A gag-rule chronicle or notes from the Senate-floor filibuster

At roughly 10:30 p.m., in the waning minutes of the all-day Republican filibuster against Colorado budget reform bill SB 228, Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, threw an elbow.

The Democratic majority wouldn’t budge or break. After 10 hours, partisans on either side of the floor had clearly read into the record all the campaign trail fodder that could be transcribed. They were tired and getting sloppy.

The long-hoarse voice of Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, had by that point crawled to the bottom of his throat to be heard no more.

A half-hour earlier, Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, yawned and stretched and yawned and then mistakenly stood up to cast a “yes” vote on one of Sen. Mike Kopp’s, R-Littleton, interminable “girder-continuous bridge” amendments. Pulled down by a colleague, she snapped into her seat and let loose a peal of horrified laughter.

Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, arch-defender of spending caps on social programs, had earlier said without irony that he wanted people to go hungry — meaning the senators assembled for the filibuster, one must presume — but then he disappeared for most of the last three grueling hours of debate.

The day had started with shocked members of the minority railing against a threatened gag rule, which would have limited debate to five hours. Now the Democrats made good on the threat and put an end to the mind-numbing reading of proposed amendments.

The surprise gag-rule invocation steamed Minority Leader Penry.

“This is unprecedented,” he said. He went on to decry the abuse of power and added that one-time Democratic president of the senate Joan Fitz-Gerald said that she would never run the Senate like this, that she would make it bipartisan and, basically, that those assembled for the majority here today should be ashamed of themselves, et cetera.

Sen. Moe Keller, D-Wheat Ridge, who took to the speaker’s podium next, was having none of it.

“This is not unprecedented,” she said. This “doesn’t compare to (the districting fight) of 2003, where Republican majority leaders slipped a secret bill through in the last days of the session and held secret committee meetings, insulting the minority,” she said.

Weary nods followed on the eastern side of the hall.

Then Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, shocked — shocked! — at the hypocrisy visited upon the Senate and always ready with his laptop, took the podium and read out a line he Googled, perhaps from Fitz-Gerald, about the evils of partisan unfairness in regard to the rules of the Senate.

“Same thing, different day,” he said, nodding his chin with finality even as his exhausted colleagues were already making their way toward the door.