Filibuster Reform

Filed in National by on November 27, 2012

It finally looks like Harry Reid has been convinced to rein in the principal form of GOP obstruction in the Senate — the filibuster.  And it doesn’t look like he’ll eliminate it — but reform it so that it takes some committed work to block the Senate’s work.  Apparently some of the rules revisions are still being thought out, but so far, the rules would change as follows:

Senators who want to filibuster have to be present and take the floor to speak in order to do it.  Ezra Klein asked some Senate staffers about this and they told him:

First, moving to a “talking filibuster” is not seen as the minor tweak that some – including me — have made it out to be. True, it doesn’t change the fact that the Senate is now a 60-vote institution. But it does make the life of an obstructing minority much harder. Given the size of the Republican minority, to fill a day-long filibuster, every senator would have to be up and speaking for at least half an hour, and a critical mass of minority senators would have to be in the chamber at all times. Coordinating that kind of action among 45 senators who’ve got fundraisers and flights and out-of-town family and who usually don’t stay in Washington even for a full week at a time is no small task.

Votes for “motions to proceed” would no longer be subject to filibuster. This reduces opportunities for filibustering for bills where the majority party already has enough votes to pass the bill.

Harry Reid plans on changing the rules using a simple majority at the beginning of the next session.

Tis may not be all that is planned, but what is currently being discussed. Of course, Mitch McConnell is having a veritable break down over these changes and other GOP Senators are promising to shut down the Senate over this. As if they haven’t been doing this already. But it is worth noting that these changes don’t take away the GOP opportunities to obstruct legislation — it makes it harder to do AND lets Democrats at least get to voting on the legislation they have the votes for.

Personally, I don’t think that this is enough. McConnell’s invocation of Senator Byrd today is a way of trying to invoke the cloak of Senatorial tradition (with a man who guards that tradition pretty closely) and hoping that no one notices that McConnell and his crew have been at the forefront of smashing that tradition. The Senate has to find a way to work and as long as McConnell is bent on misusing all of that tradition, it is probably time to make the functioning of the Senate more important than the Senate’s traditions.

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  1. Delaware Dem says:

    Reid’s plan also removes cloture motions from the various points of the process. For example, right now, before you can do anything in the Senate, you have to clear a cloture motion (i.e. get 60 votes to proceed). That means you need 60 votes to assign a bill to committee, to report a bill out of committee, to proceed to debate, to close debate, and the final motion to vote. And there is also a cloture motion before forming a conference committee to reconcile a bill’s differences with the House version. As I understand it, Reid is removing the cloture motion from every step of the process except the motion to close debate and the motion to vote. And at both points, it will be a talking filibuster. Oh, and nominations can still be “talking” filibustered

    That is good enough for me so long as secret holds on judicial nominees and cabinet and subcabinet nominees are also eliminated.

    So the filibuster will still exist in its pure form, protecting the minority, but it will require the Republicans do actually do some work during their obstruction.

    This is exactly what the GOP deserves for their constant obstruction over the last six years. Ignore their crying, their whining.

  2. Jason330 says:

    Zombie Republicans must fuck shit up. It is what they do.

  3. puck says:

    This kind of filibuster reform would have been great when the Pelosi House was actually sending Democratic bills to the Senate. But I can’t think of anything coming out of this teabaggy House that would benefit from easier passage in the Senate. Unless… is Reid making sure Democrats won’t be able to mount a filibuster against a bad Grand Deal?

  4. Jason330 says:

    And I thought I thought I had contempt for Democratic perfidy.

  5. cassandra_m says:

    Democratic perfidy or not, the Senate passes out its own bills as well. When the GOP isn’t obstructing them. Like the DISCLOSE Act, for instance.

  6. bamboozer says:

    Reform is needed if for no other reason than to defang the Joe Liebermans and McConnells of this world. Make the old fools stand up and not just pose an idle threat. But I agree, I want to retain the power to oppose a poorly done Grand Bargain as well. Love Obama but theres too much at risk here.

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