Blog of Rights

Congress-ese: That’s Hot…lining.

By Rachel Perrone, ACLU at 2:08pm

Yes, that was awful, but I’m sorry, it had to be said.

Anyway. Hotlining is the practice of bypassing regular Senate procedures and moving legislation through to a vote with little or no floor debate in an attempt to pass the legislation through the unanimous consent of all Senators. As with most things in Congress, it can be helpful, or it can be abused. On the one hand, members of Congress will occasionally hotline a bill when they’re under political pressure to move things along, or when they’re just itching to leave town for recess. (Believe me, there are times when we’re all itching for them to leave town.) As often as not, hotlined bills are noncontroversial, technical bills, resolutions, the sort of thing that rarely makes the papers.

On the other hand, hotlining can be a useful tool to overcome frivolous objections that are only being raised to stall legislation a member of Congress doesn’t like for partisan political reasons. Hotlines typically don’t stand when there’s a valid point of debate. (I say “typically,” thought it’s certainly not impossible. You know anything can happen with those crazy kids.) For example, Senators Snowe and Coburn stopped a recent hotline on the “Wired” bill by raising some important privacy concerns – the same concerns we’d been raising for a while.

And now, if I can do this without dropping it, I’m going to pass the baton back to Allie, who’s going to talk about the difference between committee hearings and markups tomorrow.

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