cry baby cry (image: evanrossmurphy)

John McCain, who’s really upset he’s not President, has taken it out on the bark beetle.

In the Senate, you need unanimous consent to do pretty much anything. Among the UC requests habitually given is the ability to hold committee hearings after 2:00pm ET.

Mark Udall scheduled a hearing on the bark beetle, a pernicious critter that is harming plant life in the Interior West. John McCain was his partner on legislation that would attempt to deal with the problem. But John McCain has vowed not to work for the rest of the year – and presumably put his fingers in his ears and hold his breath until he turns blue – because of the passage of health care reform. So today, he withheld the unanimous consent request.

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and a Colorado state senator have gotten caught in the crossfire over health care.

A hearing Tuesday on Udall’s bill to protect communities from bark beetles was canceled after Republicans angry over the passage of health insurance reform legislation blocked it by using an obscure Senate rule requiring a unanimous consent to hold hearings scheduled after 2 p.m.

One of the witnesses set to testify at the hearing was Colorado state Sen. Dan Gibbs.
Udall says he hopes to get the hearing rescheduled this week.

Yes, John McCain objected to a hearing on bark beetles. Because of health care.

Senator Udall explained that this is a matter of public safety, killing trees and leading to other unsavory consequences. And Majority Leader Reid added:

“Senator McCain’s promised obstruction comes to reality just a day later. ‘The Party of No’ wouldn’t even agree to let Senate committees meet today. Ironically, as they make false claims about transparency regarding health reform, they’re shutting down a committee hearing today on transparency in government.

“The bottom line is that as millions of Americans are learning about the immediate benefits of health reform, Republicans are throwing a temper tantrum and grinding important Senate business to a halt.”

Temper tantrum is a good word for it.

Maybe when we finally fix the Senate rules, we can come up with a way to cancel out the need for unanimous consent to hold committee hearings after two o’clock.

UPDATE: To add a bit of context, Reid referred to a “transparency hearing,” which was separate from the bark beetle hearing. The Sunlight Foundation’s Ellen Miller was testifying at the moment that the hearings got shut down.

David Dayen

David Dayen