It passed the senate with UNANIMOUS CONSENT ... it was not a unanimous vote. Basically "without objection".
They can slow it down and stop it from being railroaded through by the majority.
Was it by unanimous concent? Everywhere I've read about it the bill passed unanimously - I took that to mean by unanimous vote, but I could be wrong. As for your second point, no that's not true. They can't slow it down. In the House the majority really does rule. They set the agenda on what get's debated and voted on. I don't want to migrate to the political here, because I know that's not allowed on this forum, however, since we're discussing procedural issues with regard to legislation I think it's valid to talk about this. Look at what happened late summer - as Congress was going into summer recess the GOP kept pushing for their position on drilling off-shore. They wanted to lift the Congressional ban on it. The democrats absoultely refused to even hold a debate on the bill. As a result, no debate happened. The bill was never introduced. It was never discussed (at least not while Congress was in session), and it certainly never came up for a vote. The GOP couldn't even prevent the House from being called to recess, although they tried. The rules simply didn't allow for it - the majority wanted to adjourn, so they did.
About the best that the minority can do is to do just what they did here - prevent votes on bills that require suspension of normal rules of debate. The only exception to this happens IF the majority GIVES the minority specific authority to act. For example, the majority could give the minority, through the adoption of the rules, the ability to bring up points of order... or offer up bills outside of the approval of the majority. But (again, I'm NOT trying to get political on this - just explaining my understanding of the procedures) one of the first things that Speaker Pelosi did was to take away any such authorization, when she took power in January of 2007. Prior to that the minority DID have some authority granted to it by the majority. When the majority flipped, those authorizations were taken away.
BTW, thanks to all the replies on the clarification. That makes alot of sense - the fact that the clock is ticking on this (I lost sight of just how close the scheduled transition was) would prevent a normal bill from going through. The Wash Post article then is wrong - they didn't vote down the bill. THAT'S where my confusion came from.
Edited by jpl, 28 January 2009 - 01:53 PM.