Another Terrible, Arcane Rule Will Bring the Senate to a Halt

The Senate will most likely approve President Obama's tax deal today. Now that that's settled, can the chamber finish its other year-end work? Sure! But Tea Party Sen. Jim DeMint wants these bills read in full on the Senate floor.

"Read the bill!" was a popular Tea Party chant during the election, but maybe Tea Party folks could settle for senators reading bills in their spare time as the basic requirement? Nope, sorry. That wouldn't take full advantage of each individual senator's arcane rights to bring the entire chamber to a halt, for whatever reason. Did you know that any senator could do this?

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) will force readings of both a nuclear arms treaty and $1.1 trillion spending bill that could eat up hours of the remaining lame-duck Congress.

DeMint will invoke a senatorial privilege to ask that texts of both the New START Treaty and the 2011 omnibus spending bill be read aloud on the Senate floor.

The readings could take seven to 12 hours to verbalize the START Treaty, while the omnibus could take 40 to 60 hours, according to a spokesman for DeMint.

And you know what's going to happen after Jim DeMint has New START and the omnibus spending bill read aloud? He's going to vote against them, and probably filibuster the latter.

But Democrats are starting to recognize the rare leverage they possess against Republicans trying to run out the clock, now that only a few days remain scheduled in this legislative session: Don't let the legislative session end! The new Congress won't take effect until January 4, so Harry Reid can keep the Senate open until then. This would piss off Republicans, who really want to go home, and are already murmuring about Harry Reid "disrespecting" Christians by scheduling any votes around Christmastime. (They'd get a day or two off for the actual holiday, of course.)

And there's always the option of hiring a speed-reader! See if this guy, from the last time Republicans tried the "read thousands of pages of legislative language aloud" trick, is still in business:

[Image via Getty]