Tag Archives: Filibuster

Ending The Filibuster


Harry Reid ended the filibuster today.  I know that he only changed rules that impact nominees other than Supreme Court Justices, but this is Washington – no good deed goes unpunished.  Even if the rules are changed back the last day of the session before republicans take the chamber, you can bet that this won’t be forgotten – the republicans will be highly motivated to not only respond in kind but conduct an escalation – in time, there will be no filibuster.

Okay, I guess.  There may be worse things.

I happen to believe in the idea that presidential nominees should be afforded the opportunity of a vote.  He did, after all, win.   Further, Ii think that votes should be brought before the chambers to be voted on.  Needing 60 to agree to vote on something that needs 51 is silly.

However, I also believe that the leaders of each chamber should be more willing to allow votes on issues that they don’t necessarily agree.  For example, the recent non-discrimination act for gay employees will never see a vote in the house.  I don’t like that.  And, similarly, Reid doesn’t bring up for votes issues that he personally disagrees with.  In fact, one of the reasons the filibuster has been used so often in recent years is that Harry fills the amendment tree preventing the republicans from amending bills.

So, what do people have to say about the nuclear option?

Here is Salon:

Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Democrats are fixing to “blow up 200 years of Senate history” just because they’re not getting their way on a handful of “radical” judicial nominees. On Capitol Hill, the threat of the “nuclear option” has created a sort of political ground zero, and activists on both sides believe that the way this thing plays out will control the shape of the federal judiciary — and with it, the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution — for decades to come.

Call it a primer on the judicial confirmation process. Call it what you get when you spend way too much time reading Riddick’s Senate Procedure. Just don’t call it the “nuclear option” — at least not when Harry Reid is around to correct you. The Senate majority leader doesn’t want his plan to sound so explosive, but be forewarned: Unless somebody blinks first, we’re in for a mind-warping set of unprecedented Senate maneuvers that could put Joe Biden in charge of deeming the filibuster “unconstitutional” — without a word from those folks in black robes across the street — and grease the way for each and every left-wing extremist Barrack Obama ever cares to put on a district court, an appellate court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

And here’s The Hill:

“To change the rules in the Senate can’t be done by a simple majority. It can only be done if there is extended debate by 67 votes,” McConnell said.

“They are talking about doing something illegal. They are talking about breaking the rules to change the rules, and that is not appropriate. That is not fair, and it is not right,” he said.

And what did The Democrat have to say?

A filibuster allows any Senator to prevent a full vote by extending debate on an issue or a presidential appointee indefinitely and requires a supermajority of 60 votes to “break” the filibuster and force a vote. The ability of three-fifths of the Senators to end such debate — two-thirds, in the case of a motion to change Senate rules — is codified in the Standing Rules of the Senate, Rule 22, also known as “Precedence of Motions.”

… the Democrat majority, in an effort to push through Barack Obama’s far left-wing judicial nominees, sought to get rid of the filibuster via the “nuclear option,” which would have solidified absolute, one-party rule and allowed all of Bush’s nominees to go through with essentially only Republican approval — thus removing any reason for the minority party to even show up in the Senate chamber.

But unlike an ideologically-driven hack like Reid,  Mitch McConnell is a Senate purist who believes in the way the Senate has always run and the wisdom of its traditions, even if some of those will benefit the Democrat minority over the next few years.

Okay okay, those sources are accurately linked but  changed the names and parties to represent the opposite of reality.

These guys are all a bunch of pukes – both sides.  All of ’em.  They have all blocked nominations and they have all complained of the minority party having too much power.  But now Reid has done it, he’s broken the rule.  And the rule will be broken again – and the next time it will be pay back.


Senator Harry Reid: Filibuster, Amendments And Debate

On Friday I posted that there may be a reason behind the claim that republicans are obstructing the democrats in the senate.  Nickgb called shenanigans:

How about on the GOP members that use a filibuster threat to prevent anything from passing or, if they get to add those amendments, just use it to add pills to everything.

In the past, I’ve been unable to to find data on senate majority leaders use of the practice called “filling the tree.”  However, with the use of the term “poison pill” I was able to find this:

Senator Robert Byrd understood the importance of allowing for a full debate and amendment process in order to preserve the Senate as a unique institution in our democracy – “the one place in the whole government where the minority is guaranteed a public airing of its views.” The Senate, he taught, “was intended to be a forum for open and free debate and for the protection of political minorities.” Indeed, “as long as the Senate retains the power to amend and the power of unlimited debate, the liberties of the people will remain secure.”

Allowing the minority to debate and amend legislation has given way to the Democrats’ election-year political strategy of blaming Republicans as obstructionists. Majority Leader Reid has done this by preventing Republicans from amending pending legislation, ending debate before it starts, and by-passing the committee process.

And how does the current majority leader score?

Counting the 102ns through the 109th congress, we have 9 sessions.  Combined they haven’t accumulated the instances that Reid has in just more than 2.

And blocking debate?

Now, to be sure, Frist was leader for only two sessions, Reid just over 2.  That would put Frist at 12.5 per session.  Reid is at just over 25 if his total doesn’t rise at all in the remaining time of his 3rd session.

Obstructionist Congress

Congress is having a hard time getting anything done.  This is true in general but has been especially true with this specific session.  The common complain from the left is that the minority won’t even let votes come to the floor and live by a simple majority.  Everything requires 60 vote to pass.

The republicans are just blocking everything Obama wants to do.  For example:

Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked an “insourcing” bill from Democrats that would have ended tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.

The Bring Jobs Home Act also would have given a tax incentives to companies that bring jobs back to the United States. The measure failed to advance on a 56-42 vote, with 60 votes needed to end debate on the bill.

Earlier in the week, Republicans also blocked the Disclose Act, which would have required the disclosure of campaign contributions of more than $10,000.

Seemingly another example of the republicans abusing the power of the minority.  However, might there be another side to the story?

Republicans were considering supporting the insourcing bill until Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he wouldn’t include any GOP amendments.

The democrats have “ruled” as the majority since Obama took office.  He even referred to his unwillingness to consider republican ideas when has said, “I won.”  There may be fewer bills being passed, there certainly is debate on whether that’s a feature or a bug.  But f blame is going to be cast, it needs to be cast where it belongs.

The Filibuster

I saw a graphic the other day that said this congress passed the fewest new laws in what, 40 years?  To some this represents “gridlock” in congress and is emblematic of the troubles we’re facing in an increasingly partisan world.  To me this is a feature.

Whatever the case, there is the belief that much of this inability to pass laws is as a result of the republicans penchant for the filibuster.  The procedural requirement that a bill obtain 60 votes to allow it to be voted on.  In other words, the bill really requires not a majority of the senate, but what can be construed as a SUPER majority.

Personally I’ve never been much of a fan of the filibuster.  The idea that a group of individuals can hold up the workings of the senate seems to me to be rather — well, childish.  The feeling i have for the filibuster is the same I felt as we watched Wisconsin play out.  First the democrat fled the state, escaping the reach of the law by the way, so as to prevent a vote on Governor Walkers budget bill that would have stripped the public unions of much of their ability to collectively bargain.  Then we watched as the state’s democrats forced a recall election for each senator and the governor.

Babies all.

So I resonate with the dislikers of the filibuster.  And I even acknowledge the increase in use of the procedure since Obama has take office and the republicans are in the minority.

What I don’t know is how often THIS happens:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday blocked Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) from attaching an amendment to the farm bill that would withhold U.S. aid to Pakistan.

Reid asked for unanimous consent Tuesday to consider a batch of five amendments to the farm bill, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (S.3240), but Paul objected, arguing that his amendment on withholding aid to Pakistan should also be included.

In response, Reid performed a procedural move called “filling the tree,” or taking up all the amendment space, to keep Paul’s amendment from being considered.

Now, this is pretty “inside baseball” and even THIS whole series of events is questionable.  However, that’s how work gets done in the halls of the senate.  And if the Leader is going to prevent a silly procedure by the use of another silly procedure then he should not be surprised, or outraged, when THAT silly procedure is counter by the silly procedure we call the filibuster.


The Filibuster

We see what happens when a House of Congress has a significant hold on the majority.  And we see it when the part line is at its strongest; we get the US House of Representatives.  A powerful and respected body to be sure, but one that moves so fast and with such little input by the minority it can be dizzying.

If the partisanship is bad enough and/or the majority strong enough, the minority, in some cases, may not even need bother show up.

So we have the filibuster.  To calm the rushing tide of the majority.  To protect the nation from the tyranny of the majority.  To that end, it has served it’s purpose for a long long time.

But the time may have come to change the rules.

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