By Grady Burns
Tracking votes within the halls of Congress is an arcane, head-scratching process. The byzantine rules that govern how bills and appointments move from committee to committee, to the floor of a chamber, and to the president’s desk are part of a tangled set of norms that have been evolving in their complexity since the founding of the Republic. No amount of Schoolhouse Rock can untangle that knot of cloture votes, committee deaths, and poison pills. In short, it can be difficult –even for highly motivated citizens– to understand how the issues about which they care are won and lost in congressional chambers.
Tactically skilled politicians, unfortunately, have an ability to leverage this complexity to create situations in which they try to have their cake and eat it, too: casting decisive votes within the less visible setting of a committee or through complex procedural actions, and then casting “show votes” on the chamber floor after the true fight has already been won or lost, but gaining the ability to point to that worthless vote to constituents to show (disingenuous, empty) support for their given cause.
No politician has seemingly utilized this complicated tactical strategy to greater effect than Maine’s own Senator Susan Collins.