Well Now Here’s Your Problem

Peeking under the Senate hood and into the engine, there appears to be a large red obstruction blocking the thing from going anywhere, and it’s going to be a real pain to dislodge.

Here’s what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is considering: banning filibusters used to prevent debate from even starting and House-Senate conference committees from ever meeting. He also may make filibusters become actual filibusters — to force senators to carry out the nonstop, talkathon sessions.

Republicans are threatening even greater retaliation if Reid uses a move rarely used by Senate majorities: changing the chamber’s precedent by 51 votes, rather than the usual 67 votes it takes to overhaul the rules.

“I think the backlash will be severe,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the conservative firebrand, said sternly. “If you take away minority rights, which is what you’re doing because you’re an ineffective leader, you’ll destroy the place. And if you destroy the place, we’ll do what we have to do to fight back.”

“It will shut down the Senate,” the incoming Senate GOP whip, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, told POLITICO. “It’s such an abuse of power.”

To recap, if Harry Reid tries to stop the GOP from shutting down the Senate, the GOP will shut down the Senate.
Insert your own “well then clearly the opposite of progress” joke here.
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118 replies
  1. 1
    Cermet says:

    Sounds like a win-win situation for everyone!

  2. 2
    giltay says:

    changing the chamber’s precedent by 51 votes, rather than the usual 67 votes it takes to overhaul the rules.

    That sounds unreasonable to me. Which makes me think Reid is using it for bargaining, so that Republicans can defeat that and claim a victory, while possibly ending the stupid cloture rule.

  3. 3
    Napoleon says:

    Making them actually filibuster is idiotic. It makes the situation worse. Jesus is Reid and the rest of the Senators that stupid?

    If the Dem senators don’t wake up and relize that they have to completely do away with the filibuster and holds after quotes like this so as to nueter the minority then nothing will.

  4. 4
    Napoleon says:

    @giltay:

    That sounds unreasonable to me.

    Why? This is a democracy and 50% + one rules. The Constituion is very clear on when a higher margin is required in the Senate and their rules are not one of them.

  5. 5
    aimai says:

    Maybe Reid (maybe?) is trying to drive the Republican Senators into such intransigence before the vote that he can bring nervous democrats along for the full 51 votes needed. The people whose votes he is trying to get are not Republicans but Democrats, and as far as I know there have always been Democratic Senators who were reluctant to do away with the filibuster.

    aimai

  6. 6
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @giltay: And that quote’s a lie anyway. When Reid is planning on change the rules only requires 51 votes. It only requires 2/3 if you are doing it at any time after the beginning of a session.

  7. 7
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Reid needs to get rid of the filibuster so that Dems can get things done in the Senate. Right now, everything is pretty much at a standstill.

  8. 8
    EconWatcher says:

    Sen. Coburn is kinda interesting.

    He’s of course said and done many bug-eyed crazy things over the years. But unlike the typical wingnut, he seems to care what liberals think of him. He fancies himself a conservative policy intellectual rather than just a partisan blowhard, and wants to be recognized as such.

    Seems like the kind of weakness that could be exploited.

  9. 9
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @EconWatcher: Except when push comes to shove he votes with the Republicans.

  10. 10
    giltay says:

    @Napoleon: If your constitution jumped off a bridge, would you, too?

    Seriously, I just think 2/3 majorities are good for changing meta-rules.

    Also, too, there’s no way to get rid of the filibuster without impinging on legitimate debate. Up here, there’s no filibuster rule, but the minority MPs managed one last year over the federal budget.

  11. 11
    Someguy says:

    @Napoleon:

    Why? This is a democracy and 50% + one rules.

    If that’s true, then everybody here had to go to midnight or 8 AM “doorbuster” sales at WalMart, because that’s what the majority of morons in this country wanted to do.

    Because each senate session can write its own rules, what Reid should do is tank the filibuster and cloture rules, make the majority leader the sole arbiter of what gets to the Senate floor for a vote, and then return to the old rules, or a more restrictive, obstructionist version, right before the next election if it looks like anything other than a Dem landslide. He can do it if he wants, the only question is whether he wants to win, or play nice.

  12. 12
    eric says:

    democrats need to understand that elections have consequences and that means voting for the policies approved by the majority of white men in the country.

  13. 13
    Alex S. says:

    At the moment, the only reason to abolish the filibuster is to confirm personnel. So why not just change the rules concerning the cloture vote on confirmations and abolishing the secret hold? After all, the House is still republican, so not much more can be done without republican consent.

  14. 14
    quannlace says:

    It’s kind of funny to hear these guys whine on about ‘minority rights.”

  15. 15
    EconWatcher says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    I could see Coburn caving on marginal tax rates for a budget deal, and dragging some of his sorry caucus with him. He’s made some noises to that effect.

  16. 16
    Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937 says:

    The Beatings Will Stop When Morale Improves

  17. 17
    MikeJ says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    When Reid is planning on change the rules only requires 51 votes. It only requires 2/3 if you are doing it at any time after the beginning of a session.

    Exactly. At the start of a new congress, all rules only take 51 to enact. When the Republicans were threatening to do away with the filibuster, they were going to do it in the middle of a congress. The then current rules required a 2/3rds majority to change rules. Just like they do now with the current congress.

    The Republican plan to get around it was to ask the parliamentarian how many votes were required, 51 or 67. Then they were going to keep firing parliamentarians until they got one that would say 51.

  18. 18
    furklempt says:

    On the bright side: the GOP has finally expressed concern for minorities.

  19. 19
    Napoleon says:

    @giltay:

    I just think 2/3 majorities are good for changing meta-rules

    Who gives a fuck what you think. The Founders did not see fit to impose that rule in the Constitution, and it is what they thought that counts. 50+1 rules in the Senate except for some stuff like constitutional amendments and treaties.

  20. 20
    Napoleon says:

    By the way, next time the Reps control both houses and the WH the filibuster is history. If the Dems don’t change the rules now they are tying nobody but their own hands.

  21. 21
    aimai says:

    @giltay:

    Nonsense, there’s nothing magical about 2/3 majorities. In fact the house changes its rules–rewrites its rules–every session. When a rule, such as the filibuster, outlives its utility it makes sense to do away with it. Its history or its longevity doesnt’ tell you anything about whether its a good idea once a changing population and a changing minority have destroyed the functioning of the entire body.

    aimai

  22. 22
    ericblair says:

    @giltay:

    Also, too, there’s no way to get rid of the filibuster without impinging on legitimate debate.

    Except the point of all these filibusters isn’t to get more time to debate, it’s to kill the bills dead. Couple that with the fact that California gets exactly the same two senators as Wyoming means that a few very red, very empty states can totally control the Senate via holds and filibusters, and you’ve got a hugely undemocratic body.

  23. 23
    eric says:

    @aimai: I think California can further detail the “benefits” of the need for a legislative super-majority.

  24. 24
    AA+ Bonds says:

    “I think the backlash will be severe,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the conservative firebrand, said sternly. “If you take away minority rights, which is what you’re doing because you’re an ineffective leader, you’ll destroy the place. And if you destroy the place, we’ll do what we have to do to fight back.”
    __
    “It will shut down the Senate,” the incoming Senate GOP whip, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, told POLITICO. “It’s such an abuse of power.”

    Pretty pathetic. They’re going to wreck things anyway. They’re exposing their own impotence with these statements.

  25. 25
    eric says:

    @ericblair: and add in the fact that nearly all of them are millionaires with lifetime pensions and you get an undemocratic and unrepresentative body. USA! USA! USA!

  26. 26
    Walker says:

    @giltay:

    Also, too, there’s no way to get rid of the filibuster without impinging on legitimate debate. Up here, there’s no filibuster rule, but the minority MPs managed one last year over the federal budget.

    People who live in parliamentary systems know f*ck all about our government and should not lecture us about what is right.

  27. 27
    eric says:

    All you need is a declining majority vote. Cloture is 51. Easy. Then passage is 61; two weeks later it is 56, and three weeks later it is 51. The only reason for the filibuster is stop passage without debate. this solves that problem because it forces at least three weeks of floor debate. Simple. Please remit funds to my account in Cayman Islands.

  28. 28
    Linda Featheringill says:

    This country needs Harry to take back the Senate so we can get some stuff done.

  29. 29
    Cassidy says:

    This is a guillotine problem.

  30. 30
    Hill Dweller says:

    @EconWatcher: Coburn is a wingnut, who has put more legislation on hold(refusing unanimous consent to proceed) than anyone in the senate not named DeMint. He also torpedoed a very good nominee for US Attorney in Oklahoma because he felt he hadn’t been consulted enough. Fuck Coburn.

  31. 31
    Linda Featheringill says:

    @Cassidy: #29

    :-)

    Fits my mood this morning.

  32. 32
    robertdsc-iPhone 4 says:

    Wow, moar domestic terrorism by the Rethugs. I’m shocked. Die in a (Hell)fire, GOP.

  33. 33
    Cassidy says:

    @robertdsc-iPhone 4:

    Wow, moar domestic terrorism by the Rethugs. I’m shocked. Die in a (Hell)fire, GOP….

    …supplied by drones piloted by the ATF.

  34. 34
    JGabriel says:

    __
    __
    Patricia Kayden:

    Reid needs to get rid of the filibuster so that Dems can get things done in the Senate.

    I’m inclined to agree, but I wonder, will it really help? After all, even if we kill or limit the filibuster, Republicans still control the House.

    .

  35. 35
    The Moar You Know says:

    W got everything he wanted under the current rules. The Democrats couldn’t jump fast enough or high enough to give him what he wanted, and they jumped on command every time.

    The problem is that Democrats are weak and Republicans aren’t scared of them. I’m fine with changing the rules if that’s what it’s going to take, but let’s not pretend the problem is the rules.

  36. 36
    MikeJ says:

    @aimai:

    Nonsense, there’s nothing magical about 2/3 majorities. In fact the house changes its rules—rewrites its rules—every session

    So does the Senate. That’s why it only takes 51 to change the rules at the start of a session.

    Once you have passed a rule saying that rule changes require 2/3rds, you should be stuck with it until the next congress starts. Happily, that happens soon. You should not simply ignore the 2/3rds rule because you don’t like it.

  37. 37
    Suffern ACE says:

    @quannlace: yep. They don’t want equal rights. They want special rights! No special rights for Senators!

  38. 38
    JGabriel says:

    @giltay:

    Also, too, there’s no way to get rid of the filibuster without impinging on legitimate debate.

    Problem is, there’s no way to have legitimate debate in the Senate without impinging on the filibuster — the Republicans won’t let you.

    .

  39. 39

    @giltay:
    In general, you do want the meta-rules to be hard to change. The US is having a problem with ballot initiatives that can change state constitutions with a simple public majority vote. That kind of thing is a problem. High requirements to change meta-rules generally protect minorities from abuse as well.

    But those are general policies. The way the Senate is structured right now was designed for a time when white aristocrats merely disagreed (sometimes vehemently) on policies and understood that they had to work together overall. It does not function in a situation where one side has completely lost its shit and thinks the nation has to be destroyed to be saved. The meta-rules aren’t designed for that, but that’s where we are now. Exactly what changes are necessary is worth arguing, but California has demonstrated eloquently that a sufficiently angry minority will game these kinds of meta-rules to destroy the whole system. Something has to be done.

  40. 40
    JGabriel says:

    @quannlace:

    It’s kind of funny to hear these guys whine on about ‘minority rights.”

    Ironic, ain’t it?

    .

  41. 41
    eric says:

    @JGabriel: they aint just “guys”, they are very rich white guys, which is technically more of a “minority” that any traditional socio-political minority. The biggest difference, I guess, is that super rich white guys have more car elevators.

  42. 42
    JGabriel says:

    @AA+ Bonds:

    “It will shut down the Senate,” the incoming Senate GOP whip, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, told POLITICO.

    In other words, Cornyn is telling us that the worst case scenario is Republicans behaving the same way they have for the past two years.

    Fuck’em.

    .

  43. 43
    eric says:

    @JGabriel: but it wont be the same and that is what they are afraid of…the past two years they could blame the failure to pass on the “Senate” or even the “Congress,” but with no filibuster it will be by “Republican Senators” or the “Republican House” and that is what allowed 2010 and why the dems need to change it for 2014.

  44. 44
    Linda Featheringill says:

    To all of you that want a filibuster change:

    Contact Harry and your senators and tell them so.

    I understand that calling on the telephone is best but faxing handwritten letters is also effective.

  45. 45
    1badbaba3 says:

    @quannlace: Isn’t just? Almost as funny as people still thinking Reid and Obama don’t know what they are doing. And against a Republican leadership (yes, an oxymoron, to be sure) that has so many accomplishments the past seven years. Yes, poor little Harry, alone in the big city for the first time, be careful. You wouldn’t want to trade your cow for some magic beans, or (gasp!) a Grand Bargain.

    Patience, people. Let it play out. Think long game.

  46. 46
    Z. Mulls says:

    The “51 votes at the start of the session to change the rules” is what we used to call the “nuclear option.” It’s a little trick by which the majority party and VP presiding pretend that you only need 51 votes to change the rules, rather than the 60% currently agreed to. I support using this trick, but it’s not the actual rule.

    In my stint as President of a small organization, where there were some serious obstructionists on the board, I read up on Roberts Rules and gave a lot of thought on why they were set up the way they were. (Yes, I know the Senate has its own rules, but Roberts Rules operate on the same principles – though the details are different).

    In Roberts, debate is essentially endless – it ends only when most people think the subject is talked out. There will always be a few folks who need to get the last word, or think if they just keep talking they will persuade people, but the underlying principle is sound. You keep talking until 2/3 say the debate is over. Then you vote, by simple majority.

    All the substantive questions get majority vote, but the rules governing the debate itself (starting debate, cutting off debate, changing the debate rules) are 2/3 (and the Senate used to have that threshold, then lowered it to 60 votes). When someone tried to hijack the debate, or bring up some frivolous point, I could simple ask what 2/3 or more wanted to do, and that was that.

    But this only works when there is comity, and respect. When each side respects the basic nature of the opposition – treats the opposition as principled, but wrong, and deserving of basic courtesy.

    Prior to cable TV and Newt Gingrich (GOPAC memo), this was ingrained in the culture. Senators might hate each other with seething passion, but it was considered important to speak respectfully of each other and agree on basic things, like starting and ending debate. That’s why the filibuster was exceedingly rare.

    It was Gingrich who made it policy to speak of opponents with disdain and contempt and it has infected the entire political culture. There is no longer an assumption that basic courtesies (allow debate on issues, close off debate after a reasonable time, allow votes on simple matters like nominations) are a given.

    This is why the nuclear 51-vote option is being considered, but why it was resisted for so long. Oldtimers remember how it was supposed to be, and can’t believe the institution is being treated the way it is.

  47. 47
    EconWatcher says:

    @1badbaba3

    Well, in years past I have seeny many highly experienced Democrats do almost unbelievably stupid and self-defeating things. But we seem to be in a strange new era of Democratic competence, and I’m trying to adjust to it and actually trust these guys (as I do Obama and Reid).

    If your first election as an adult was Mondale in 1984, the shame and the scars never fully heal….

  48. 48
    slag says:

    @quannlace: Are you kidding? Republicans are always the persecuted minority. Always. In every context in every way. White man’s burden.

  49. 49
    Feudalism Now! says:

    End the filibuster. Wipe out that backlog of vacant judges benches that special holds and threat of filibuster have kept empty. Let the senate do its simplest of tasks and leave the grandstanding for actual legislation.

  50. 50
    MikeJ says:

    @Z. Mulls:

    The “51 votes at the start of the session to change the rules” is what we used to call the “nuclear option.” It’s a little trick by which the majority party and VP presiding pretend that you only need 51 votes to change the rules, rather than the 60% currently agreed to. I support using this trick, but it’s not the actual rule.

    No. This is not true. At the start of the session, there are no rules. That’s why it only takes 51 to pass.

    The “nuclear option” as applied to the US Senate was firing any parliamentarian that said a 2/3rds majority was required at any time other than the start of a session.

  51. 51
    chopper says:

    @Napoleon:

    The Founders did not see fit to impose that rule in the Constitution

    the founders didn’t see fit to allow direct election of senators. fuck ‘the founders’.

  52. 52
    ericblair says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    W got everything he wanted under the current rules. The Democrats couldn’t jump fast enough or high enough to give him what he wanted, and they jumped on command every time.

    Not true: SS privatization died a quick death.

    The bigger problem with Democratic versus Republican bills is that gooper lawmaking is like having chocolate cake for breakfast. Essentially, tax cuts and goodies for Senators’ supporters and lobbyers, and beat up on people that can’t or don’t vote. Easy to vote for, easy to demagogue, money in the bank.

    Democratic lawmaking is just harder. Everybody has to give a little for stuff that benefits many, and a lot of these people aren’t lining up to give you big checks to do it. You end up taking heat from powerful people and a lot of the help goes to people who can’t or won’t help you.

    Building a society is a lot harder than looting it.

  53. 53
    eric says:

    @ericblair: and you cant primary nelson or any red or purplse state dem from the Left, so there is no fear.

  54. 54
    JPL says:

    @The Moar You Know: When our fine young men and women are dying overseas to defend us, it is important to keep up a unified front at home. Didn’t you watch 24/7 during the Bush years.
    If unfortunately, another large attack happens in the US, how many repubs will stand on the steps in support of the President. I guess none.

  55. 55
    ...now I try to be amused says:

    @JGabriel:

    I’m inclined to agree, but I wonder, will it really help? After all, even if we kill or limit the filibuster, Republicans still control the House.

    It will help because the Senate alone confirms Presidential appointments.

  56. 56
    aimai says:

    @MikeJ:

    The Senate by custom does not rewrite its rules every session. There is nothing magical about the filibuster or the 2/3 rule at the start of the session but the Senate has chosen not to excercise the right to rewrite the rules for a very long time and custom is enough to make the Senators lose their heads. This has nothing to do with what I “like” or don’t “like.” The Senate does not rewrite its rules very often and is acting like a prima donna on a fainting couch simply out of convention.

    aimai

  57. 57
    Z. Mulls says:

    @MikeJ:

    The House sets new rules at the beginning of each session, because it’s a new session, I believe.

    But isn’t the Senate considered to be a continuous body? So they are not voting on new rules (like the House) with 51 votes — they are voting to change the standing rules, which requires a higher threshold.

    The “nuclear option” as applied to the US Senate was firing any parliamentarian that said a 2/3rds majority was required at any time other than the start of a session.

    I think this is largely the same thing. The standing rule is that a 2/3 majority (only 60% in the Senate, actually) is needed for starting and stopping debate. Changing that rule requires the same high threshold, but the nuclear option is to intimidate the parlimentarian to saying they can change the rule by simple majority. That was my understanding.

  58. 58
    aimai says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    The reason that ballot initiatives and simple majority vote on a referendum are a bad idea are actually different from the reasons we apply to the Senate or the Congress. A simple “majority vote” of the electorate is a shifting and often minority proposition–not everyone votes in every election. People are often ill informed and the choices are unclear with ballot propositions. The same is not true with the Senate–pretty much all of them have to vote on this issue. 51 votes in the senate are always 51 actual votes. While “51 percent of the small percentage of the voting population that shows up to an off year election” is never 51 percent of the actual electorate.

    aimai

  59. 59
    Napoleon says:

    @chopper:

    And that was changed by amendment, not by some group of Senators deciding they could ignore the Constitution.

  60. 60
    feebog says:

    The fillibuster doesn’t need to be killed entirely, but it does need to be changed. First, no fillibusters for judicial or cabinet nominees, a straight up or down vote. Second, no more secret holds, or holds of any kind for that matter. If you don’t want to give unanimous consent, then be on the floor and object. Third, only one shot at a fillibuster, not multiple opportunities. Fourth, require the minority to get the 40 votes needed, rather than the majority to have 60.

    Those changes will streamline the process, reduce but not eliminate the obstructionism, and help the Senate function like a legislative body instead of the bridge club at your local senior day care center.

  61. 61
    Z. Mulls says:

    Here’s a good rundown of the nuclear option:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/.....clear.html

    Essentially, the majority and presiding officer have to pretend that the standing rule isn’t actually a standing rule, since it was passed by a “previous congress” and now we’re all making new rules. It’s considered radical because the Senate has for a couple of hundred years, treated previously passed rules as standing, and subject to the “2/3 to change” rule.

    (And apparently I was wrong about the change threshold — it’s 60 to start/stop debate, but 2/3 to change the rules)

  62. 62
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    @giltay:

    I love it when Canadian progressives lecture American progressives on American government and history.

  63. 63
    Scott de B. says:

    I’d like to repeat my call for a BJ-organized Calling of the Senators on filibuster reform as we did for Health Care.

  64. 64
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Walker:

    People who live in parliamentary systems know f*ck all about our government and should not lecture us about what is right.

    Perhaps they do, and perhaps you should shut the fuck up.

  65. 65
    Cassidy says:

    @Amanda in the South Bay: Why not? It’s not as if our dumbed down history/ civics classes are busy teaching Americans about American history and gov’t. Thank you Texas, btw.

  66. 66
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    @Napoleon:

    There’s going to be a day when the Democrats are in the minority again*, so I don’t want to see the filibuster done away with completely. Sometimes the minority really does need a way to put a brake on the proceedings.

    Feebog’s proposed changes are logical, and still allow the minority the ability to prevent the majority from riding roughshod over everything.

    * Yes, this will happen; look at what happened to the “permanent Republican majority”.

  67. 67
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    @Cassidy:

    Because we here are generally better educated politically than most people. And I seriously doubt a lot

  68. 68
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    Fucking iPod touch on a train bumping around

  69. 69
    Ash Can says:

    Can someone please explain to me WTF giltay said that was so all-fired horrible? For fuck’s sake, there are people here treating him like he just dropped a Reality Troll turd in the thread. He made an observation I’ve seen plenty of other times here, and nobody ran screaming to the fainting couches then. What the hell is the problem this time?

  70. 70
    El Cid says:

    It’s crucial to democracy that we make sure and have rules for Senate legislative action which aren’t in the Constitution but which favor the power of a band of radical ideologue fundamentalists who want to destroy democracy.

  71. 71
    danimal says:

    @EconWatcher:

    If your first election as an adult was Mondale in 1984, the shame and the scars never fully heal….

    How true, how true!
    @…now I try to be amused:

    …the Senate alone confirms Presidential appointments.

    I’m not sure all filibusters will be eliminated, but I can find no justification for allowing filibusters on executive appointments (advice & consent: yes, endless debate: absolutely not). Blanket filibusters that eliminate all judicial appointments by an executive is also an affront to the constitution. I think there will be reform on executive and judicial nominations in the coming term.

    Also: the reason filibusters are effective is that there is popular support for them. By all means, let’s make filibusters transparent and public, but don’t expect much to change until the GOP holds up debate on something a substantial majority of Americans want. Win the p.r. battle, win the Senate votes.

  72. 72
    Napoleon says:

    @Grumpy Code Monkey:

    There’s going to be a day when the Democrats are in the minority again*, so I don’t want to see the filibuster done away with completely.

    How dumb do you need to be to make this arguement. Guess what, there is about 1000% chance that the next time the Reps control the Sen., House and WH they do away with it. Since 1994 they have shown zero interest in maintaining traditional rules and mores if it gets in their way. ANY limitation on majority rule that the Dems put into the rules will only ever bind them.

  73. 73
    ruemara says:

    Look, once they stop anonymous holds, there goes a large number of filibusters. Forcing them to filibuster in truth, in person, there goes another large number of holds. We can’t really do much with the House, but if the Senate can start being less douchy, we can possibly do things.

  74. 74
    El Cid says:

    @Napoleon: What Democrats do when they control the Senate is no limitation on Republicans for what they would do when they control the Senate, and they don’t seem to be rabid fans of precedent or tradition, either.

  75. 75
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    “I think the backlash will be severe,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)

    What are you going to do, Honorable Fuckface? Hold your breath until you turn blue?

    Someone change this asstard’s diaper, please. It’s stinking up the place.

  76. 76
    El Cid says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: What, are they going to threaten to be the exact same complete assholes they’ve been for the last decade? Or even more so?

  77. 77
    EconWatcher says:

    @Napoleon:

    I agree with your point, but why be so nasty about it? Insults should be saved for wingnuts, trolls, and firebaggers (in which case, the more colorful and creative, the better).

    But the commenter you responded to was just misguided. Can’t well all just get along?

  78. 78
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    “It will shut down the Senate,” the incoming Senate GOP whip, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, told POLITICO. “It’s such an abuse of power.”

    Turtleboy here says this without the slightest hint of irony, too.

    Bring on the tumbrels.

  79. 79
    FairEconomist says:

    @JGabriel:

    Problem is, there’s no way to have legitimate debate in the Senate without impinging on the filibuster — the Republicans won’t let you.

    Amen. What legitimate debate have we gotten over the past 4 years? I can’t think of one single bill where debate resulted in an improvement. Legitimate debate couldn’t be any more impinged than it is now.

  80. 80
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @FairEconomist:

    Obama is presniting while being a ni*CLANG*. There is no more legitimate debate point if you’re a die-hard Confederate.

  81. 81
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Napoleon:

    Au contraire, mon frere.

    Forcing actual filibusters (that is, reading the DC white pages on the floor of the Senate) means that those conducting the filibuster get to own, on CSPAN, their fucking conniption fits in front of the entire fucking country.

    Bring.It.On.

  82. 82
    DavidTC says:

    @Z. Mulls:

    In Roberts, debate is essentially endless – it ends only when most people think the subject is talked out. There will always be a few folks who need to get the last word, or think if they just keep talking they will persuade people, but the underlying principle is sound. You keep talking until 2/3 say the debate is over. Then you vote, by simple majority.

    Actually, no, Roberts Rules do not work that way. Under Roberts Rules, everyone get to speak _once_ for ten minutes each, and then once more if no one else wishes to speak, or if everyone else has cycled through. I.e., if there are 10 minority members, the most they can delay is 200 minutes.

    There are a bunch of things that require 2/3rd majority (All suspensions of rules, for example.), but taking a vote isn’t one of them. In fact, after everyone has spoken twice, an assembly under Roberts Rule of Order is required to take a vote _unless_ a 2/3rd majority votes to suspend the rules to allow more debate. (Well, not actually ‘required’ per se, it’s just that there are no other directions for the question to continue in. They could Recess or use a 2/3rd majority to table it indefinitely or something.)

    Part of this confusion is that, under Roberts Rules of Order, votes can happen ‘by unanimous consent’, including suspensions of the rules. Aka, if someone breaks the rules, and no one complains, and the majority appears fine with what is going on, the chair is _not_ supposed to step in.

    So if the assembly wants debate to continue even in violation of the rules, then debate should indeed continue in violation of the rules. But that doesn’t mean a member can’t_raise a point of order and force another member who is over his limit to shut up if he’s clearly just stalling, it just means everything is fine _until_ a member does that.

    Now, members _can_ delay using amendments, which create sub-debates which allow two more speeches on them, but as under Roberts Rules (Unlike in Congress) amendments have to be _germane_ and each one can only be introduced once. So that requires coming up with actual relevant and meaningfully different amendments on the fly.

    And if the chair thinks the amendments are just for stalling, he can put that ‘germaneness’ up for a simple majority vote and have them shot down, and then if someone keeps introducing idiotic amendments he can declare them out of order and ignore them. (They can Appeal the chair’s decision to the assembly…but that takes a majority vote to win, so they are obviously unlikely to win if they’ve just been delaying the majority from voting.)

  83. 83
    aimai says:

    @FairEconomist:

    I don’t even understand what the filibuster has to do with “legitimate debate?”–Debate and discussion happen in the select committees, the regular committees, and then afterwards when a bill is actually debated on the floor. The filibuster allows one or more intransigent Senators to block debate and force compromise or negate the will of the majority in the Senate simply through negation of the next step of legitimate debate–the actual debate part. Its not done “by the minority party” so much as it is done by individuals in defense of minority or selfish interests which couldn’t be serviced any other way, or in the open light of day.

    aimai

  84. 84
    ericblair says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Forcing actual filibusters (that is, reading the DC white pages on the floor of the Senate) means that those conducting the filibuster get to own, on CSPAN, their fucking conniption fits in front of the entire fucking country.

    I doubt this myself. First of all, it makes for boring TV, so I’m sure it will captivate the attention of the four people watching CSPAN3 but the majors won’t show any of it except a ten-second blurb. Second, most of the goopers are a little more TV-savvy than they used to be and will probably recite standard talking points over and over again.

    Third, isn’t it harder on the majority? The majority has to keep a quorum in the chamber, as far as I understand it, and the filibuster-ers (er?) just has to have one person, who can tag-team with others in a rotation.

  85. 85
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @ericblair:

    The point here is, it’s out in public. None of this stealth crap.

    The MSM can’t ignore who is holding up the show.

    Yes, it’s tough on the majority. Let them bring their knitting and needlework in. Might just help get over this bullishit “comity” crap when they’re personally inconvenienced by the Rethug shitstains.

  86. 86
    aimai says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    But that would be as true if the Senate did away with the filibuster and was able to pass party line good bills and then turn around and point to the House as blocking the bills because it was run by a majority of the otherparty. Right now there is no way for the average person in the public sphere–not a political person–to know or care taht the majority of the fuck up in this Senate for the last few years has been due to the Republicans. Just as they don’t understand the back and forth between the Democrats and the Republicans in the house. But right now it is slightly more clear because some good legislation has been passed in the Senate–I believe the Senate managed to pass a few bills which are clearly being held up by the party line majoritarian House. That is a better rock to grind the intransigents on than a public filibuster. Making the filibuster public is not a terrible last resort, but it should be the last resort if you can’t simply do away with it.

    aimai

  87. 87
    DavidTC says:

    Here are the changes I’d like to see:
    No more ‘secret holds’, and holds are limited to one session or one month, whichever is shorter, and need the name of at least five Senators. I’m not _entirely_ sure what the purpose of ‘holds’ are to start with, they sound stupid to me but perhaps there is a reason, perhaps legislators need time to write amendments or finish alternate proposals or work up opposition. So I won’t say we should get rid of them…but there must be five people behind them, all with names attached, and they are only to _delay_ a bill, not to keep it from being voted on. (I’m sorry, but if you cannot get 10% of the people to agree with what you’re doing in the Senate, you really have no business doing whatever you’re trying to do.)
    Nominations _cannot_ be fillibustered or delayed in anyway.
    It just requires a simple majority to _start_ debate. I’m sorry, but letting people fillibuster _bringing things to the floor_ is just idiotic.
    A fillibuster to end debate must be an actual fillibuster, with someone standing on the floor.
    In addition, I’d like to propose a change that I don’t think anyone else has. While it should take 60% of votes to end a fillibuster, after the first week it should only take 60% of the votes of present Senators, with no quorum requirements. (The quorum requirements would return for the actual vote.) I.e., to keep debate running for more than a week, not only would the minority blocking the vote have to keep rotating out Senators, they would also have to keep enough Senators near the floor to actually block a vote, so that the majority can’t just grab 20 of their members and rush into an empty Senate at 4 AM that has 6 people in it and win a 60% vote handily.
    I’ll give the power to block a vote as a last ditch emergency to 40% of the member, hell, with my changes I’m willing to bump the requirements back to 67%, or even 75%. But only if it means that 40% or 33% or even 25% of the members have to _stay on the Senate floor_ for however long it takes. If a small minority wants to block legislation, they damn well better be willing to start sleeping on the Senate floor.

  88. 88
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @aimai:

    I don’t think the filibuster should be done away with, but it should be made inconvenient for the minority to invoke. By forcing them to own their “principled” opposition to some bill in public, for everyone to see. Right now the Senate isn’t a deliberative body, in the eyes of the nation. If you force the debate, and the filibuster, out in the open, on CSPAN, it will generate enough buzz so that we can see asshats like Coburn, Rand, Cornyn, Demented, McCain, and the rest of the cavalcade of white male assholes being obstructionist three year olds on television.

    Oh, sure the obstructionist three year olds of the 27% will love it, but the problem is, they are FAR from a majority of the country, which will react pretty much as they did last November 6th.

  89. 89
    NR says:

    @Napoleon:

    Guess what, there is about 1000% chance that the next time the Reps control the Sen., House and WH they do away with it.

    Hey now, you’re talking as if the filibuster is just a simple Senate rule that can be changed at any time by a majority vote, and not an all-powerful, magical force that can never be defeated and forces a 60-vote requirement on all Senate business. The Democrats told me it was the latter all throughout 2009 and 2010, and they couldn’t possibly have been lying, so the only conclusion is that you must be crazy.

  90. 90
    Pluky says:

    @JGabriel: Two things — Judicial nominations, and Executive appointments (e.g. cabinet secretaries).

  91. 91
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Someguy:

    He can do it if he wants, the only question is whether he wants to win, or play nice.

    Bingo.

  92. 92
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    W got everything he wanted under the current rules. The Democrats couldn’t jump fast enough or high enough to give him what he wanted, and they jumped on command every time.
    The problem is that Democrats are weak and Republicans aren’t scared of them. I’m fine with changing the rules if that’s what it’s going to take, but let’s not pretend the problem is the rules.

    Oh dear god, yes. BINGO.

  93. 93
    Cassidy says:

    Oh look, our special 2 y/o showed up.

  94. 94
    The Tragically Flip says:

    Mostly it won’t make a lick of difference unless things can quickly move to a vote once the majority decides to do so.

    “Holds” is just a thing that comes from the choices the Majority leader faces in bringing something to a vote:
    1) He gets unanimous consent (yay) it can move quickly
    2) He does not get unanimous consent, and must abandon it or schedule a cloture vote.

    Holds are respected because of #2 – most things the GOP blocks aren’t worth the 2 days of floor time to hold a cloture vote.

    Remember the “Tomnibus” bill? That was to combine all the small things Tom Coburn blocks because he’s a crazy old coot, which all had easily 60 votes in support, but individually were not worth cloture votes.

    Any fix that doesn’t make cloture a quick process is no fix to the majority of the obstruction problem.

  95. 95
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @NR:

    Hey now, you’re talking as if the filibuster is just a simple Senate rule that can be changed at any time by a majority vote, and not an all-powerful, magical force that can never be defeated and forces a 60-vote requirement on all Senate business. The Democrats told me it was the latter all throughout 2009 and 2010, and they couldn’t possibly have been lying, so the only conclusion is that you must be crazy.

    I am weeping with joy. Once again…BINGO.

  96. 96
    The Tragically Flip says:

    For me, I’ve given up on any real reform that actually matters, but I am holding out hope they actually change the rules on 51 votes. Even if the rule changes they make are stupid (and most of the reform proposals are), it will at least re-establish the reality that the majority can change the rules. They can change them anytime in fact, but even proving they can do it once every 2 years on a magical day is better than the status quo.

    A few years ago, this was a controversial idea, and the idea that the Senate was a “continuing” body was very common.

  97. 97
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    @EconWatcher:

    I agree with your point, but why be so nasty about it? Insults should be saved for wingnuts, trolls, and firebaggers (in which case, the more colorful and creative, the better).
    __
    But the commenter you responded to was just misguided. Can’t well all just get along?

    Fuck you, too.

    The Republicans threatened a nuclear option before and blinked. It’s not at all a guarantee that they’d kill it dead if they won the majority back.

  98. 98
    The Tragically Flip says:

    @Napoleon:

    Guess what, there is about 1000% chance that the next time the Reps control the Sen., House and WH they do away with it.

    I’m a big fan of eliminating the filibuster, but this isn’t quite right:

    The GOP knows the filibuster is of great strategic value to them collectively, and individually it allows them to demand pork and so forth for not holding up minor nominations and low grade stuff.

    They won’t straight up eliminate the filibuster unless and until they really need to, because Democrats are using it to really block something they think is more important than the above.

    Case in point is 2005. They were prepared to end the filibuster on 51 votes, true, but they creatively invented a ludicrous legal distinction between Judicial filibusters and legislative (or executive branch appointment) filibusters. They were only going to end filibusters on judicial nominees. It was remarkable legal sophistry but it proves how far they’ll go to keep the parts of the filibuster they like while still getting to do what they want on flat majorities.

    The other thing to not forget is that most of the GOP legislative agenda is financial and can be done under reconciliation. Unlike the Democrats, they are not shy about declaring things “budgetary” to jam them through (see Gov. Walker’s anti-union bill in Wisconsin).

    If they take the Senate in 2014, the only they might do on a majority is undo any changes Reid makes now. No point ending the filibuster if you don’t hold the Presidency.

  99. 99
    The Tragically Flip says:

    @Grumpy Code Monkey:

    The Republicans threatened a nuclear option before and blinked. It’s not at all a guarantee that they’d kill it dead if they won the majority back.

    Uhm, they didn’t “blink” so much as the squishy moderate Democrats caved and gave them what they wanted. I think all but 2 of their nominees were confirmed, and no one was else was filibustered for the rest of Bush’s term – including one Samuel Alito, whose racist affiliation in an all white fraternity should have been grounds to filibuster if anyone ever fucking deserved it.

  100. 100
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    I don’t think the filibuster should be done away with, but it should be made inconvenient for the minority to invoke.

    This right here. Under the current rules, the only thing a Senator needs to do in order to filibuster is to say, “I want to filibuster,” and then head home, and the entire process grinds to a halt while the majority scrambles to assemble a 2/3rds majority to overcome it. The current rules make it much too easy for the minority to block everything on a whim, because there’s no effort involved.

    The person who wants to grind everything to a halt, or who wants to block an appointment, should actually have to expend some effort to do it other than sending a frickin’ e-mail that’s allowed to stop the entire process.

  101. 101
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Ted & Hellen:

    Yes, yes, Timmy, if only the Republicans were back in charge, then things would get done again.

    Run along and play now, the adults are talking.

  102. 102
    Nutella says:

    Majority rule: How does that work?

    And Reid needs to dump secret holds. It’s reasonable to allow them for a short while (3 weeks, tops) as a very old-fashioned courtesy but after that few weeks the hold must first made public and then cancelled completely so the work of the Senate can proceed.

    Secret holds are profoundly undemocratic and illegitimate.

  103. 103
    Ted & Hellen says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Yes, yes, Timmy, if only the Republicans were back in charge, then things would get done again.

    Well, no, actually you moron, if the Democrats would act like they won an election and actually use the power they were given to enable the policies they claim to support, THEN things would get done again.

    It’s telling how you project your own insecurities and secret fears into what I write…why don’t you just go ahead and write them yourself?

  104. 104
    mapaghimagsik says:

    I do think eliminating the secret hold would go a long way to shaming away several filibusters. I think making people actually ‘talk’ to filibuster might eliminate some as well.

    I thought Robert’s Rules, when I had to follow them, did a pretty good job of protecting a minority while getting business done. However, we are dealing with grade-A assclowns here where being the governmental death-cult doesn’t seem to carry a price.

  105. 105
    The Tragically Flip says:

    Any minority interests worth protecting should be protected in the Bill of Rights, not via something as irregular and ignomious as the filibuster, which has been used to protect evil far more than prevent it.

  106. 106
    mainmati says:

    @giltay: I take it your Canadian. You need to realize that the design of the Senate was explicitly to placate rural, slave-owning states. Yes, the filibuster evolved later but it was largely in order to prevent the passage of progressive laws not for any “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” reasons.

  107. 107
    The Tragically Flip says:

    @giltay:

    Also, too, there’s no way to get rid of the filibuster without impinging on legitimate debate. Up here, there’s no filibuster rule, but the minority MPs managed one last year over the federal budget.

    Not really comparable. A minority in Parliament can “filibuster” but all it amounts to is somewhat lengthening the time it takes the majority to pass something, it isn’t something they can use to block bills indefinitely.

    Specific to the Budget bill, the NDP talked a lot, but they were using time specifically alloted to the Opposition to speak in opposition to the Budget bill. After that time expired the majority was going to pass it no matter what the NDP did.

  108. 108
    ...now I try to be amused says:

    Fun fact, per Wikipedia: The House allowed unlimited debate until 1842, when it was limited by a new permanent rule.

  109. 109

    1. No more one-Senator holds.

    2. No more secret holds at all.

    2a. No goddamn holds at all. You want to filibuster? Then filibuster, goddammit.

    3. You want to filibuster? Stand in the Senate chamber and talk till you’re as hoarse as Mr. Smith.

    4. Cloture takes 60 votes, but rejection of cloture lasts only 4 weeks. If the minority can keep talking for 4 weeks. Second cloture takes 55 votes. If the minority can keep reading the phone book into the record for another 4 weeks, they win.

    5. The Majority Leader is authorized to keep the Senate in session without any breaks whatsoever. Better stock up on Werther’s.

  110. 110

    @JGabriel:

    After all, even if we kill or limit the filibuster, Republicans still control the House.

    The value of majority votes for presidential appoints alone makes getting rid of the filibuster a great idea.

  111. 111
    slightly_peeved says:

    @Walker:

    I’d disagree; the only data we have on potential changes to the US system of government is systems that have those changes. Also, Boehner’s tactic over the last 4 years has been to exploit the fact that while the US president is not a prime minister, the American people still judge him as if he (or she) had the powers of one. Congress does nothing and the President is blamed.

    That being said, what stupid parliamentary system has filibusters? Most Parliamentary systems are majority rules, otherwise nothing would get done. Parliamentary systems, on the whole, are examples of how a nation can be governed without a filibuster.

  112. 112
    JGabriel says:

    __
    __
    TPM:

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on Monday that any attempt by Democrats to change filibuster rules would “poison” party relations in the upper chamber … “Do they really think they’re going to be in the majority forever?” McConnell asked …

    Inter-party relations are already poisoned, Senator Asshole, due to the GOP’s record-smashing obstruction.

    Face it, your team have been such dicks that there’s no downside to changing the filibuster rules, because there’s really no way for you to escalate your obstruction any higher than it’s been for the past two years.

    That said, we all know this is just “don’t throw me in briar patch” posturing on the GOP’s part. Republicans were eager to consider such changes when they last controlled the Senate during the Bush administration, and they’re looking forward to more stringent filibuster rules for when they control the Senate again.

    .

  113. 113
    chopper says:

    @Napoleon:

    the founders didn’t see fit to put in the goddamn constitution what, exactly, constitutes a ‘majority’ for passing a bill, much less that it applies to all bills of any kind before either house. is it 50+1? doesn’t fucking say in article I.

  114. 114
    Tom Jackson says:

    Shut it down then send them home
    without pay. See how fast they get
    something together when hit in
    there collective wallets

  115. 115
    DavidTC says:

    @mapaghimagsik:

    I thought Robert’s Rules, when I had to follow them, did a pretty good job of protecting a minority while getting business done. However, we are dealing with grade-A assclowns here where being the governmental death-cult doesn’t seem to carry a price.

    In fact, the purpose of many of the Rules is explicitly to keep a minority from being able to block things the majority clearly wants to do. The minority has the right to be heard, but the majority has the right to actually pass shit after the minority is heard.

    The Senate, however, predates Roberts Rules and is full of exactly the sort of bullshit delays that Roberts Rules intended to (and did) stop. Under RONR, there is no vote required to start discussion (Assuming you’re not in the middle of something else), and everyone gets exactly two ten minutes speeches and then the real vote happens, again without a ‘cloture’ vote. You have to vote to keep debate _open_, not to close it.

    Likewise, no one can ‘hold’ anything at all. Well, the assembly could vote to postpone it to a later session, but that takes, tada, a supermajority vote. But no one _outside_ the assembly itself could do that.

    OTOH, on the ‘protection of the minority’ side, under RONR the chair can’t keep things off the agenda because it doesn’t like them, which is _another_ stupid thing the Senate allows.

  116. 116
    mclaren says:

    When attempting to dislodge these kinds of massive obstructions, laxatives often prove helpful.

  117. 117
    AA+ Bonds says:

    @DavidTC:

    The Senate, however, predates Roberts Rules and is full of exactly the sort of bullshit delays that Roberts Rules intended to (and did) stop. Under RONR, there is no vote required to start discussion (Assuming you’re not in the middle of something else), and everyone gets exactly two ten minutes speeches and then the real vote happens, again without a ‘cloture’ vote. You have to vote to keep debate open, not to close it.

    Thank you. Americans are living in the Dark Ages with our political technology. We refuse to upgrade to the 19th-century version, for Chrissakes.

  118. 118
    Humble Lurker says:

    @Ted & Hellen:
    Except for, as was mentioned earlier in this thread if you’d read it, that whole privatizing social security thing.

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