*Staff clarifies Ron Johnson objecting to all Senate unanimous consent requests*
It started with a juvenile speech about how, if Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin didn't get what he wanted (movement on a budget), he would start objecting to unanimous consent agreements between all of the Senators and the two parties that allow the Senate to clear procedural hurdles and operate more cooperatively than the House. If he did that, the Senate would effectively grind to a halt. In fact, to see how important we think unanimous consent is, look at the title of this blog.
Over 30 minutes passed before fellow Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama asked that the quorum call, which Ron Johnson had called for, be suspended by unanimous consent so that he could speak. This is a routine procedure that allows the Senate to proceed and allows Senators considerable freedom to speak. No one has a problem with it, which is why it is done by unanimous consent. But today, a thin voice from the back rang out, "I object." With a moment's hesitation, Senator Sessions said, "I thank the Chair."
Denying unanimous consent and getting the Senate to operate under the regular order is a cherished minority right. But there is a line between getting your voice heard and being a rookie, partisan member of the Senate who objects to everything.
The Political Implications
(1) The longer Ron Johnson continues with this, the more the spotlight will rest on him. This will mean scrutiny of his financial record as a wealthy CEO, and the $10 million compensation package he received from his former company after he concluded his $9 million Senate campaign. Johnson will be open to charges of hypocrisy, obstruction, and petulance.
(2) It will also do a disfavor to the Republican side of the budget battle that Johnson hopes to further by focusing the debate on procedural obstruction instead of policy.
(3) Johnson could alienate all members of the Senate, including members of his own party. He would be obstructing S.679 and S.116, bills dealing with expediting the confirmation process for presidential nominees that the Democratic and Republican leadership worked on together. He would also obstruct consideration of a Libya resolution that might come out of the Foreign Relations Committee this afternoon.
(4) The longer this goes on, the more this will re-ignite the Senate debate over the filibuster and secret holds. S.679, the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act, which is pending now, is the result of a bipartisan response to the last debate over Senate rules, which erupted at the beginning of this Congress.