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Cybersecurity’s Last Gasp? Reid Files for Cloture

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 8:45 PM

That’s the word from the Senate — Majority Leader Harry Reid has filed for cloture to conclude the debate on the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 — debate that began in earnest earlier today.  In addition, he s invoked a procedural device known as “filling the tree” under which he exercised the Majority Leader’s prerogative to offer amendments and did so in a manner that prevents all other Senators from offering any of their own amendments. [For those interested in the technical details, the procedural rules of the Senate limit both the number of amendments and the degree of amendments — that is only direct amendments to the bill and amendments to those direct amendments (known as second order amendments) are considered to be in order.  By offering direct amendments and second order amendments to his own amendments Senator Reid occupied all of the possible places on the amendment tree where an amendment could be offered — thereby preventing any other amendments.]

This type of parliamentary maneuver can only mean one of two things — either Senator Reid thinks he has enough votes to force cloture and bring the bill to conclusion or he has decided not to accept any Republican amendments and force a procedural vote that will stand as both party’s talking point on cyber for the coming election.  Since it seems almost certain that the first of these is not the case, one can only conclude that Reid thinks the bill is dead and is now playing the political end game (as, of course, are the Republicans).

To date more than 50 possible amendments have been filed for the bill.  In the normal course Reid and Minority Leader McConnell would negotiate and agree on 20 or so that would be accepted for debate and voted on.  Naturally some of those would be substantive, others would in themselves be political point scoring by both sides.  But when the Senate is working well the process allows for reasonable clarification and in the end a final vote on a bill.  For a major bill like this one that process takes about two weeks …..

It is possible that Reid’s move to cloture is just a way of ramping up pressure on the Republicans to limit amendments and a negotiating ploy.  It’s possible that sometime before the cloture vote (now scheduled for Thursday evening) he and McConnell will announce a voting agreement.   But I think it is far more likely that Reid is unwilling to devote any more time than this week to the bill and this is his way of trying to force the measure through before the August recess.  Because I doubt that it will succeed it seems to me this is cyber’s last gasp.

For those who are interested, this is what the Cloakroom announcement looks like when the Majority Leader fills the tree:

• On Tuesday, cloture was filed on S. 3414, the Cybersecurity bill. The amendment tree has been filled. All first-degree amendments must be filed at the desk by 1:00 PM. If no agreement is reached, the Motion to Invoke Cloture on S. 3414, the Cybersecurity bill, will be on Thursday. 1. Reid (for Lieberman) amendment #2731;2. Reid (for Franken) amendment #2732 to Reid (for Lieberman) amendment #2731;3. Reid amendment # 2733 to Reid (for Lieberman) amendment #2731;4. Reid 2nd-degree amendment #2734 to Reid amendment #2733;5. Motion to Commit S. 3414 to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee with instructions to report back with an amendment #2735;6. Reid amendment #2736 to the instructions of the Motion to Commit the bill; and7. Reid 2nd-degree amendment #2737 to Reid amendment #2736.

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