Hotlines in the United States Senate
You may have noticed that I recently posted a blog post that included something called a “hotline.” Let me take a moment to explain what this is. The Senate uses a process akin to the old book of the month clubs to pass much of it’s legislation. For most legislation, if someone doesn’t say “no” the bill is passed and shipped off to the President or the House of Representatives. [The hotline is also sometimes used to conduct Conference business and announce deadlines (amendment filing, etc.) and events (conference meetings and briefings), but this post will focus on the legislative side of the hotline.]
For the Republican Conference the Republican Leader notifies offices via email of a matter they would like to “hotline.” (The Dems have a hotline as well.) Most hotlines are requests to pass a matter by unanimous consent. These hotlines are “run” with the acquiescence of the Leader and the Ranking Member of the Committee of jurisdiction. Sometimes the matter is widely available and well known and sometimes text isn’t widely available and has to be sussed out from the cloakroom and the committee staff working the issue.
If a Senator has an objection to that bill they (or more often their staff) call in to the cloakroom and notify them that their Senator objects to the unanimous consent request. After a certain period of time, if no one has objected, the item will be considered “cleared” and will be included in “wrap-up.” “Wrap-up” is a process at the end of the evening where the Majority Leader in rapid fire succession passes the matters cleared by the hotline. I’ll try to provide a recording of this at some point in the near future.
Hotlines can get complicated with things like Live UCs, modifications of UCs and all kinds of fun floor shenanigans. I’m not going to write a treatise on those right here. My point in posting the hotlines is to give the public a greater insight into what the Senate is considering. The hotline is an important tool in the day to day operation of the Senate and the public should have a better understanding of how it works. Sometimes the matters are mundane and routine, sometimes they’re very substantive. I’ll let “You make the call.”
I will try to post these in as close to real time as possible, but near the end of a work period when a recess is looming these things can come fast and furious, and sometimes late at night. I could be sleeping.
For a more analytical discussion of the hotline process, here is a blurb from a CRS report from a few years ago.