The Hill: Female senators hatch plan to 'shame' Senate into voting faster

When female senators met for dinner on Tuesday night, they hatched a plan born out of a similar frustration: It was taking the Senate too long to vote.

"This is one of the things that happen when the women get together for dinner. …There was discussion about 'why the heck is this taking so long.' So Lisa said we should all be on the floor, sit on the floor and basically shame the guys to, you know, hurry up and vote," said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).

The group, which has nicknamed itself the "efficiency caucus," put the senators' strategy into action during a six-vote series Wednesday. They called for votes to be limited to 10 minutes, remained seated in the chamber and called for "regular order" as votes dragged on.

"Mr. President, just requesting that these 10-minute votes be true 10-minute votes, in fact less than 10-minute votes," Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said from the Senate floor after the first two votes took roughly 45 minutes.

The plan appeared to work, with the next four votes being wrapped up in less than an hour, a rapid pace for a chamber where one 15-minute vote can easily stretch to a half-hour or longer.

"The women decided we should follow regular order and have 10-minute votes. This is the fastest six votes since I've been here," said Hirono, who has been in the Senate since 2013.

Unlike the House's electronic voting system, senators vote by indicating to a floor clerk whether they support a piece of legislation or nomination.

Votes frequently involve senators using the floor time to work colleagues on a bill. If a vote drags on too long, some senators also retreat to off-the-floor cloakrooms or back to their offices, which can slow down any subsequent votes.

"We're calling ourselves the efficiency caucus, we're just hoping that when we have a lot of votes we can get them done in time because we all have a lot of hearings, important things to do," said Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.).

Female senators credited Murkowski for coming up with the plan, with the Alaska senator calling the strategy an act of "civil obedience."

Murkowski could be seen trying to direct senators to their seats as they walked onto the Senate floor. At one point she tried to make a parliamentary inquiry during the second vote but was told it wasn't in order; instead, she stood at her desk and called repeatedly for "regular order."

Female senators also started clapping for their colleagues as they returned to the floor nearly 15 minutes after a vote started. A floor staffer was also seen making a signal to wrap it up as the vote dragged on.

Asked how they could win over the male senators, who make up a majority of the body, she added: "I'm hoping that they will come around. Because this is called the efficiency caucus."

By:  Jordain Carney
Source: The Hill