Yesterday, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), acting on the orders of the Senate leadership, refused to grant Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) “an additional moment” to continue speaking on the Senate floor after his 10 minutes expired. Franken’s objection caused Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to groan about how Franken’s move was unprofessional, unprecedented, and disrespectful:
McCAIN: I’ve been around here 20-some years. First time I’ve ever seen a member denied an extra minute or two to finish his remarks. … I just haven’t seen it before myself. And I don’t like it. And I think it harms the comity of the Senate not to allow one of our members at least a minute. I’m sure that time is urgent here, but I doubt that it would be that urgent.
Unfortunately, McCain’s memory is suffering. In fact, McCain has engaged in the very same behavior that he was criticizing Franken for yesterday.
On October 10, 2002 — just ahead of the looming mid-term elections — the Senate rushed a debate on a war authorization giving President Bush the power to use force against Iraq. The resolution ultimately passed the Senate after midnight on an early Friday morning by a vote of 77-23.
During the course of the frenzied floor debate, then-Sen. Mark Dayton (D-MN) spoke in favor of an amendment offered by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) that would have restricted Bush’s constitutional powers to wage war against Iraq. After a minute and a half, Dayton ran out of time, prompting this exchange:
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator’s time has expired.
Mr. DAYTON. I ask for unanimous consent that I have 30 seconds more to finish my remarks.
Mr. McCAIN. I object.
Byrd stepped in to grant Dayton time to finish his remarks. But just moments later, Byrd asked for more time to speak for himself. Again, McCain objected, prompting Byrd to chide him for doing so. “This shows the patience of a Senator,” Byrd said. “This clearly demonstrates that the train is coming down on us like a Mack truck, and we are not even going to consider a few extra minutes for this Senator.”
After being publicly shamed, McCain acquiesced to Byrd’s request. But moments later, McCain added this disclaimer: “I wish to say very briefly that I understand people have a desire to speak. We have a number of Senators who have not spoken on this issue. It is already looking as if we may be here well into this evening. From now on, I will be adhering strictly to the rules.” In other words, he acted just like Franken did yesterday.