I'm sure you've experienced it — those weeks from hell where everything piles up and unfolds at once. That's what it was like on Capitol Hill this week. On Monday, we started with an incredibly important cloture vote on the nomination of Judge (now Justice) Samuel Alito.
Cloture is one of those wonky Senate things. If you are the Senate majority leader and you want to choke off debate — or a threatened filibuster — you must file a cloture petition. The petition must "ripen" for a period of time before a vote can take place. Here's the complication: it takes 60 votes to "invoke" cloture and move forward to a final vote.
In the case of Alito, the cloture petition ripened on Monday, Jan. 30. The Senate's 55 Republicans needed 5 Democratic votes to move the nomination along. In the end they got 20. A great number of Democrats who did not plan to vote for Judge Alito's nomination still voted to bring the debate to an end.
On Tuesday, Jan. 31, Alito needed only 51 votes to prevail and he received 58 (one vote less than I had predicted on “Weekend Live”).
The mid-morning vote on Justice Alito alone would have been enough to make it a very big news day, but that was only the beginning of our day on the Hill. After producing our Alito stories, we had to turn attention to the president's State of the Union address that evening.
Which brings us to my assignment in the political mosh pit we like to call Statuary Hall.
Stat Hall is a ceremonial room most of the time. It is actually the original House chamber. Now it is filled with statues of great Americans and on State of the Union Night, hundreds of journalists and photographers. We gather there to get reaction to what the president has said.
Nothing is more predictable than post-State of the Union reaction. If we have, say, a Republican president ... shock of shocks, you will find that congressional Republicans loved the speech and congressional Democrats hated it. If we happen to have a Democratic president the reverse is true. Still, tradition dictates that we reporter-types must gather in Stat Hall to endure the annual ritual. Pity the poor soul who happens to be caught in the hallway between the House chambers and the TV cameras after the speech is over. It's like being at Wal-Mart when they open the doors on the morning after Thanksgiving.
More chaos ensued on Thursday morning when House Republicans gathered to pick a new majority leader. Again, reporters jammed together to await details of the "allegedly" secret happening inside the Cannon Caucus Room. I say "allegedly" because the place leaks like a sieve. We were airing details from our live position outside the room, well before there were any official announcements.
Congratulations to Congressman John Boehner, who was elected majority leader in the second round of balloting. Regular viewers of the Sunday edition of “Weekend Live” will recall that Boehner launched his campaign on our program. I note with some consternation that his first big post-election chat will be with that no-good, interview-stealing FOX colleague of mine, Chris Wallace (not that I'm bitter) on “Fox News Sunday” (check your local listings).
That's okay though, we have to let Chris win one now and then. Wait till he sees what we have in store on Sunday. Join us — we'll give you all the news and information you need well before the Super Bowl kickoff.
“Weekend Live” hosted by Brian Wilson airs 12 – 2 p.m. ET on Sundays.
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Brian Wilson is a congressional correspondent for FOX News and anchor of the Sunday edition of "Weekend Live."