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Hotlining: A Process Used to Pass Important Laws Without Oversight

Tuesday, December 04, 2007 by: Aaron Nye
Tags: political news, legislation, health news

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(NewsTarget) In each Senator's office, three special phone lines exists which take passing a bill from the several week process with which most Americans are familiar to a potential fifteen minutes.

"Hotlining," as it is called, is meant to be a fast method of passing the assumed consent bills and resolutions. This includes things that no one really wants to debate, such as naming post offices. More and more this process is being used to pass, with unanimous consent, huge bills which no one, and in many cases not even the sponsor, have read.

The process is fairly straight forward. There are three telephones in each Senate office which have "hotline" buttons on them. When one of these phones rings, it is concerning a bill or resolution that both the minority and majority leaders wish to see passed. When the call comes in it comes with a deadline to put a hold on the bill, sometimes as little as 15 minutes.  If no one answers the call, consent is assumed, even if the call comes after business hours.

In his article describing "The Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2006" Senator Jeff Sessions (R) of Alabama describes the system.


This practice is used currently where debate clearly exists, such as Senator Bill Frist's (R-TN) bill concerning indecency in broadcast. It is such a pervasive practice that of the 399 bills passed up to the 17th of September 2007, only 29 were passed by a roll call vote.

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) defends the practice, but agrees that it has been used improperly. He says that on the Senate floor, "we don't have time to debate everything ... but if you object, they ought to be willing to negotiate with you. But usually, they put the press after you."

Hotlining seems to diminish transparency and accountability and forces bills through the Senate in their original form, which may or may not be a good thing. Many bills in their first draft form contain errors and legal loopholes that can easily be repaired through scrutiny and debate.

Is this practice a good idea for legislation, or should it be reserved for naming post offices?

About the author

Aaron Nye is a freelance writer who's work revolves around intelligent research and "connecting the dots." He is a tireless supporter and volunteer for the Ron Paul campaign. He is an experienced computer programmer with a passion for health and holistic medicine. He has been a vegetarian since a member of his family was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999. He speaks Vietnamese and Gaelic, and is working to learn the ancient language of Akkadian.

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