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Meet the new Senate, not the same as the old Senate

M1X00215_9.JPGBreaking a filibuster is a bit of a time-suck. You have to call a cloture vote, then wait for 30 hours while that cloture vote "ripens." That's fine if you only have to do it every once in awhile, but if it's on every amendment, often multiple times a day? No good.

Recognizing this, Harry Reid struck an agreement with Mitch McConnell: Amendments to the health-care bill would require 60 votes for passage even if there was no filibuster. Orrin Hatch's amendment stripping some of the Medicare, for instance, failed because it only netted 57 votes. John Thune's amendment attacking the CLASS act lost with 51 votes.

Operationally, there's nothing new about this. It's just an attempt to waste less time. But it's further evidence of what we already know. There's no such thing as the filibuster anymore, where senators bring the body to a halt to express their uncommonly strong opposition to a policy. Nor is there a real majority vote, where 53 senators can pass a bill 47 don't want to see passed. There's only the 60-vote Senate.

Photo credit: By Alex Brandon/Associated Press

By Ezra Klein  |  December 4, 2009; 6:05 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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you're wrong about the Hatch Amendment, it got 57 no votes.

The Thune amendment did get 51 votes. It's so far the only one out of eight health care amendments where the 60-vote threshold came into play.

Posted by: dday212 | December 4, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Well it's the only one we know about. Nobody is going to bother voting for an amendment if they know it's going to be knocked down.

Posted by: NS12345 | December 4, 2009 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Come on third party.

Posted by: staticvars | December 4, 2009 11:46 PM | Report abuse

Really, this is a very good policy. The only way we're going to see action to change the Senate rules is if there is this sort of transparency; so that people can tell how messed up things are in the Senate; how dysfunctional it really is.

Posted by: zosima | December 5, 2009 2:06 AM | Report abuse

Democrats are systematically trying to shift blame for their failure to pass real reform onto the filibuster.

They never mention that cloture required 67 votes until 1975.

Posted by: bmull | December 5, 2009 2:37 AM | Report abuse

This is going into the wrong direction. The Republicans haven't had a 60-seat majority in a century - the Democrats might lose 2-3 seats in 2010. Does that mean that nothing will get passed? As long as the Republican Party acts like an ideologically homogenous european party the 60-vote system doesn't really work.

Posted by: GCReptile | December 5, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

The filibuster is unconstitutional, in spirit if not in letter. I don't think the writers of Article One thought they needed to state that majority rule ought to be the rule, and supermajorities the exception. Of course, the only body who could rule it unconstitutional is the Senate itself, and Congress has grown unused to taking constitutional issues seriously as the Supreme Court's exercise of judicial review has grown.

Posted by: reifier | December 5, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

omg, I heard Max Baucus this morning in the senate debates. There needs to be a filibuster for long enough to get this man an MRI. He sounded like he had mild after effects of a stroke. HIs speech was slurred, and sentences were often followed by a senseless giggle. To hear him speek, this senator who would recast one sixth of the national economy, was quite something. Maybe he's just been gobsmacked by the scandal that hit him (pays off and promotes girlfriend at taxpayer expense.)

Posted by: truck1 | December 5, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

it is evident now that the senate has been californicated

the work of teh california legilature has been stymied by rules requiring votes by super majorities

it is clear that the work of the US senate is stymied by rules and agreements requiring votes by super majorities

Posted by: jamesoneill | December 5, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Reid is a fool. He doesn't understand that government is theater. He should be forcing real filibusters on every vote so that it's clear to even the densest reporter that the will of the majority is being thwarted. He should be creating hour after hour of video footage of angry, old, bald, wrinkly white southerners standing in the way of reform.

Posted by: Bloix | December 7, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

What goes around comes around. The Republicans never had anything close to a 60-vote majority, whereas the Democrats had quite a bit more than 60 at many points in the post WWII period.

Posted by: Rick00 | December 7, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

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