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How exactly can one Senator block the bill?

You may be surprised to know that the majority of the bills that pass the Senate don’t actually get voted on. They pass under the rules of “unanimous consent,” meaning that once a bill clears the relevant committee, it gets passed without requiring debate on the Senate floor or a full Senate vote, but only if no Senators object (the bills only pass if there is unanimous support). It’s a way to save time on relatively uncontroversial pieces of legislation.

The other way a bill can pass the Senate is through a floor vote, when a simple majority of Senators voting in favor is required to pass a bill. But very few bills come to the floor for a full Senate vote because of the amount of time it takes. With the competing demands of health care reform and other national priorities, it would be nearly impossible to convince the Senate leadership to spend floor time debating and voting on the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.

Normally, that would be ok, because with the extraordinary lobbying by thousands of Americans, our bill now has historic support in Congress. One would also assume that seeking to stop LRA violence against innocent civilians would be uncontroversial.

That’s where Senator Coburn comes in. Because of his views on how and when the U.S. government should spend money, he objected to the bill and is now the lone Senator blocking it's passage under the rules of “unanimous consent.” He does this by putting a “hold” on the bill, which can be maintained indefinitely. 

That’s right: the only way our bill will pass is with unanimous consent, meaning that if Senator Coburn continues to block it, the bill will die when this session of Congress ends this summer. 

Call Senator Coburn’s DC Office (202) 224-5754