Rachel Maddow and NBC News Producer Clueless on Lawmaking

Time for remedial "Schoolhouse Rock" at MSNBC.

The network's Rachel Maddow engaged in one of the least illuminating discussions on legislation I can recall during her show Friday. Here she is talking with NBC News "Senate producer" Ken Strickland on machinations involving possible repeal of the military's don't ask, don't tell policy (video after page break) --

MADDOW: This is all very confusing, what's going on in the Senate these days, Ken.

STRICKLAND: The Senate is a very confusing place and has tons of arcane rules and if you really want to win you have to know how the Senate works and how to use the rules. And if you want to win badly, you have to know how to use the rules to the best of your ability and play hardball and use those rules. It may upset people, that's really what it comes down to when you talk about the rules of the Senate.

 


MADDOW: Well, Rule 14, for example, which everybody got to look up this week, Rule 14, as it has been shorthand-explained to me, means that you can bring something up without putting it through the committee process, which would imply that it can move quickly in the Senate. Sen. Lieberman saying that Sen. Reid may do that with a standalone bill on don't ask, don't tell. Is that, is that true, that basic understanding and do you think it might work?

STRICKLAND: That is true. He did a couple of things, one of which is very important which is, by stripping the repeal of don't ask, don't tell out of the defense authorization bill, they've made the fight more narrowed. (sic) When it was in the defense authorization bill, you were talking about a bill that had so many controversial things in it. There was even abortion language in that bill.

Curiously, seeing how abortion is one of her favorite subjects, Maddow didn't press Strickland on the specifics of "abortion language" in the bill -- leading me to conclude this is a euphemism for "abortion funding" from you, dutiful taxpayer.

The conversation continues --

STRICKLAND: And so by taking it out, you're basically saying, we don't want to fight about all these other things, let's just fight about don't ask, don't tell. So, you have a new bill. As remember in high school history, when a bill becomes a law, it goes to committee. It can stay in committee for weeks, for months, it can go to committee and die. But if there's something that the majority leader feels a priority, he can use Rule 14, which basically is saying, we're going to bypass the committee and within two days we can bring that bill to the floor. It's often done when there's a priority, like say there's an emergency and somebody needs money, a state needs money for a disaster, or if somebody thinks the bill is actually going to committee and die.  So this does get it to the floor quickly, but they still will have to fight.

It's been more than a while, but as I recall from high school history, bills don't go to committee to become law, they emerge from them for that.

Strickland wasn't alone in his reverse take on legislative sausage-making; Maddow seems to get backward as well as shown by her next question --

MADDOW: On the issue of timing and the sequencing of these different priorities, Republicans of course threatened in writing to block anything and everything in the Senate until the Senate moved on extending the Bush tax cuts. Obviously, there's been a lot of fighting this week about the substantive value of whether or not that should or shouldn't be done.

"Whether or not that should or shouldn't be done." You mean, whether that should be done? Anyway --

MADDOW:  But just in terms of whether or not stuff gets done in the Senate, what exactly are they waiting for? Does it just need to be a deal? Or do they need to, is there understanding that something will have to have to be signed, passed and signed into law before they'll allow anything else to happen?

Such as, the bill being sent to committee after it is "signed into law" ...? Hey, could happen, eventually.

Rachel and Ken, meet Bill ...

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts