Time to Rethink the PQ?
When Sen. Jason Crowell sat in his chair and refused to close on his amendment, he was daring the Senate body to move to the previous question (“PQ”).
Former pro tem Charlie Shields once referred to the PQ as a “traumatic event,” and others have called it the “nuclear option.”
While the procedure only requires a constitutional majority, it violates the code of the Senate that any senator should be able to delay a vote on any legislation as far as their physical stamina allows. In practice, it becomes as much a game of patience as anything else.
And this session, a band of senators have frequently been willing to test the patience of the chamber. They have coalesced now around any particular issue so much as a balance of power calculation. The twin towers of this “gang” have been Sens. Jim Lembke and Rob Schaaf, two freshmen. But aiding them throughout session depending on their availability and engagement have been another half-dozen senators. These two have discovered that if they can enlist two other senators to join their determination on any piece of legislation, they can kill it.
A PQ against these mini-filibusters throughout session was never even discussed. But if there were a less “traumatic” way for the Senate to close debate, would it benefit public policy?
Obviously Democrats would be wary of a rule change – even a ¾ cloture rule would be dangerous territory in their current numbers.
And despite the sometimes tiresome nature of the current method of legislating, the body does work through most challenges. Yes, bad boy Crowell appears to have delayed the budget process, but accommodating his concerns did not do any real damage to the state.
One observer believes that a rule change involving cloture will be under consideration next January. Stay tuned…
Originally in May 9 MOScout