Out With a Whimper

Filibuster reform is dead:

This nearly three-week break has taken place in large part so leadership could hold private negotiations to consider how to deal with a group of Democrats agitating to shake up the foundation of the world’s most deliberative body, right down to challenging the filibuster.

To the dismay of a younger crop of Democrats and some outside liberal activists, there is no chance that rules surrounding the filibuster will be challenged, senior aides on both sides of the aisle say, because party leaders want to protect the right of the Senate’s minority party to sometimes force a supermajority of 60 votes to approve legislation.

We’re going to get a couple of minor changes, such as an end to secret holds and fewer holds for the confirmation of minor appointments, but real reform won’t happen. Republicans know that they’re destined to be a minority in the long run, so they have no incentive to relinquish minority rights. And Democrats are afraid they’re going to lose their majority in the next election, so they don’t have an interest in playing the long game when the short one looks so terrible.

(via)






43 replies
  1. 1
    Fargus says:

    Politics necessarily devolves to the short game. Even those who want to play the long game have to get re-elected to be able to do it, and that’s all about the short game. Eventually, playing the short game takes so much time that the long game gets forgotten.

  2. 2
    Rick Taylor says:

    I’m disappointed but not at all surprised. When legislation is filibustered in the senate I won’t be able to blame the Republicans anymore, or at least not just the Republicans.

  3. 3
    Benjamin Cisco says:

    The sad part of it is that if they were to lose that majority, they would most likely go back to playing cheerleader for whatever nonsense the Koch suckers want to dump on us. It is truly aggravating.

  4. 4
    Kryptik says:

    And Democrats are afraid they’re going to lose their majority in the next election, so they don’t have an interest in playing the long game when the short one looks so terrible.

    And….this is why the country is in such a shit state right now. The only people willing to play a long game are Republicans, and they only play the long game in how to take over and fuck over, while our whole national infrastructure rots.

    @Benjamin Cisco:

    Hey, can’t be too obstinate, especially if they say the economy hangs in the balance! You know how sensitive those business types are, blow on them and they’ll faint out of high-tax stress, don’t you know?!

  5. 5
    fucen tarmal says:

    i don’t trust the long game. i am not so upset about democrats not factoring it into the plans for the here and now. we have seen what republican majorities yield, and we know how much better they are at weilding equivalent power, give them the white house, 60 votes and a gop house, and it will be tax cuts, dereg and enough war to shift all our spending to “defense”.

    because they are so good at keeping the ducks in line, by dispensing enough trinkets to keep even their moderates on board with far right, objectives, and toeing the party line, i see the long game never happening if they were to win now.

    if we concede the present to wait for the future, the gop will just add motivated electoral wedge, after wedge, keeping them just well fed on their one issue, or few issues, that they toe the line on everything else. they will “right size” the needed electorate, by choosing who gets their button, and make them feel like made men in cosa nostra.

  6. 6
    cleek says:

    Republicans know that they’re destined to be a minority in the long run

    i can’t tell if this is bad mind-reading or bad crystal ball-reading.

  7. 7
    Fargus says:

    The reasons that Republicans can afford to play the long game are two:

    1) They don’t want to do anything in the short term but stop others from doing anything

    2) The rules are set up to make it very easy for them to do (1) even if they lose very, very badly

    Therefore, they don’t have to be worried about winning elections, because in the Senate, they have to be rejected for something like 6 years running before they start losing obstruction power, and that’s basically an impossibility.

  8. 8
    jibeaux says:

    It’s disappointing, but no one residing in the reality-based community could have ever perceived a significant threat to the filibuster from Senate Democrats.
    Our democracy is just going to become increasingly dysfunctional and we’ll increasingly rely on administrative regulations to get anything done — which brings its own set of problems.

  9. 9
    The Tragically Flip says:

    The real stupidity here is that somehow the Democrats think the Republicans won’t nuke the filibuster if they ever need to pass something and the Democrats are actually filibustering it.

    They were ready to nuke it over lower court nominees in 2005. Why is anyone stupid enough to think they’ll let it survive if cuts to SS are on the table?

    Actually, scratch that, cuts to SS could probably go through reconciliation, just like tax cuts for the wealthy and all the things the aristocrats want. The one-way knife of the filibuster survives because it only cuts liberals, as usual.

    Fuck the Senate. Next constitution, no fucking senate.

  10. 10
    lacp says:

    Filibuster reform is dead, and there’s gambling in Rick’s Cafe. Quelle surprise!

  11. 11
    ppcli says:

    “to protect the right of the Senate’s minority party to sometimes force a supermajority of 60 votes to approve legislation.”

    Sometimes? My impression has been that on anything that isn’t absolutely routine, the Democratic party *always* needs 60. That’s the basic problem – a device originally understood as to be used in exceptional situations became the norm.

  12. 12
    Pococurante says:

    This must be dimension nine in the 11-D chess game…

  13. 13
    Fargus says:

    @ppcli:

    a device originally understood as to be used in exceptional situations became the norm.

    Actually, it was a device that was originally an accident, and nobody realized was in the rules for some years. Then it was only used infrequently because the Senators didn’t want to piss each other off. Now they just don’t give a shit.

  14. 14

    @cleek: In order for the Republicans to be anything but a minority party of mostly whites in the middle-to-long term, they have to change substantively. If they change and marginalize the racists and homophobes and psycho fundamentalists in order to stay relevant, so much the better for everyone. But those really do seem to be the options right now–evolve or resign themselves to minority status.

  15. 15
    General Stuck says:

    I was like so hoping to see pigs fly this year.

  16. 16
    Mr. Moderate says:

    “The long game” is to think about what happens with this reform if the Republicans are in the majority. This *will* happen again and it could be in the near future. You want a strong filibuster. Is it inconvenient to you now? Yes. It will be inconvenient to them later too. Remember that.

  17. 17
    cleek says:

    @Brian S (formerly Incertus):

    In order for the Republicans to be anything but a minority party of mostly whites in the middle-to-long term, they have to change substantively.

    if that’s true (and i doubt it is), then they will change.

    the idea that the GOP would willingly shut itself off from just enough voters to win elections is just silly. there’s too much at stake (money, power, etc.) for a whole party to unilaterally let itself become a permanent minority.

  18. 18
    jayjaybear says:

    @Mr. Moderate: Yes, like the Republicans’ first act on Day One of the Senate session after they get majority status won’t be to nuke the filibuster…

  19. 19
    Fargus says:

    @Mr. Moderate:

    Bullshit. You make the country ungovernable when one party has to have a 60 seat majority AND massive party discipline in order to get anything done.

  20. 20
    The Tragically Flip says:

    The most bizarre aspect of this is that everyone accepts that a straight majority can in fact change the rules, it’s now just a question of whether to do so.

    The filibuster is paper hand cuffs that the majority chooses to wear, until it decides to break out of them because it wants to.

    That’s the biggest reason to kill it. It is no security at all, merely a gentlemen’s agreement, a polite fiction.

  21. 21
    magurakurin says:

    @jayjaybear:

    That’s probably how it will go down. But then the filibuster will be nuked and they won’t hold the majority forever either. It probably is an “only Nixon could have gone to China” type of political situation. At least secret holds will be gone. That’s something.

  22. 22
    jibeaux says:

    @Mr. Moderate:

    Call me crazy, but I don’t have a problem with the party in the majority enacting its legislative priorities and being judged accordingly on its successes and failures. I think on a level playing field wherein a majority Dem Senate can enact the kind of things that Dems like and a majority Rep Senate can enact the kind of things that Republicans like, people are going to vote more often for the Democrats. That’s just a side benefit to having a legislative body that’s actually capable of legislation and not just endless sound and fury.

  23. 23
    rikyrah says:

    straight up pussies, plain and simple. they need to grow a pair.

  24. 24
    Jinchi says:

    @The Tragically Flip:

    The real stupidity here is that somehow the Democrats think the Republicans won’t nuke the filibuster if they ever need to pass something and the Democrats are actually filibustering it.

    Exactly. Every time I hear some idiot say that the Democrats want to preserve the right to filibuster for the day that they fall into the minority, I have to wonder why they think that this Congress can constrain a future Republican majority anymore than this Congress is constrained by the rules written in 1975.

    The filibuster is going away. The only question is whether it will go away in time for the Democrats to accomplish anything worthwhile.

  25. 25
    RalfW says:

    I’m reading a new compendium of MLK speeches about economic justice and the editor, a professor named Michael Honey, says in the introduction “[King] particularly wanted to remove the ‘Neanderthals’ in he U.S. Senate who used the filibuster to block all significant change.”
    So the current Senate can be proud to be carrying on this King legacy. Using a tool meant to cool debate, they wield it as a mighty shield against any chance of increasing human dignity or progress.

  26. 26
    RalfW says:

    Oh, and shame on the WaPo (yeah, I know, shame??) for saying

    the right of the Senate’s minority party to sometimes force a supermajority

    Sometimes???

    .

  27. 27
    The Tragically Flip says:

    @magurakurin:
    @jayjaybear:

    No, they won’t nuke it on day 1. They’ll only nuke when they really want something and the Democrats actually muster 41 Senators willing to deny cloture (almost too ridiculous to even type). If that ever really happens, they’ll stage a level 9 hissy fit on TV and if that somehow fails to break the Democrats (99% of the time, it works 100% of the time), then they’ll engineer a creative disabling of the filibuster in that particular case in the most hypocritical and dubious sort of way, but that supposedly leaves the filibuster alive, which only future Democratic majorities will respect.

    In the 2005 fracas, they contrived this wholly artificial distinction between judicial and legislative filibusters and were prepared to rule only judicial filibusters unconstitutional. It was completely baseless as a constitutional distinction, but it worked and the Gang-of-Quislings caved and gave them what they wanted.

    They know how this all works to their favour, they will nuke the filibuster if all else fails, but only as needed and as a last resort.

  28. 28
    Svensker says:

    Nobody actually thought they’d do filibuster reform, did they? Did they? Not really? Why on earth would they have used up any political capital to do something they didn’t particularly want to do?

    I can’t believe anyone took it seriously enough to even be disappointed.

  29. 29
    rea says:

    How long do they think a Republican majority will keep the filibuster? Five minutes? Or, just as likely, a Democratic minority will be too cowed to filibuster anything.

  30. 30
    kth says:

    The Dems are unlikely to have all three branches of government for at least another decade, if recent history has any predictive value. So there’s no percentage in filibuster reform right now. And there are simply no value-free procedural issues–things that are “right” regardless of which party benefits–because the Republicans don’t play that way and I don’t expect them to in my lifetime.

  31. 31
    terraformer says:

    Didn’t our forefathers leave England to escape just this sort of ‘government’? You know, one run by the rich (by standards then, the nobles)?

    I feel like I’m watching a slow-motion train wreck, with the country devolving before my very eyes to a kind of neo-feudalism, and helped merrily along by rich politicians masquerading as ‘people-powered.’

  32. 32
    Jinchi says:

    @kth:

    So there’s no percentage in filibuster reform right now.

    The percentage is that you have to move your legislation when you have the power to do it. For Democrats in the Senate, that’s through 2012.

  33. 33
    The Tragically Flip says:

    @rea:

    The latter. The Democrats must never use the filibuster because they need to preserve the filibuster. If they use it, Republicans will end it. So they’ll always find a way to have enough conservadems vote for cloture when the chips are down.

    @Svensker:

    Yeah, every surviving Senate Dem signed a letter to Reid demanding rule changes. I don’t know what the environment looked like in ’75, the last time they actually modified the rules, but it did look like it had real momentum to something better than this.

  34. 34
    PeakVT says:

    That article was from Saturday. It’s worth calling your Senator to speak out if you have a (nominally) Democratic one.

  35. 35
    Scott P. says:

    I see this differently. Filibuster reform is on the radar for the first time since the 1980s. Although progressives have been talking about it for a while, it’s just started to become relevant in DC. It is disappointing but not surprising that it didn’t get passed right away, but I don’t think it’s dead. It’s only a matter of time before one party or the other does away with it, perhaps both together. I think it’s quite likely there are major changes to the filibuster by 2016.

  36. 36
    Mr. Moderate says:

    @jibeaux:

    And to others…did you have that same position in 2005 when the Republicans wanted to have their way with SCOTUS and social security reform after their 2004 “mandate” or did you hold the position that we were warding off the tyranny of the majority by invoking the filibuster?

  37. 37
    Persia says:

    Honestly, I’ll settle for the end of secret holds. I think we consistently underestimate the amount of damage those are doing.

  38. 38
    Mino says:

    The proposed reform I was reading about did not eliminate the filibuster, it merely required the Senators to earn their salaries by actually staging a filibuster–i.e. talking interminably.

  39. 39
    The Tragically Flip says:

    @Mr. Moderate:

    There was no filibuster of SS reform. It died without ever coming to a vote. It died because it was desperately unpopular with voters and even Republicans who have spent their careers trying to kill Social Security were unwilling to vote for it.

    There is no circumstance I can imagine in which a bill gutting/privatizing SS passes the House, has a president willing to sign it, and 51 Senators willing to vote for it, in which 41 Democratic senators successfully block it via filibuster. One of three things would happen in this order:

    1) “Moderate” Democrats cave and vote for cloture while maybe voting against the bill (see: Alito)

    2) It gets jammed through reconciliation.

    3) Republicans invoke nuclear and end the filibuster.

    The filibuster cannot save any part of the New Deal or Great Society. It is a twisted version of Excalibur that only works when evil hands hold it.

    There’s a reason no one can point to a successful use of the filibuster by liberals to stop anything bad since Huey Long. It’s inherently anti-democratic and only works toward right wing aims.

  40. 40
    The Tragically Flip says:

    Shorter Me: There ain’t no Senator Smith and there never was.

  41. 41
    mds says:

    @Mino:

    The proposed reform I was reading about did not eliminate the filibuster, it merely required the Senators to earn their salaries by actually staging a filibuster—i.e. talking interminably.

    Yes, but as usual the Republican Noise Machine was first out of the gate, and defined it as “eliminating the rights of the minority,” when the idea is merely to put the onus on the minority to maintain a filibuster. Right now, the majority has to be ready to go to a vote at any moment, while the minority can just have one guy pop up and claim the absense of a quorum.

    So once Republicans regain control of the Senate, I’m perfectly happy to have the Democratic minority obligated to actually filibuster if they want to stop something. Whatever that might actually be. Speaking of which:

    @Mr. Moderate:

    And to others…did you have that same position in 2005 when the Republicans wanted to have their way with SCOTUS and social security reform after their 2004 “mandate”

    Funny, those get trotted out an awful lot as examples of why “we”** desperately need to keep something that Senate Republicans have already declared they’re prepared to eliminate if it seriously stands in their way. The Tragically Flip has already dealt with the SS canard, but shamefully neglected to acknowledge the excellence of the other point. After all, without the filibuster, far-right extremist Samuel Alito might have ended up on the Supreme Court.

    **When it’s attributable, it’s often attributable to conservative commenters. Purely out of the goodness of their hearts, I’m sure.

  42. 42

    Well, fuck.

    Why the fuck should these assholes have the right to hold up everything without even opening their fucking mouths? If they want to hold things up, that should be their right, but good god damnm the least we should demand is that the burden should be on them for a change. Motherfucker.

  43. 43
    Curly says:

    There will be legislation from time to time that should not be passed and yet for some political reason (usually money or power offered) a majority will support it. Then a small group can see through the subterfuge and reconized how bad the bill is and will be able to filibuster the bill long enough for the people to wise up and stop the bill or the filibuster. (Mr. Smith goes to Washington).

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