Saturday, December 14, 2013

Senate and the Congressional Record

WARNING: If you are not interested in how the government actually operates, I mean really interested, don’t waste your time reading the following post. It has nothing to do with chemical safety/security or cybersecurity.

48 Hour Senate Session

For all sorts of semi-interesting political reasons the Senate this week lived up to its historical reputation as the talking branch of the Congress. It started in session on Wednesday at 2:00 pm EST and did not adjourn until Friday at 2:11 pm EST, just a little over 48 hours of ‘continuous’ political discourse. No single person was in the Senate Chambers for 48 hours, but the Senate was in session for that long and for the most part people were talking about various political issues the whole time.

Wednesday Daily Digest

For those of us who spend some time watching the Congressional Record, the chronological record of the actions of Congress, this has created no little amount of confusion. Let’s start with the Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 Daily Digest. For those who are not CR cognoscenti the Daily Digest acts as a summary and table of contents for that day’s Congressional Record. It provides a quick way to see what happened in Congress on any given day; normally that is.

The Daily Digest always starts out with operations in the Senate and the December 11th issue is no exception. One of the first entries is a summary of the measures introduced in that Senate on that day. Wednesday’s edition reports: “On Friday, December 13, 2013, Four bills and two resolutions were introduced, as follows: S. 1823–1826, and S. Res.320–321.” It ignores the 6 bills and 4 resolutions introduced Wednesday and the 18 bills and 1 resolution introduced. All of the bill introductions are covered in their regular order in the body of the Senate portion of the Congressional Record for Wednesday.

What is really confusing, however, is the portion of the Daily Digest that deals with the operations of the House on Wednesday. The House portion of the Daily Digest states that: “The House was not in session today. The House is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. on Monday, December 16, 2013 in pro forma session.” Now the House certainly was in session on Wednesday and that is appropriately recorded in the House portion of the Congressional Record for that day (pages H7629 thru H7689). Unfortunately without the guide of the accurate Daily Digest, it is very difficult to find out what went on in the House on Wednesday.

On a personal note, I am almost certain (I don’t normally make copies of the Daily Digest pages so I can’t be absolutely sure) that I looked at the House page of the Daily Digest on Thursday (it is almost always published the next day) and it was properly reflecting the operations of the House for Wednesday. And the Senate page did not reflect any actual operations in the Senate; it had a place holder comment that I will mention in the respect to the Thursday issue of the Daily Digest.

Thursday Daily Digest

The Senate page of the Daily Digest for Thursday, December 12th, 2013 reports that: “Senate continued in the session that began on Wednesday, December 11, 2013. See next volume of the Congressional Record.” The first sentence is certainly accurate; the second not so much. More about that later.

The House portion of the Daily Digest properly reflects the operations of the House on Thursday.

Friday Daily Digest

Oops there is no Friday Daily Digest, at least not as of 9:23 CST on Saturday. And this is the time that I would normally check the Daily Digest for any Friday session that was held. Looking at the Wednesday Daily Digest (see above) I don’t now expect to see one for Friday, all of the information is included in the earlier Daily Digest.

What Should Have Happened

What probably should have happened is that the notice we did see in the Thursday Daily Digest should also have appeared in the Wednesday Daily Digest (as it originally did). Then on Friday we should have seen the Daily Digest that is now on record for Wednesday. I think that that was probably the intention and may end up being what we see on Monday.

It looks like someone in the GPO made a pretty understandable mistake in a pretty confusing situation. Stuff happens.

The Senate is coming back to work on Sunday and currently are scheduled to only be here through Thursday of next week. It remains to be seen if the Republicans will continue to force Reid to keep round the clock sessions to get his votes undertaken. If they do, then we’ll see more of the same kind of problems in the coming week.

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