Procedure: why vote in the wee hours?

Why did the Senate vote at 1 a.m. Monday? Byron York explains the implications of US Senate procedural rules in light of the majority leader’s goals.

But Reid is determined to pass the national health care bill by Christmas, and to do so he has to get the cloture vote on his amendment done at the earliest moment. … This is how it works. Reid introduced his amendment Saturday morning. (It’s the one that has the Sen. Ben Nelson Medicaid buy-off and other curious features.) Senate rules say there has to be an intervening day between the introduction of the amendment and a vote on limiting debate on the amendment. That intervening day was Sunday. That meant the cloture vote could be held Monday, or any time thereafter. The rules also say that the vote has to be held at least one hour after that next day has begun. So the Senate’s Monday business began at 12:01 a.m., and the Reid Amendment vote could be held at 1:01 a.m.

Then there are specified periods set aside for debate and protocol. If the time frame is calculated for this process and the minimum times enforced, then the 1 a.m. vote was necessary in order to allow a final vote on Christmas eve.

It’s politics and probably the sort of politics that leaves many with a distaste for how things get done.

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