the constituents of the Senators who routinely are kept in the dark on where their Senators stand on key issues. For example, last week, the Senate voted on a Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) amendment that would require Congress to reauthorize an AUMF every 2 years. Additionally, yesterday, a vote was held on an amendment proposed by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) that would establish a special inspector general for assistance given to Ukraine. Senator Hawley explained, “Let’s create one government watchdog, not two, not three, not twenty, one government watchdog to oversee every cent that is spent on Ukraine, to report back to this Congress and to the American people, as to how their hard-earned money is being spent.”
It is vital that the routine of allowing Senators to offer and vote on amendments becomes normal again. Americans can only hope that whoever inside the Senate is making this happen, continues to lead on securing votes for Senators.
If you’ve ever tried to keep track of the day to day in the Senate and haven’t been able to, you are not alone. Unlike the House of Representatives, where there are publicly available, central repositories for upcoming committee hearings, upcoming legislation, and the House Rules Committee website that makes all amendments filed to legislation public and easily searchable and readable, the same is not true for the Senate. This makes it very difficult for Americans with busy lives to know exactly what is going on in the Senate before it happens. It seems like a basic idea that the United States Senate would provide publicly accessible websites that post the text of amendments, and information surrounding their consideration, before they are considered. This would be a great step forward for transparency and accountability in the United States Senate.
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