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Harry Reid
We're coming down to the wire on filibuster reform, with the Senate set to consider proposals when they meet again next Tuesday, Jan. 22. And when crunch time comes, it's not exactly unexpected that the talk will turn to compromise. It is, after all, what the Senate considers itself to do best. Even on proposals to end abuses that have made compromise impossible.

So it comes as no surprise, perhaps, that Majority Leader Harry Reid is talking middle ground:

In a locally aired interview over the weekend on a PBS affiliate in Las Vegas, Reid said he wants to require an obstructing minority of senators to occupy the floor and speak only after cloture has been invoked to begin debate. In other words, 41 senators could silently block debate from beginning, but once 60 senators vote to move to debate, filibustering senators must speak on the floor.

He also said he wants to reduce the current 30-hour delay between cloture and a final vote and shrink the number of votes required to go to conference with the House from a total of three down to one.

What's it mean? Well, on the substance, it's hard to tell. Reid isn't exactly crystal clear in his statments. But more generally, it's certainly a sign that compromise is Reid's preferred outcome. And that will mean smaller bore reforms.

What Reid seems to be describing is essentially a sort of middle ground, between the broader Merkley-Udall-Harkin proposal and the much narrower Levin-McCain proposal. Both of the previous proposals offer ways to limit debate on motions to proceed, and on the post-passage motions to go to conference when there are disagreements with the House. These are obvious and necessary reforms, and that's reflected in the fact that even the far more cautious Levin-McCain reform package targets them.

But it's not entirely clear from Reid's interview whether he'd eliminate the filibuster on the motion to proceed, even though that's been something he's pointed out as necessary repeatedly in the past, and even seems to hint at right in this very interview. Yet, the procedure he describes wouldn't do that, and I have no idea why not. In addition, Reid's version of the "talking filibuster" seems to say it would only kick in—at least, according to the available description of the interview—once cloture had been invoked on a motion to proceed. That makes almost no sense at all.

Post-passage motions to go to conference are treated similarly in all three proposals, which is a fine thing, or would be, if all three proposals likewise gave the Senate equal chances to actually reach the post-passage stage, which obviously isn't the case.

Finally, there's also agreement among the three proposals on eliminating most post-cloture debate.

Reid's got a lot of clarifying to do before we can fully evaluate his proposal. But we shouldn't be surprised at Reid's preference for compromise. Nor should be so discouraged by it that we give up the fight. Historically, filibuster reform has been a long, hard slog. Getting the cloture threshold lowered from two-thirds to three-fifths of the Senate happened only as the result of a long-running battle, fought in short bursts at two-year intervals over the course of more than twenty years, stretching from the early 1950s to the mid-1970s.

Nor is Reid's proposal a done deal. We can't even really tell what's in it yet, and as powerful as the voice of the Senate Majority Leader is, he's still got to sell this to the members of his caucus. And if he's truly interested in compromise, to the senators on the other side of the aisle, as well. And that means there's time to influence his direction, and the direction of any compromise talks. Not to mention the fact that compromise may yet fail, in which case, they'll need a back-up plan. Say, the one we've been pushing all along.

You know how that gets done.

Join with CREDO and Daily Kos by signing our petition rejecting the McCain/Levin proposal, and supporting real reform.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Nothing should be allowed to block debate (10+ / 0-)

    It runs absolutely counter to the whole rationale for the filibuster to begin with: the minority should not be silenced.

    Now the minority has silenced the majority how many times in the last four years--360 times?

  •  Fool me twice, we won't be fooled again (5+ / 0-)

    I can't stand this.  The R's DO NOT negotiate in good faith.  For once I want to stop capitulating.  ENOUGH already.
    FYI- My senator is Jeff Merkley, so I don't need to contact him to see where he stands.

    Mmmmm. Sprinkles. - H.J. Simpson.

    by ten canvassers on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:08:18 PM PST

  •  I never expected real reform (9+ / 0-)

    It's entirely too handy an excuse for some Democrats to give up. "But you can't blame us, we didn't have 60 votes, our hands were tied!"

  •  how much extra leverage does GOP have just (0+ / 0-)

    because dems continue their fucking idiotic ignore-ance of talk radio- where the daily talking points on all those university endorsed radio stations to 50 mil a week  since before the first debt ceiling idiocy has been to assure the dittohead teabagger base that default is no big deal and certainly worth saving amurka.

    This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

    by certainot on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:13:16 PM PST

  •  I don't think it really matters... (0+ / 0-)

    because GOP has the House.  

    Only where is matters is on judicial nominations and cabinet appointments and I do believe in minority rights in these cases as well - unfortunately McConnell abused the gentleman's rules so they need to be fixed.      

    "The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self awareness" -Annie Savoy (Bull Durham)

    by Jacoby Jonze on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:13:41 PM PST

    •  Reid's already traded away filireform (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Patango

      ...for the "fiscal bluff" legislation.  I'd bet on it.

      America, we can do better than this...

      by Randomfactor on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:47:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  But the GOP won't hold the House forever (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dclawyer06, schuylkill, Patango, elwior

      it's a slim possibility that we get it back in 2014 but 2016 is another story. What kind of filibuster do you want when we control everything and the minority is STILL running the Senate?

      "When in doubt, do the brave thing." - Jan Smuts

      by bunnygirl60 on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:52:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  My take on this situation. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Noodles

      I think it's important for the Senate to be able to function on its own, and to be able to put Democratic alternative legislation on the table. If nothing else, it gives Democratic Senators running for reelection something to argue for and point to, besides the other side's obstruction.

      But yes, there is the problem of none of it mattering a great deal in the long run, since none of it passes.

      Still, that has repercussions in the House, which can do all sorts of crazy shit, secure in the knowledge that it'll not only never pass the Senate, but likely that the Senate will never even be able to show the world what a sane approach to the same issue would look like.

  •  Give 'em heck, Harry. (4+ / 0-)

    Because you're too much of a wimp to give them hell.  

    The tent got so big it now stands for nothing.

    by Beelzebud on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:13:48 PM PST

  •  I really am sick of Harry 'Milktoast' Reid (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LickBush, Palafox

    He really seems to be all talk and little action.  

  •  Let's see if Democrats can stop negotiating (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bunnygirl60, Patango

    like Democrats: no matter how strong your position, seek out a Republican to surrender to.

    Time will tell. But Democrats are so afraid of power they will do anything to give it up.

    Let's hope the boxer comes out in Harry Reid.

    And God said, "Let there be light"; and with a Big Bang, there was light. And God said "Ow! Ow My eyes!" and in a flash God separated light from darkness. "Whew! Now that's better. Now where was I. Oh yea . . ."

    by Pale Jenova on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:20:45 PM PST

  •  That doesn't make "almost no sense" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Patango

    It makes no sense at all.

    Cloture is the primary implement of obstruction destruction for the GOP.  

    "Mitt who? That's an odd name. Like an oven mitt, you mean? Oh, yeah, I've got one of those. Used it at the Atlas Society BBQ last summer when I was flipping ribs."

    by Richard Cranium on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:23:13 PM PST

  •  He doesn't have the votes (6+ / 0-)

    If he had had the votes, he would have done the original proposal on January 3.

    A person needs to recall LBJ, Master of the Senate, on how well meaning other senators could not count the votes.

    As much as I like the reformers, I do believe Harry Reid can count the votes better than they can.

    •  This. (5+ / 0-)

      Reid's job as Majority Leader is to have a firm grasp on where the votes are and then to craft strongest reform proposal that will still support 50 votes. It's very clear that this is why we didn't get a vote on January 3, and it's very clear that this is what he's trying to do now.

    •  Aggravating but probably true. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Matt Z

      My senator, Tom Udall, has been a leader on this issue, I am proud to say.  Heinrich's vote would in the right place also. But Reid is clearly running shy and perhaps for good reason.

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:50:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I agree but I want to know, WHO ARE THE (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Matt Z

      HOLDOUTS. These are our Senators and I want to be able target pressure. Reid should, at the very minimum, be leaking that information.

      "When in doubt, do the brave thing." - Jan Smuts

      by bunnygirl60 on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:55:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Too many moving parts to tell. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BleacherBum153

      The more pointed question is, what might he have had or not had the votes for?

      There are almost certainly more than 50 votes for the kind of reforms he's talking about. But it's a different question as to whether or not he could get 50 votes to implement them by any procedure other than the regular order, which would include getting a 2/3 vote for cloture on the proposal, first.

      But another dynamic at play is, are there strong pro-reform votes that would walk away from a weaker compromise package, rather than settling for less?

      There are reforms on the table that almost everybody actually agrees are worthwhile and doable. The hard part is getting from there to a vehicle for them that can be brought to a vote, under any procedure, and still hold together the coalition needed to make it work?

      The votes are there, but can anyone put together the right combination of substance and procedure to say they "have" them?

    •  Al - you got it, Reid does not have 50 votes for (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rainmanjr, Matt Z

      real reform so he will get what he can.

      I never thought there would be significant filibuster reform for the 113th Congress because I didn't see 50 Dem Senators who would support it.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 09:47:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I might disagree (0+ / 0-)

      it could very well be that they HAVE the votes , and the old school dems are trying to stop real reform , the old school dems like the way it is now , they have proven that to many times over

      and unfortunately , when it comes time to wimp out in the name of protecting their wall st / wealthy pals , dems fall in line every time , because they know most voters will forget about this later

       but honestly , A LOT of voters are disgusted with how corrupt wall st is being protected now , and A LOT of people are not letting that go

      call congress , shame these mo fo's and show them we are watching

  •  When faced with a challenge (3+ / 0-)

    Harry always backs down

    I said it 2 months ago, and I'll say it again.  Time to hold his feet to the fire -- REAL filibuster reform, or we "throw the bums out".  Primary every milquetoast Dem senator.

    I am so sick of starting out with "CHARGE!!!", then transitioning to "WELL...IT LOOKS HARD, so just walk fast" to finally "um...the other side isn't so nice...uh...RETREAT!!!"

    Dems do this every single time, and the other side knows it -- so they just stand their ground and say "no" to everything, knowing full well their opponents will eventually cave.

    When will the Democratic party grow a pair -- hell, even ONE would be a pleasant change of pace.

    The Meek Shall Inherit NOTHING -- Frank Zappa

    by LickBush on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:24:21 PM PST

  •  Damn (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AgentOfProgress

    "Lets show the rascals what Citizens United really means."

    by smiley7 on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:27:54 PM PST

  •  they'll get right on this for s-u-r-e this time (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Algernons Labyrinth, Patango

    no they won't. it's comfortable having aircover for doing nothing but looking after their own/friends' interests.

    WATB - "Waaaah. the republicans keep filibustering" - this is perfect for not having to do anything.

    They like being blocked - it maintains status quo which is very profitable for those with perfect healthcare and 50%-work jobs

  •  Talk, but disappoint (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    midwesterner, Patango

    I have stopped being surprised when Democrats, Obama perhaps the worse, talk a good game and then abandon it.  Harry Reid doing it with the filibuster, Obama did it with the fiscal cliff, and now is doing it again with the debt ceiling.

    Perhaps the rational argument will win in the end, but for now it just seems like words to make ourselves feel better.

    President Obama needs to be more liberal.

    by jimgilliamv2 on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:31:11 PM PST

  •  Maybe this time? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    midwesterner, Patango

    Tom Harkin introduced his "ratchet-down" cloture reform 18 years ago -- the only proposal to actually allow a majority to determine whether to proceed to an up-or-down vote.  Sadly, some of the same "compromise" proposals now being discussed by Reid were brought up back then by then retiring Senator George Mitchell.  In the intervening years, the filibuster has gone from a tactic to an assumed part of Senate floor procedure.  

    Senator Reid, after all, introduced the practice of routinely proposing unanimous consent agreements that set sixty vote thresholds for passage of amendments and entire bills.  If a Senator can raise the bar from 51 to 60 on something he or she is even mildly opposed to, what is the point of filibustering?  

  •  Get 'er done, please? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dclawyer06, Matt Z

    Pleasepleaseokathanks?!

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:46:35 PM PST

  •  If you don't get past the motion to proceed (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Algernons Labyrinth, Noodles, Patango

    none of the rest matters. He's got to eliminate the ability of the minority to stop the Senate from debating a bill. That's where the problem is and that is the part that quite obviously not what what was intended for a functioning Senate.

    The Senate is supposed to be a great debating society. It moves slowly and allows things to be debated at length to ensure no rash moves are made. But if you can't even move to the debating stage what has been accomplished? How is that functional?

    Once the Senate moves to debate an issue it should be possible, right and possible, for a substantial minority to stop the Senate from moving to vote until they believe all issues have been discussed. That is what a filibuster theoretically is all about. It is a mechanism to stop a rushed vote on a bill before everyone has a chance to chew on it and all its repercussions.

    Stopping the debate from even happening serves no useful purpose for a funcational Senate whatsoever.

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 07:52:10 PM PST

  •  Anyone have a list of the foot-draggers? (0+ / 0-)

    Who is preventing filibuster reform?

  •  The back-up plan: a constitutional convention (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Patango

    The back-up plan is a push for a constitutional convention to limit the power of Congress to set its own rules. The Senate has abused that power, and an amendment is probably the only way to force it to change its rules.

    The House used to allow filibustering, too, but it managed to reform its rules.

    Its hard to see Senators doing the reform themselves. They love themselves too much.

    The filibuster is a crime against democracy.

    by schuylkill on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 08:14:26 PM PST

    •  Not with the fascist teabags controlling the media (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BleacherBum153, Bailey2001

      Call a constitutional convention and half the Bill of Rights would be shitcanned by lunchtime of the first day.

      •  What is the required threshold of dysfunction? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Patango

        A 'run-away' convention is an often-repeated fear of holding another convention, as that's how our current constitution was born.

        But what's the threshold of dysfunction that justifies that risk?

        I think a good case could be made that we've reached it, and one big advantage of a convention over insurrection is that it's legal within the framework of the current constitution. It's also a lot safer for people and other living things.

        As the reality-based party, Democrats stand a chance to reduce our structural under-representation at the Federal level by increasing the democratic nature of our democracy.

        Whatever amendments were agreed would still have to be ratified by 3/4 of the states.

        I know that risk is there, but the current state of affairs in the Senate is unsustainable.

        The filibuster is a crime against democracy.

        by schuylkill on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 10:09:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  ..... (0+ / 0-)
        Call a constitutional convention and half the Bill of Rights would be shitcanned by lunchtime of the first day.
        ^^^This made me spit out coffee all over my keyboard!
  •  The crippling of the Executive Branch... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    schuylkill, Noodles, rainmanjr, Patango

    ...is, well, the elephant in the chambers.

    In his State of the Union Address on January 24, 2012, President Barack Obama received applause from the assembled Congress when he called for reform of Senate rules:

    “Some of what’s broken has to do with the way Congress does its business these days.  A simple majority is no longer enough to get anything -– even routine business –- passed through the Senate.  (Applause.)  Neither party has been blameless in these tactics.  Now both parties should put an end to it.  (Applause.)  For starters, I ask the Senate to pass a simple rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days. (Applause.)”  
    There were 170 unconfirmed Presidential nominees that never received that up or down vote from the 112th United States Senate.  

    It really is unconscionable.  It really is an organized nullifying of the presidential election.

    "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends" -Martin Luther King Jr

    by blue denim on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 08:33:59 PM PST

  •  Ed Gillespie (0+ / 0-)

    was running that campaign and something made him quite like nobody's business.

  •  Historical parallel? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    schuylkill, Patango, ten canvassers

    Does this passage about 18th-century Poland remind you of any place you know?

    "Along with the weakness of being a republic ruled by an elected king, Poland suffered from other uniquely harmful political arrangements. Any single member of the Diet could interrupt and terminate a session by exercising the liberum veto. This procedure empowered one member to veto any decision of the assembly even when the decision had been approved by every other member. This single negative vote also overturned and negated all previous decisions made in that session of the Diet. As one deputy’s vote could always be bought, the liberum veto made reform impossible. The Polish government lurched and staggered from crisis to crisis, while powerful, immensely wealthy landowners ruled the country..."

    -- Robert K Massie, Catherine the Great,   p. 364

  •  END the filibuster. (0+ / 0-)

    There is no doubt whatsoever the GOP will do so the very instant if and when they ever get control of the Senate again, so the Dems are complete idiots if they do not use the 'nuclear weapon' first.

    The ONLY reason not to do so is fear of possible future retribution. That retribution is already guaranteed, it's just a matter of who gets to use the weapon first.

  •  Perhaps Merkley made the mistake of doing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    schuylkill

    the work to come up with a well thought out proposal that balances the interests of the majority and minority. Maybe he should have come up with a bat shit crazy idea and then negotiated to the reasonable proposal.

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy;the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness

    by CTMET on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 04:49:21 AM PST

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