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Institutional interests start talking filibuster reform

Tomorrow, the Senate Rules Committee is holding another in its series of hearings on the development and current use of the filibuster. Those have been going on all year, however, so there's nothing surprising about that. What was surprising was the press release I got for a media call with leadership from the American Constitution Society, the Sierra Club, Common Cause and the Communications Workers of America. The purpose of the call was "to highlight the runaway usage of Senate filibusters and their role in derailing our democratic process and prioritizing corporate special interests over progress."

One of the questions I've posed occasionally on this blog is whether various organized constituencies will eventually recognize that their agenda isn't being stalled because specific senators aren't convinced of the merits of their bills, but because the filibuster makes it extremely difficult to pass anything. If immigration groups, environmental advocates, labor unions, business lobbies, pro-nuclear power coalitions and so on began pooling some of their resources and relationships to work on Senate rules reform, that would be a big deal. And yesterday brought evidence that it's beginning to happen.

Now, maybe it's just a call. But the fact that these groups are talking to one another about the need for filibuster reform is fairly important, and a sign of just how serious this conversation has gotten.

By Ezra Klein  | September 22, 2010; 11:33 AM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

And just in time for the conservative takeover, too.

How long will it be before Klein rues the way the wind is blowing?

Posted by: msoja | September 22, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I just want to say this as a big fat leftie who wishes Obama really were a closet socialist: I favor filibuster reform even if the Republicans take the Senate. I have two reasons:

1. Majority rules. Elections have consequences, etc. But also

2. Reality is liberal* and so I think liberal ideas will win out in the long run. Therefore another season of conservatism can be weathered. We made it this far.


*In certain things. Civil rights, for example. The progress of the sciences. In other ways the conservative observation that the fundamental things apply, as time goes by" has a lot of merit.

Posted by: DeliciousPundit | September 22, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

--"1. Majority rules."--

That's why the country was instituted as a Republic, and not a straight Democracy.

The tyranny of the majority is just as evil as any other tyranny.

Posted by: msoja | September 22, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Ezra,
I'd appreciate some reporting and a post on why the House couldn't pass any of the annual appropriation bills or a budget resolution for this year.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/21/AR2010092105113.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Presumably with the size of the Democratic majority in the House and no filibuster to worry about there wasn't any way for the Republicans to prevent the House from doing so.

To me, this is just as much of an example of government not working as is the bills that are filibustered in the Senate.

Posted by: jnc4p | September 22, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Just when the GOP takes over we're having filibuster reform?

No way.

Posted by: lauren2010 | September 22, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

@lauren2010: that's no problem, the GOP has no agenda except gridlock. Pretty sure removing the filibuster wouldn't affect their ability to pursue that.

Posted by: michaelh81 | September 22, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Guys, when Ezra and many other liberals have talked about filibuster reform in the last 1-2 years it has consistently been in the context of a phase out over the next 4-8 years when we don't know who will be in charge of the Senate. Few, if any, of the people calling for filibuster reform are going to suddenly change their tunes now that Republicans are on the rise. Proposals will *still* be for 4-8 years from now. If anything, I think Republicans would have been better off trying to get such a plan in place at the start of the Obama presidency. That would have eaten up two whole years of the wait until there was no filibuster, which I think probably would have made it more likely that the Rs would be in charge either when the filibuster was gone or soon after. It also would have given them a nice feather in their cap early on to combat any subsequent accusations that they were just obstructing everything.

Hell, after 2006 when it was clear that the Dems were gaining momentum towards the Presidential election they could have agreed to getting rid of the filibuster after the 2012 election. That would have been a pretty big roll of the dice, but I think it wouldn't have been crazy to suggest that there was a decent to good chance that the Republicans would be in control of the Senate around then or very soon after.

Posted by: MosBen | September 22, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

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