In a message to Democratic and Republican aides, Sen. Jim DeMint has signaled that he may block any legislation that hasn't been "cleared" through his office. While the move may bring to mind a "government shutdown," many pundits view the senator's request as more procedural than overtly political. What the South Carolina Republican is specifically objecting to is a process called "hotlining," which is succinctly described by The Wall Street Journal's Naftali Bendavid as when "the majority and minority leader agree to pass a non-controversial bill by unanimous consent." Still, DeMint's move, which could potentially stall legislation before the upcoming recess, has been viewed by skeptics as yet another example of Republicans flexing their "party of no" muscles.
What DeMint Is Doing Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress explains what is going on in the Senate: "'Hot-lining' is a process by which the two Senate leaders poll their caucuses to see if anyone objects to passing a bill. If no one raises an objection, than the bill is fast-tracked for passage. DeMint apparently plans to honor his existing promises to allow legislation to be hot-lined, but he has told the entire Senate that they have until close of business today to get his approval for other legislation or else he will block that bill — even if it enjoys overwhelming support."
- How to Undo a Hold "Any senator can place a hold to block legislation,"outlines Manu Raju at Politico. "And overcoming that would require the Senate to take time-consuming steps to invoke cloture, which would require 60 votes. With the Senate slated to adjourn Thursday until after the elections, DeMint's stance could mean trouble for Democrats if the two parties don't quickly agree on a stopgap spending measure to keep the government operating past Sept. 30. And that could mean the demise of a slew of other stalled and largely noncontroversial bills that both parties are looking to clear before Election Day."
- 'It's Not a Crazy Request' hedges The Washington Post's Ezra Klein: "DeMint's method of anointment is relatively banal. Non-controversial legislation in the U.S. Senate gets 'hotlined.' That means it goes out on an internal messaging system to see if anyone has an objection. If no one does, the legislation is often passed using unanimous consent, and without any floor debate." What's rankling other senators is that, "DeMint is turning that preference into a demand. Given the power that unanimous consent affords to individual senators, the chamber's functioning is always fragile."
- The Senate Has Been Doing This Since Obama's Been Elected writes Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein, who interviews Senator Jeff Merkley: "It is my understanding Jim DeMint has had a standing hold on everything throughout this two year process...When I have had amendments on a couple of occasions, I have been told: 'Absolutely, we in the Republican leadership are fine but you are going to have to clear it with Jim DeMint because he has a standing hold on everything.'"
- DeMint Just Became the 'Poster Child For Killing Holds' observes Paul Thornton at The Los Angeles Times. Unlike a filibuster which requires "some sort of unity" among minority party members, DeMint's hold has, "the potential to turn Congress into a sort of legislative dictatorship. DeMint's action serves no purpose other than to make him the most powerful man in the Senate, even denying his own minority leader Mitch McConnell the ability to negotiate with Democrats."
- Epitomizes Why GOP Is 'Party of No' notes Newsweek's Katie Maloney."With the Senate preparing to recess on Thursday, this means DeMint is giving Washington less than 24 hours to eke anything through before the November midterm elections....One important issue coming to a head this week is whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts. Whether a decision on that will be affected by —or perhaps was an impetus for—this stunt remains unclear."