Danger: Debate Breaks out in Senate

Photograph by Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Charles Schumer, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin hold a news conference at the Capitol on the eve of the budget sequester on Feb. 28, 2013 in Washington.

If the first rule in “Fight Club” is not to talk about fight club, the first rule in the U.S. Senate is to never acknowledge its shortcomings.

Senators pretend to be cordial, part of the most deliberative body in the world, but they seldom truly debate. Members go to the floor, spill their talking points, and if confronted by an opposing viewpoint rarely confront the issue at hand. For those in the visitors’ gallery, or watching along on CSPAN-2, the Senate appears to be a smooth-sailing legislative body — members sometimes taking to the floor to address no one but the TV camera.

This afternoon on the floor of the chamber,  Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois was caught in a back-and-forth with Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey.

Toomey was trying to make the point that President Barack Obama has been overstating the impacts that budget sequestration would have on the aviation industry, citing lower levels in funding requests for the FAA in his FY 2013 budget.

Durbin was in no mood to politely pivot from Toomey and instead demanded control of the chamber. His voice rising, he warned of the threats the transportation industry faces under sequestration and looked toward the gallery saying: “This is getting perilously close to a debate. Which I might tell those in attendance never happens on the floor of the Senate.”

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