Obstructionism pays

This (from Matt Yglesias) is why Republicans would be crazy to do anything other than filibuster everything in sight…and why people (myself included) were stupid to ever consider the possibility that they would do otherwise:

Via Jon Chait, an interesting Pew survey reveals that just 26 percent of Americans know that it takes sixty votes to pass a bill in the Senate.

I don’t find that surprising, but it’s good to see it quantified. It’s also worth pointing out that one of the major failings of most political journalism is a perennial tendency to overstate the American people’s level of knowledge about politics. You never hear the impact of public ignorance about the filibuster discussed as a factor in the president’s fortunes. But I’d say the fact that people don’t understand how this works is an important element of what makes it so effective. To a small slice of Americans, the GOP’s minoritarian obstructionism is a heroic stand. To another small slice of Americans, the GOP’s minoritarian obstructionism is an undemocratic disaster. But to the majority of Americans it’s completely invisible and all they see is a Democratic Party that can’t get things done.

This is all going to get worse, not better. The question what Democrats can do about it. In my view, they have to change Senate rules as quickly as they can.






108 replies
  1. 1
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    Now if only our smart, smart president could learn this lesson too.

  2. 2
    burnspbesq says:

    The thing that will keep the Senate rules from changing is that there are at least a handful of Dems who care about outcomes, and will want to keep the ability to obstruct when there is a Republican President and a Republican majority. Not that they did anything with that from 2002-2007.

  3. 3
    Rick Massimo says:

    The simple and small-c conservative solution is to make them actually filibuster. I know that at the moment it takes a changeof rules, but at the beginning of the next Congress, how difficult is it?

    The filibuster was intended to bring the Senate to a halt. The rule change that allowed you to filibuster just by declaring your intent to filibuster was inspired by a desire not to bring the Senate to a halt.

    It’s head-shakingly stupid not to have realized that one day the filibuster would turn into a 60-vote requirement.

  4. 4
    Martin says:

    The Democrats could also round up their HCR partners to start running ads educating the public about the filibuster. Just increasing the publics knowledge of the problem would help.

  5. 5
    JP says:

    Just pull an arrogant Republican-style move, a la the Supreme Court: The Dems need to get all “shocked, shocked” about this unAmerican rule that a simple majority can’t pass legislation in a democracy. They announce they’re changing the rule because all they’re asking for is a straight “up or down vote.”

  6. 6
    Fergus Wooster says:

    Someone mentioned recently that nobody in the world has been quoted as wishing that their own country had a deliberative body that worked like the U.S. Senate.

    We’re long overdue to change the rules. Reduce their relevance, like the Brits did to the House of Lords. The Golden Days of Senate obstructionism won’t be missed by anyone but the Senate.

  7. 7
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    I’ve only been hyperventilating about this for how many months? While all of you start condescending about “political realities”.

  8. 8
    Mayken says:

    Not for nothing, but it takes a 2/3 vote of the Senate to change the rules. So if you think getting 60 is hard, try getting 67!

  9. 9
    Napoleon says:

    All 40 Republican Senators voted against raising the debt ceiling yesterday. What happens when Brown is seated and they block a raise and send the US into default.

    The Senate absolutely needs to blow up the filibuster.

    And DougJ were you really that naive? I don’t know how anyone couldn’t see this coming. The Rep are a nihilistic reactionary political movement that simply do not believe in the premises this country was founded upon.

  10. 10
    malraux says:

    @Rick Massimo: But the republicans would be happy with a traditional filibuster. They’d get to talk without end. Moreover, traditional filibusters mean that the democrats would have to keep all 59 members of their caucus on-hand on the off chance that 1 republican senator decided to vote to end the filibuster. It would paralyze the democratic side, give a larger platform for republicans, and wouldn’t actually accomplish the goal of getting legislation passed.

    The problem with the filibuster isn’t that one side isn’t forced to talk anymore. The problem with the filibuster is that it interferes with majority rule.

  11. 11
    JK says:

    OT

    White House Reconsiders New York City as Venue for 9/11 Trials
    http://www.wcbs880.com/MANHATT.....ls/6237518

    When will Obama stop being such a goddamn sissy? Does he have the balls to fight for anything or will he remain in fetal position for the rest of his term? If Obama intends to keep caving in whenever Republicans raise a stink why doesn’t he simply resign from office right now and let Scott Brown start his term as President a few years ahead of schedule.

  12. 12
    Pangloss says:

    Everybody wants a parliamentary system when they’re in power. When they’re not, not so much.

  13. 13
    Steve says:

    This link explains why it only takes 51 votes to change the Senate rules at the start of a new session, every two years.

  14. 14
    Chyron HR says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    I’ve only been

    condescending

    for how many months?

    It’s amazing the secret truths you can uncover in almost any text.

  15. 15
    malraux says:

    @Mayken: Well, nothing stops 50 votes plus the VP from voting to change the rule about 67 votes being needed. The nuclear option should still be on the table.

  16. 16
    danimal says:

    Attach anything important to budget resolutions. Give lots of chances for Republicans to take embarrassing votes. If a string of popular initiatives go down 59-41, AND THE DEMS KEPT POUNDING AWAY ON IT, the media and the public would pay attention.

    Yeah, I know, I know…the Dems ability to maintain message discipline is parked next to my new pony.

  17. 17
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    @JK:

    If he just caves in a few more times, eventually the Republicans will leave him alone! ! ! ! !

  18. 18
    flounder says:

    I have said the Republicans know the lesson I wish Dems would learn: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
    I think Dems could have done a lot for themselves by setting up caucus rules in which everyone voted with the caucus on procedural matters or they lost committee seats, etc.; while feeling free to vote how they saw fit on bill passage.
    That we have Democrats vowing to filibuster material from the Democratic platform decided on at the Democratic Convention is a failure of Democratic leadership.

  19. 19
    Napoleon says:

    @Mayken:

    No it doesn’t, they can do it by majority vote:

    http://www.prospect.org/cs/art.....y_51_votes

    (by the way, I actually grew up in Canfield which is mentioned in that article).

  20. 20
    boomshanka says:

    can’t they start making republicans actually filibuster each bill. wouldn’t they eventually tire of the practice if they were forced to stay up all night every time they wanted to block a bill?

  21. 21
    KDP says:

    Listening to Obama hold his own and then some against the Republican caucus. “It can’t be all or nothing, one way or the other.” In response to their whines that “you don’t listen to us.” Using examples like “we developed a stimulus that contained aspects you supported” If the republican caucus votes “No” because they don’t get 80 or 100% of what they want that’s not how democracy works.

    Compromise and consensus is necessary. May not support all of my jobs bill, but if you look at small business tax cuts it goes along with what you Rs propose, so voting against it just because it’s my administration is counterproductive.

    Even better, MSNBC is running this without interruption.

  22. 22
    Brick Oven Bill says:

    The Democratic Party has the Executive Branch, and governing majorities in both the House and Senate. It is impossible for the Republican Party to obstruct anything.

    What we are observing is a coalition of grievance groups, demonstrating their inability to govern.

  23. 23
    Mayken says:

    @malraux: If this is really that easy, why haven’t we done it? Not being factitious here: I never understood how Trent Lott thought he could get rid of judicial filibusters in the first place. Would such vote really end filibusters in the Senate for all time? Or is it limited in time and scope?
    Guess it’s Google time!
    It sounds like politically it wouldn’t really hurt us, if only 26% of the electorate really understands that the Rs can just say no to everything from here until eternity now that they have their super-minority.
    ETA: just saw the links about rules changes. Will read. Thanks!

  24. 24
    Sentient Puddle says:

    @malraux:

    Well, nothing stops 50 votes plus the VP from voting to change the rule about 67 votes being needed.

    Nothing…except a filibuster.

    Now if you’re talking about drafting new rules at the start of the next congress (a la the article Steve and Napoleon linked), then yes, 50 plus Biden works there. But right now? Good luck.

  25. 25
    MBunge says:

    But the republicans would be happy with a traditional filibuster. They’d get to talk without end

    Who would listen to them? Virtually NO ONE in the public would be watching them on C-Span. Instead, they’d be watching the news channels where even Fox would have to present the Democratic side of the dispute.

    More over, as the fillibuster goes on day after day after day, you know who would really get sick of it? The media. After 3 days of nothing going on but the fillibuster, the beltway gasbaggers would be so freakin’ bored that they’d just want it to end. They’d finally be personally inconvenienced by Republican a-holery, which would produce a massive shift in how they cover the standoff.

    And someone should point out that most polls show that the public blames the Republicans more than Obama and the Democrats for the current gridlock. They obviously understand things well enough to figure that out.

    Mike

  26. 26
    malraux says:

    @Mayken: Primarily, because senators like the filibuster, and arguably like the traditions of the senate. Arguably, it gives future protection for when the party is in the minority again (though democrats seem more reluctant to use the filibuster). But the long and short of it is that it hasn’t happened because the senate doesn’t want it to happen.

  27. 27
    Zifnab says:

    @danimal: This.

    I’m eager to see 41 Republicans vote against the Defense Bill because of DADT being repealed.

  28. 28
    Xantar says:

    @JK:

    As I understand it, moving the trial was actually Bloomberg’s idea. The problem is that providing security for the five or so years that the trial would take is prohibitively expensive not to mention all the traffic snarls it will generate in the city. The alternative is to simply have the trial in some other part of New York state. You still get the constitutional due process but the logistics are much easier. I honestly don’t see a problem with it.

  29. 29
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Just to preempt the junior constitutional scholars, Senate already blew up the filibuster in 1975 by declaring it unconstitutional. Then they changed it and disappeared the previous unconstitutionality of it. All by simple majority vote.

    Same thing can be done again. All that is needed is balls (which pretty much means it ain’t happening no matter how much we fantasize.)

  30. 30
    El Cid says:

    I wouldn’t have minded if Obama and Democrats had merely done formal rituals designed to appear as reaching out to Republicans. The problem is that the last year was spent in both actual collusion (i.e., using ‘reaching out to Republicans’ as a rhetorical excuse for Senate leaders to weaken health care reform as much as possible) and, at least on Obama’s part, an actual belief that Republicans would be willing to help out for god knows what incentive (nonsense about them ‘caring about the country’ or other shockingly naive shit).

  31. 31
    Shalimar says:

    @Brick Oven Bill: Thank you BoB for demonstrating the general ignorance of which DougJ spoke. F-I-L-I-B-U-S-T-E-R. It’s called a filibuster. It happens alot lately, so you should have heard of it by now.

  32. 32
    malraux says:

    @Sentient Puddle: No, the nuclear option is not filibusterable. It would require an immediate vote.

  33. 33
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Attach anything important to budget resolutions. Give lots of chances for Republicans to take embarrassing votes.

    There’s no such thing as an embarrassing vote for a Republican. They. Just. Don’t. Care.

  34. 34
    JK says:

    @Notorious P.A.T.:

    I was under the mistaken assumption that Obama had the courage of his convictions and that he’d stand his ground in the face of withering criticism. I didn’t realize he was such a pussy. I can’t take 3 more years of Obama governing with his tail between his legs.

  35. 35
    Mike E says:

    OT–Tiller killer guilty on all charges, incl 1st degree murder. Jury took 37 min. GOS worst case scenario avoided. eom

  36. 36
    Zifnab says:

    @Sentient Puddle: Rules are voted on at the beginning of every session (there will be a new Congressional Session in 2011). These rules only require a majority vote.

    It’s the same procedure they go through when selecting House Speaker and Senate President. No everything can be filibustered.

  37. 37
    Mayken says:

    @Mike E: Thanks for the good news! (Countdown to wingers becoming suddenly anti-death penalty ’cause this guys a “good Christian.”)

  38. 38
    gopher2b says:

    Via Jon Chait, an interesting Pew survey reveals that just 26 percent of Americans know that it takes sixty votes to pass a bill in the Senate.

    This is exactly why they should make them actually filibuster. After a week, two weeks, two months, everyone would get fid up with the waste and games. I am certain100% that the American public would take Republicans out if they watched them waste two months of tax payer time with their games. But, Reid is a p-ssy, so there’s that.

  39. 39
    cincyanon says:

    The Dems have another option: educate the electorate. Every single time a democrat gets microphone time they should say that republican obstructionism is forcing 60 votes to pass even the most simple legislation like “Pay Go” which many on that side have pushed every time a Dem is in the White House.
    The mics in your face to talk about school lunches? Talk about obstructionism first.
    A question about a DC snowstorm? Rinse and repeat.
    And so on…

  40. 40
    JK says:

    @Xantar:

    The wingnuts will spin this as the WH looking clueless or gutless. Eric Holder should have spoken to Michael Bloomberg before making his public announcement so that Bloomberg could express his reservations. Now the WH looks like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.

  41. 41
    malraux says:

    @MBunge:

    Who would listen to them? Virtually NO ONE in the public would be watching them on C-Span. Instead, they’d be watching the news channels where even Fox would have to present the Democratic side of the dispute.

    I really don’t buy that the press would get tired of the filibuster. Its not like the major news anchors would actually have to sit and watch it all day. Honestly, I think the extra stress of having to sit in the senate for days on end would end up killing Byrd well before the press got tired of it. And only 3 or 4 republicans would ever have to be on hand at any one point, the rest would be free to sleep at home, go on talk shows to defend their actions, go back to their districts to talk to constituents, etc. Meanwhile, not a single Democrat could do any of that.

  42. 42
    Brick Oven Bill says:

    ‘F-I-L-I-B-U-S-T-E-R’ equals four syllables.

    ‘R-U-L-E-S’ equals one single syllable.

  43. 43
    Malron says:

    Obama is completely exposing the House GOP as idiots at their conference luncheon.

    Just put Frank Luntz on blast while pointing out the way he formulated the GOP’s “Just say no!” strategy.

  44. 44
    DougJ says:

    And DougJ were you really that naive?

    I thought they’d probably filibuster everything, but I wasn’t confident of it. I lacked conviction.

  45. 45
    eemom says:

    for some serious depression, go check out Ezra’s post on HCR.

    I’ll say it again: if Obama lets this die I’m done with him.

  46. 46
    Jon says:

    @Malron: this. holy crap, it just ended and boy oh boy was it the best thing i’ve seen in AGES. His complete dissection of the “you brought all this new debt upon us, this is all your fault” lie had me giddy at my desk at work.

  47. 47
    BombIranForChrist says:

    I agree absolutely. I think “minority rights” is an unbelievable crock of shit that has been cooked up to protect the status quo, regardless of who is in power.

    I think the majority should be able to pass bills they want, period. This will force the majority to actually put their money where there mouth is and do the things they say they will do, instead of hiding behind the canard of “procedural hurdles”.

    And it will send a clear message to the minority that if they actually want to govern, they have to find a message and philosophy that will get them elected, and then follow through.

    Minority rights can suck it, is my point.

  48. 48
    KDP says:

    Oh. My. Gawd.

    http://www.murrayhillincforcongress.com/

    Web site domain registration in 2007, so company appears legit (my first thought was that it was a spoof site registered in the last week).

    http://www.networksolutions.co.....illweb.com

    What do you think? Legitimate or satirical commentary?

    Via Crooks & Liars: http://crooksandliars.com/nico.....y-corporat

  49. 49
    stickler says:

    If they have to wait until January 2011 to change the Senate rules, then we’re all screwed. That would mean 2010 will see even less “progress” on ANYTHING, than 2009 did. Remember that laundry list Obama read out of bills “passed by the House,” that are still sittin’ there waiting for the House of Lords to take up?

    I’m going to take up learning Mandarin.

  50. 50
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    Did anybody watch Obama’s presser right now with the Republicans? Quite frankly it started all kum-ba-yah and sickening, but as it progressed and the Republicans kept asking patently stupid questions Obama got back in their faces rather forcefully. That’s some of the best stuff I’ve ever seen from Obama.

  51. 51
    DougJ says:

    Compromise and consensus is necessary.

    I’m not so sure. I would say ditch the filibuster and just ram stuff through.

  52. 52
    Mike E says:

    @Brick Oven Bill:
    Phil-ly cheese-steak = what’s 4 lunch.

  53. 53
    gopher2b says:

    @malraux:

    Completely agree.

    Tim F., you want to start a campaign that would work. Start having officials call their Democratic Senators ordering them to force the GOP to actually filibuster. Bring the Senate to a complete stop and blame it on Senators who are reading Moby Dick on the Senate floor for the third straight week.

  54. 54
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    @Bruce (formerly Steve S.):

    Great. Now let’s see if it translates into action.

  55. 55
    SpotWeld says:

    Let’s be honest here: minority obstructionism is an accepted tactic for both sides of the aisle. The left would totally approve of this is the Dems held up certain unpopular legislation (Defense of Marriage act let’s say)… but they would also expect the legislators to be honest in stating they are being obstructionist and the reasoning for it.

    It’s principled then.

    What I think we’re seeing on the right is obstructionism with denial. The GOP, at it’s core, does not want reform (as does some blue dogs), but it is politically inconvenient to state this. So we get talking points and deflection (they havn’t read it, Death Panels, You Lie..etc etc etc).

    It’s a dishonest play on ignorance that let’s the minority GOP have their cake (obstructionism) and eat it to (a public face of “reform”).

  56. 56
    fraught says:

    They could move the terrorism trials to East Hampton, NY right near Sally Quinn’s house “Grey Gardens.” She could be a gracious hostess for all the reporters and torturers.

  57. 57
  58. 58
    KDP says:

    @Bruce (formerly Steve S.): I did. I was impressed. They were all wah-wah-wah ‘you don’t listen to us’, and Obama responds with “Well, yeah, I do. And here are some of the ways that your proposals were integrated into the consensus bills brought to the floor. Voting no because you don’t get 80-100% of what you want is counterproductive and does not serve your constituents.”

    Snowe Queen on air now. Didn’t feel shut out in conference, but…. claims it went behind closed doors after conference cuz it got too big.

  59. 59
    DougJ says:

    Let’s be honest here: minority obstructionism is an accepted tactic for both sides of the aisle.

    Not to this extent. What’s going on now is markedly different than anything we’ve ever seen before in terms of (1) frequency of filibusters and (2) the fact they maintain them with only 40-14 seats.

  60. 60
    Gregory says:

    I’ve said this before, but all the hoopla about Cosmo Brown being the 41st vote against health care and everything tipped the Republicans’ hand — of course they’ll vote en bloc against everything, and of course courting the votes of so-called “moderates” like Snowe is a fool’s errand.

    Better the Democrats should be looking to replace them than waste their time indulging their fruitless stalling tactics of bad-faith negotiation.

  61. 61
    SpotWeld says:

    @DougJ: Agreed… but I like that back to a combination of the out-and-out dishonesty of the GOP publicity campiagn and the inability (or unwillingness) of the Dems to counter it.

  62. 62
    Sentient Puddle says:

    @malraux: And it would open several entirely new cans of worms. It didn’t acquire the name “nuclear” because the namers wanted some shits ‘n giggles.

    @Zifnab: Yes, I did say that (though perhaps not quite as clearly as I hoped). And a rule change at the start of a new congress is the most realistic way of accomplishing this, so I think it’s the way to go.

  63. 63
    artem1s says:

    I don’t see the Senate changing the rules on the filibuster anymore than Congress repealing the 2 term rule for Presidents. Only the party in power thinks its a good idea and they start to back peddle the moment it looks like an advantage for the other side. Besides, if the members of the Senate won’t break the fraternity rules by making the other side of the aisle actually follow through on their threat to filibuster how in Gods name do you believe they would do so to change the rules? They have a gentleman’s agreement not to make each other too uncomfortable and do all of their business behind closed doors. Even Teddy did this. What we need is 5-10 senior members who are willing to force the filibuster even though it will make them unpopular with their buddies. Once you have that the 41 majority no longer exists.

  64. 64
    jeffreyw says:

    @Bruce (formerly Steve S.): Yup, it was very good. I liked that he said some of you are calling everything about health care reform as some commie plot to take over the economy, and I know why you are doing it, it polls well and it riles up your base. Only trouble is your base believes it! And now you’re boxed in! You can’t cooperate or your base will tear you apart!

  65. 65
    SpotWeld says:

    Sorry.. I shoud finish my thought.

    Changing the rules would deal with the obstructionism, but not address the publicity campaign… and it would be quickly spun as the Dems “cheating” to get thier legislation passed.

    The battle has to be fought on both levels and the Dems seems to be unable to run the media side of it.

    It’d be like trying to invade Normandy with the Allied forces on the beachheads, but without he French resistance crippling the German supply lines.

  66. 66

    @KDP:

    What do you think? Legitimate or satirical commentary?

    I say both.

  67. 67
    Joel says:

    Filibusters have taken a few big jumps.

    The first jump is Nixon-Ford Republicans ramping up the filibuster in the mid-1970s.
    The second jump happens when the Democrats regained control of the Senate and Presidency in the early 90s.
    The third jump – the biggest jump yet – is the doubling of filibuster motions since the Democrats reclaimed the 110th Senate.

    What’s interesting is that Republicans have traditionally scaled up the filibuster when in the minority, but that the Democrats have never scaled them back. In other words, a ratchet to fuckdom.

    Note: the graph is cloture filings but it’s basically reflective of the same phenomena.

  68. 68
    MTiffany says:

    The question what Democrats can do about it. In my view, they have to change Senate rules as quickly as they can.

    Barring a change in the Senate rules, the immediate Democratic antidote to Republican obstructionism in the Senate is — wait for it — the reconciliation process.

  69. 69
    darryl says:

    I want to see the “World’s Worst Deliberative Body” meme catch on.

  70. 70
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    Changing the rules would deal with the obstructionism, but not address the publicity campaign… and it would be quickly spun as the Dems “cheating” to get thier legislation passed.

    Yes indeed. But do you think voters care more about getting things done or about doing it the “right” way?

  71. 71
    Napoleon says:

    @SpotWeld:

    Who cares how the spin it. The problem with the Dems is they care, and at the end of the day no one else will. If they dump the filibuster and get things done in Washington for real people back home they will not give a flying fuck if the Dems did it by launching a bus of nuns into an ocean of piranha.

    They. Will. Not. Care.

    But Sally Quinn will write how the Dems trashed the town if they do so they are afraid.

  72. 72
    SpotWeld says:

    @Notorious P.A.T.: That’s the point.

    With the blue dogs running scared of a negative public image a lack of admittedly left-wing spin on such a change would still leave with too crippeled to get anything done.

    A rule change, without media narrative is still a stalled congress being bullied by a GOP minority.

    The voters would only see nothing getting done.

  73. 73
    SpotWeld says:

    @Napoleon:

    But Sally Quinn will write how the Dems trashed the town if they do so they are afraid.

    Exactly, if this is to be done it’ll be done by the Dems we have.. not the ones we want. And the ones we have are ruled by the impact of the media narrative.

    I’m not aruging a chage to the rules would be a bad thing, just that it doesn’t really address the problem.

  74. 74
    KDP says:

    Cantor just now: We hope this ‘party of no ideas’ can be banished.

    Boner: ‘everytime they put forward a plan we don’t like, we’ll put forward one we think is better’

    It’s not a matter of party of no ideas (few ideas, same old ideas, but not no ideas) nor that their proposals are always bad; it’s that it’s they’ve become the Party of No.

    If the Republicans don’t get exactly what they want without compromise; they just vote No. They don’t get the importance of consensus and compromise.

    It was good that the cameras stayed on during the Q&A. Apparently, Republicans asked for it, but now Russert says one of the R’s said that was a mistake since it let Obama rebut directly the talking points they brought up.

  75. 75
    darryl says:

    January 29th, 2010 at 1:02 pm Reply to this comment
    Rick Massimo
    The simple and small-c conservative solution is to make them actually filibuster. I know that at the moment it takes a changeof rules, but at the beginning of the next Congress, how difficult is it?

    If you could change the rules so easily, uh, why wouldn’t you just change the filibuster rule?

    It’s head-shakingly stupid not to have realized that one day the filibuster would turn into a 60-vote requirement.

    That thing that didn’t happen for 200 years, which is obvious in hindsight? They totally shoulda seen that coming.

  76. 76

    My magic pony list: Dems say, “Right. We’ve tried bipartisanship, and it hasn’t worked. Fuck that. Now, we will unify and pass legislation that we hold dear. You can either help us put back together this country which you tore apart, or you can stand back and get out of the way.”

    We would have Grayson and the younger progressives shooting off their mouths repeatedly and not backing down. We would have the adorable Bernie Sanders looking so disappointed and frustrated as he lectured whomever was interviewing him as to the finer points of true sockulism and why we are so far from it and how doing something for the good of the country sometimes means not listening to the ‘wah wah wah’ of the media or the Republicans or the “I have mine, fuck you” folks.

    We would have Franken working behind the scenes on policy (as he is a policy wonk), and we would have Debbie Wasserman Schultz on the front-lines massaging the message.

    In other words, we would have a coordinated attack from all sides.

    I know it’s fantasy because Dems are all over the map (both a weakness and a strength) and the idea of getting them to do anything en masse is wishful thinking, at best.

  77. 77
    KDP says:

    @asiangrrlMN: I like your magic pony, may I have one too?

  78. 78
    maus says:

    @Rick Massimo:

    The simple and small-c conservative solution is to make them actually filibuster. I know that at the moment it takes a changeof rules, but at the beginning of the next Congress, how difficult is it?

    I guess that assumes that even by the more liberal congresscritters that the republicans are seen as actual “opponents” and not simply coworkers to put on a show for.

  79. 79
    DonBelacquaDelPurgatorio says:

    I find myself caught in a loop here:

    It’s also worth pointing out that one of the major failings of most political journalism is a perennial tendency to overstate the American people’s level of knowledge about politics. You never hear the impact of public ignorance about the filibuster discussed as a factor in the president’s fortunes.

    Americans tend not to pay attention to the details in the media information stream. If they did, they’d know more about the filibuster. If they did, they’d hear the fact of this lack of filibuster knowledge in the information stream, but they don’t … but the “major failing” of political journalism is to tell people who aren’t really listening that their non-listening is a factor?

    Uh … okay. Whatever. The failure of political journalism is that it isn’t really practiced much, and has been replaced with an entertainment circus. That’s why people tune it out, except for the political junkies. If the political journalists want to do the world a favor, they’d practice more good journalism and less blatheritude, and maybe people would pay attention. Then the people would understand more. But pointing out that they don’t listen, while they are not listening …. I don’t see how that helps. I think that is called doing the same kind of things over and over and expecting a different result.

    Change and improve the product, maybe acceptance will go up?

    It’s just a suggestion.

  80. 80
    Kryptik says:

    The ridiculousness of this all is remembering just how fucking insane the Repubs were over Democratic “obstructionism” that amounted to…what, less than half of what we’re seeing right now (with this Congress only halfway done, mind)?

    Oh, and don’t forget the sheer difference in characterization in the media. Obstructionist Dems, vs….well, Weak Dems. Republicans fly under the radar despite voting monolithically because the media doesn’t want to make their historic obstructionism the story, while the Dems much weaker history between 2000-2006 was the WHOLE story back then.

  81. 81
    MTiffany says:

    @asiangrrlMN:

    doing something for the good of the country sometimes means not listening to the ‘wah wah wah’ of the media or the Republicans or the “I have mine, fuck you” folks.

    It would also sometimes mean telling your constituents that they need to grow the f*ck up. “Taxes pay for bullets, bombs, boats, and body armor. If you want a strong national defense, it’s going to cost you.” etc.

  82. 82

    @MTiffany: Yes, this, too. A painstaking monologue as to how you cannot both cut taxes and improve, say, roads and defense is needed as well. Unfortunately, many people seem to believe that yes, you can, indeed, cut taxes and improve the quality of life. Sigh. Back to my magical pony.

  83. 83
    Sentient Puddle says:

    @asiangrrlMN: This, but I personally would rejigger the strategy to be an all-out assault on the filibuster, because there’s nothing to suggest that the Republicans will let up on policy. You’d have to start by trying to push popular legislation X through and have it get stuck in the Senate, but from then on, get on the TV and say “We’d love to get this through, but the Republicans are using an arcane procedural trick to keep it from happening.”

    And when explaining the filibuster, keep it simple, stupid. No wonkiness like explaining cloture or whatever. “Republicans are blocking majority rule on this legislation that the vast majority of America wants.”

    Hammer that over and over and over from now until the next congress is inaugurated, then pull out Harkin’s proposal and lay it on ’em.

  84. 84
    Kryptik says:

    @asiangrrlMN:

    That’s because the right and the media have characterized taxes as an absolute (rather than a necessary) evil, and promoted that godawful Laffer curve. The magical “cut taxes, and revenue will rise!!” school of thought is conventional wisdom somehow, despite making not a fucking lick of sense since the top marginal tax rate was scaled down from 90% or so.

    Oh, and lets not forget the ubiquitous ‘welfare queens’ crap. The looooooooooong, repetitious insinuation of all government spending being unnecessary unless its going toward bombing brown people (to shamelessly crib from Carlin).

  85. 85
    cfaller96 says:

    I have been beating this dead horse for awhile, so it’s good to see some polling data indirectly support my assertion: if Dems think that “well we don’t have 60 so we can’t get anything done” is going to fly with the American people in the midterms or after that, they are sorely mistaken. America will have NO patience for this, and they will be livid at Dems if they don’t solve this problem.

    Being unable to accomplish anything because you “only” have an 18 seat majority can NOT be adequately explained, Republican intransigence regardless. This is on the Dems to solve this. This has been a problem since 2007, only now with bigger and historic majorities and the (as of yet) failure to pass any significant legislation, Harry Reid’s and/or the Senate Dems’ unwillingness to break/amend the filibuster is a cancer on the party, our government, and our nation.

    This HAS to get fixed before any expectation of “getting something done” is reasonable or possible. Assistance from President Obama would be much needed and appreciated.

  86. 86
    Martin says:

    @Kryptik: Well, that centered, at least initially, around Dems filibustering judges. That was a new tactic as the filibuster previously was only used for legislation. The GOP had some right to be pissed about that, to be honest.

    It didn’t help that Bush nominated some truly batshit crazy judges though.

  87. 87
    Kryptik says:

    @Martin:

    Not to mention that most of those appointments held up went through after the fact as recess appointments.

  88. 88
    Sentient Puddle says:

    @cfaller96:

    I have been beating this dead horse for awhile, so it’s good to see some polling data indirectly support my assertion: if Dems think that “well we don’t have 60 so we can’t get anything done” is going to fly with the American people in the midterms or after that, they are sorely mistaken. America will have NO patience for this, and they will be livid at Dems if they don’t solve this problem.

    I agree. It’s not going to be a popular point to make.

    I still see this as the least bad option.

    With the only realistic time to change the rules being at the start of the next congress, Democrats get to pick between getting nothing done between now and then, and explaining why they can’t get anything done between now and then. I don’t think there’s much of any difference between the number of seats lost between these two scenarios, but the latter sets them up for being able to change the rules without as much blowback.

  89. 89
    cfaller96 says:

    The Democratic Party has the Executive Branch, and governing majorities in both the House and Senate. It is impossible for the Republican Party to obstruct anything. What we are observing is a coalition of grievance groups, demonstrating their inability to govern.

    I hate agreeing with Brick Oven Bill, but he’s exactly right. Dems can throw out lots of excuses, and some are valid (yes, the Rs have been “filibustering” at an unprecedented rate), but at the end of the day that’s all they are. Dems can do whatever the hell they want, because in reality they have ALL the power. Offering legitimate excuses- which is all an “education campaign” would be- is not a valid way to govern.

    This is a hard but unavoidable reality- an 18 seat majority in the Senate is plenty big enough to accomplish your legislative agenda. There is no “explanation” that gets Dem out of this bind. They must break the filibuster, period.

  90. 90
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    I always love these threads on the filibuster. It’s like reading winger blogs during Bush, different party, same wanking.

    But by all mean nuke cloture, then when the wingers get back the majority, say goodbye to Social Security, Medicare, every single environmental protection law and anything else from the wingnut little bag of shit they don’t like.

  91. 91
    cfaller96 says:

    Sentient Puddle, I am not a Constitutional/Senate expert, but I thought that there was a way to declare some “emergency rules” for the Senate or something that could theoretically eliminate the filibuster, even in the middle of the session. I thought this was the “Nuclear Option” that was threatened awhile ago.

    I could be wrong, but I think this is simply a case of political will (or lack thereof) on the part of Harry Reid and Senate Dems. It’s here that I think that President Obama can help- just by talking about making “emergency rules” changes to the Senate, he can offer visibility, support, and willpower to an action that (again) needs to get done.

    I highly doubt the Senate will fix itself. External pressure from the Executive, the House, and (hopefully) the media will be needed. Otherwise, nothing gets done and the midterms are going to be awful.

  92. 92
    Sentient Puddle says:

    @cfaller96:

    They must break the filibuster, period.

    But that’s the problem…how? Right now, the only way is to peel off one Republican, and as we’ve seen for everything after the stimulus, that ain’t happening for anything. And it will only get worse after the 2010 elections unless the Democrats, by some miracle, manage to gain seats.

  93. 93
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @asiangrrlMN:

    Unfortunately, many people seem to believe that yes, you can, indeed, cut taxes and improve the quality of life.

    I think it’s because of a slightly different spur on the line Kryptik mentioned. Many people seem to believe that they pay _so much_ in taxes that the government is just _rolling_ in money, just lavishing it every which way. So they think either they should be getting more for their money, or pay less and get the same amount. They never think, “I’m getting a proper level of services for my tax dollars”; they think instead “I’m getting screwed” _and_ “That guy’s getting off easy.” I think there’s a widespread notion that the degree of “waste” is _immense_. Like when people are polled about aid to foreign governments, and they think it’s a huge portion of the federal budget.

  94. 94
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    One thing Democrats should absolutely try regarding the filibuster is just announce their intention to blow it right the fuck up. Just put it out there, say how it’s being abused like never before in the history of the country including the Civil War years, how you plan on blowing it up, refer to 1975 when it was done at the behest of the Ford administration (notice how Republicans always get what they want?) and why it’s important (the constitution requires a simple majority to pass legislation, not a super majority.)

    Then you look at the handful of Republican senators that get beneficial treatment sometimes by being the swing vote on cloture and you say, do you want to make a deal to effectively preserve the filibuster and your special status as an occasional swing vote on cloture?

    The last time this was tried, by Republicans in pursuit of an “upperdown” vote, there were a few in the so-called middle that peeled off and made compromise.

  95. 95
    cfaller96 says:

    But by all mean nuke cloture, then when the wingers get back the majority, say goodbye to Social Security, Medicare, every single environmental protection law and anything else from the wingnut little bag of shit they don’t like.

    First, I love how you assume that cloture won’t be eliminated anyway if/when the Republicans regain the control of the Senate. Mmmmkay. And when they do it I’m sure they’ll blame Democrats anyway, so you may as well get some benefit in exchange for that future pain.

    Second, it’s not either/or. You can protect the concept of a filibuster without having to maintain the 60 vote threshold. Simply notching it down to 55 might be feasible. Or you could maintain the 60 threshold but revive the “old” way of doing a filibuster, making a filibuster much more painful for the opposition. Or you could do both. “Nuking cloture” doesn’t necessarily mean “anything goes.” (And again, I’m pretty sure all of the above could be done right now under an “emergency rules” provision.)

    Third, in a post-filibuster world, anything you “say goodbye” to in one congressional session you could “say hello” to in the next congressional session. If the filibuster goes away, so does instinctive resistance to restoring/rolling back whatever happened in the previous session. That free flow works both ways.

  96. 96
    malraux says:

    @General Winfield Stuck: Well, I supported dropping the filibuster when the republicans had the majority.

    Moreover, if the republicans regain the majority of the house, senate and presidency, why shouldn’t they have the ability to get rid of Social Security, medicare, the EPA, etc? Of course, we can see from when Bush brought up eliminating SS that it isn’t the filibuster that protects these programs; their huge popularity protects them. Moreover, it would be awesome if the republicans voted in mass to eliminate Social Security and Medicare. They’d never be able to even run for dog catcher after that.

    Seriously, why shouldn’t majorities be able to implement their will? If the republican party wants to implement bad policies, the best thing to do is to show the electorate that they actually will.

  97. 97
    Napoleon says:

    @General Winfield Stuck:

    So what. The majority is the majority for a reason and if the people put them in place they should be able to enact their program.

    Regardless I have no worry that would actually happen because it would be so phenomenally unpopular that they would either wake up before they repealed those problems or it would lead to a huge wipe out for them at the polls and the loss of both houses and they would not even get a sniff at the either house for the next generation.

  98. 98
    kindness says:

    Jon Stewart had Doris Goodwin on yesterday. She said they should make them actually filibuster. The Americans would see it and get pissed at the antics.

    She’s right.

  99. 99
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @kindness: There ya go, that can be Step 2. Step 1, I outlined @ 94. Step 2, blow it up, replace it with the same 60 vote cloture total necessary but require an actual filibuster with all filibustering senators in attendance for the duration of the filibuster, scrap this “intent to filibuster” nonsense. The American people will greet us as liberators.

  100. 100
    Rick Massimo says:

    @darryl:

    That thing that didn’t happen for 200 years, which is obvious in hindsight? They totally shoulda seen that coming.

    Incorrect. The current filibuster rules came along in the late ’70s. Before that, you had to actually filibuster. My whole point.

    Napoleon:

    All 40 Republican Senators voted against raising the debt ceiling yesterday. What happens when Brown is seated and they block a raise and send the US into default.

    When they see that they would actually have to pay a price for their bullshit, they quit fucking around and vote in favor. These are free votes they’re taking right now.

  101. 101
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    @malraux: Because the founders wanted to give the minority some say too. And yes, the wingers are abusing their minority rights right now by obstructing everything that moves. But there are other ways that dems can fight back in the public court of public opinion and win more elections.

    If you blew up the filibuster by fiat, or the vice president ruling from the senate president seat that a rule is unconstitutional over the objections of the parliamentarian dems hired to be the expert in these disputes, where do you think that would lead? It is not just the filibuster, or cloture rule, the senate as a body operates under what is called “unanimous consent” which means everything operates with the consent of the minority./ They would bring the senate to a halt with objections and votes to overcome them (on everything)and blame it on the majority and they would be right, and the public would side with wingnuts.

    And claiming because Ford did it in 1975 thru VP Rockefeller is not any good argument for breaking a rule that everyone has followed for the past 100 years or so. And if I remember correctly, that instance ended up with only lowering the threshhold for invoking cloture from 67 to 60 votes, and it was not a hard right GOP versus a mostly liberal dem senate caucus. And the operation was supported by liberals on the GOP as well as dem side. Things are different now.

    And please don’t insult my intelligence with claiming progs now wanting to break the rules will be fine and dandy when wingnuts get control and privatize SS. You may be one, but that is all.

    edit – and many on the left were screaming at dem senators when Bush and the GOP ran everything, to do what the wingers are doing now. Use the filibuster on everything Bush wanted to do, or almost everything.

  102. 102
    malraux says:

    @General Winfield Stuck: No, there’s a pretty broad consensus of lefty blogger that supported the nuclear option under the republicans. Yglesias and Klein, for example, both have articles at the time supporting the republican exercise of the nuclear option. You can go for a pox on both your houses type of argument if you want, but if so, fuck you, it just ain’t true.

    Moreover, there wasn’t a high and mighty reason for the founders including the senate, so don’t try to use that kind of justification. The founders included the senate as a compromise to get a few of the smaller states to jump on. It wasn’t some idea brought from on high, it was a messy pandering.

    And even if you assume that the founders did have minority electorates in mind at the time, that doesn’t inherently make the senate in general, or how the current senate functions now a good idea. Its crazy to argue that a minority has an inherent veto right over everything the majority wants to do. With the filibuster, something like 10% of the population can be against something, and there’s then nothing the 90% majority can do.

    And speaking of insulting, its pretty insulting to say that the filibuster protects SS. SS was not protected by the filibuster. Republicans killed the idea of eliminating SS. Ignoring what actually happened in the real world is very insulting.

  103. 103
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    @malraux: They minority doesn’t have a veto right right now. They need to get 60 votes, which almost always means getting a few votes from the minority. And now we couldn’t even get one, and we didn’t even need that one as far as the 60 member dem caucus goes.

    And speaking of insulting, its pretty insulting to say that the filibuster protects SS. SS was not protected by the filibuster. Republicans killed the idea of eliminating SS. Ignoring what actually happened in the real world is very insulting.

    LOL, “the real world” do you really think that mere public opinion would have stopped the wingers in the senate and house from destroying SS with privatization with simple majority votes, and for that matter every other New Deal like social safety net the left has managed to get past their obstruction the past 80 years? That’s the real world.

    The founders most certainly did intend for the senate to run as a “cooling saucer” to the passions of majority rule in the peoples House. And over the past 200 + years the senate has worked that out via a number of rules, some standing, some open to change per the beginning of each congress.

    Nuking the cloture rule would be arbitrarily breaking those rules, any way you want to slice it.

    And you will have to provide cites and links to prominate liberals supporting doing away with the cloture requirements when Bush was presnit and the senate controlled by the GOP.
    If there are any, it wouldn’t be many, and certainly not the rank and file of the liberal wing of the dem party.

  104. 104
    malraux says:

    Again, the Republicans in congress ran screaming from SS privatization. It wasn’t the filibuster that stopped it, but republicans. That’s what actually happened. Bush tried to push it after his re-election, but the republicans quickly quashed that idea.

  105. 105
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    @malraux: they didn’t quickly quash the idea, they quashed it after they and Bush botched it by pushing it with lies. And all of it done under the reality of a filibuster. As far as their plan went, to use small amounts of SS payroll tax money to install a poison pill of limited privatization, they were all, or nearly all for it but had no chance of getting it past a cloture vote. That is why they killed it, not cause they didn’t support it.

    With a simple majority needed only they would do it in a New York minute, and then go to work on every piece of liberal prog legislation the past 80 years, just as fast as their little lizard brains could get it done.

  106. 106
    cfaller96 says:

    If you blew up the filibuster by fiat, or the vice president ruling from the senate president seat that a rule is unconstitutional over the objections of the parliamentarian dems hired to be the expert in these disputes, where do you think that would lead?

    Uh, to majority rule? /snark

    You can fearmonger all you like, and you’re probably right about all the scary things Republicans will do if/when they regain the majority. But you know what? Policies and ideas that can’t survive a few years of Republican rule are policies that are too fragile to be worth protecting anyway. If Dems and progressives can’t figure out how to protect SS, Medicare, etc. when they’re in the minority, then either A) we don’t deserve to have those things protected, B) those policies have lost the support of the people, or C) both.

    I refuse to operate from a default position of fear/lack of conviction about some of the more successful government programs in our nation’s history. Too many Dems in the House and Senate behave this way as it is.

    It is not just the filibuster, or cloture rule, the senate as a body operates under what is called “unanimous consent” which means everything operates with the consent of the minority. They would bring the senate to a halt with objections and votes to overcome them (on everything) and blame it on the majority and they would be right, and the public would side with wingnuts.

    You seem to be afraid of this, as if your hypothetical scenario would somehow represent a worse situation. I disagree. While on some small level I’m sure the Senate still “functions” today, the reality is that this body, and by extension our entire federal government, is quite literally incapable of governing. What you describe would simply be a more explicit and vivid demonstration of that. I fail to see how trying to change that would make things worse.

    And claiming because Ford did it in 1975 thru VP Rockefeller is not any good argument for breaking a rule that everyone has followed for the past 100 years or so.

    And over the past 200 + years the senate has worked that out via a number of rules, some standing, some open to change per the beginning of each congress. Nuking the cloture rule would be arbitrarily breaking those rules, any way you want to slice it.

    Question: when a way of doing things obviously no longer works, do we stick to that way just because “it’s the way it’s been done for the past 100-200 years”?

    Similar question: what, in your opinion, is the difference between “changing the rules to improve operations” and “arbitrarily breaking the rules”? I’d like to know when you think it’s appropriate to fix things, because I don’t see how you can fix a body like the Senate without “arbitrarily breaking” a rule that’s been in effect since before the horseless carriage.

  107. 107
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    You can fearmonger all you like

    LOL. And you wank all you want. Nuking the filibuster is not going to happen despite the wet dreams of prog pony wranglers. The rest of your comment I read several years ago on Redstate, and Confederate Yankee, and about every other wingnut blog. Like I said in first comment, different party, same wanking.

  108. 108
    electricgrendel says:

    Bullshit! It does NOT take 60 votes to pass a bill in the Senate, and it never has. It takes 60 votes to end debate on a bill. It only takes 51 Senators, or 50 Senators and the Vice President to pass legislation in the Senate. It may seem like nitpicking but the “it takes 60 votes to pass legislation in the Senate” bullshit did not come about until there was a Democratic majority.

    It takes 60 votes to end the process of bringing legislation to the floor. It does not take 60 votes for legislation to become law.

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