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Posted at 11:03 AM ET, 12/16/2010

How to change the Senate's rules

By Ezra Klein

This may be more than you ever wanted to know about the various options open to 51 senators who want to change the body's rules, but here it is. The basic answer is that 51 senators can do quite a bit if they're sufficiently determined to change the rules and sufficiently unconcerned with criticism from the public and their peers.

By Ezra Klein  | December 16, 2010; 11:03 AM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

Let's just let this phrase hang for moment:

"sufficiently determined to change the rules and sufficiently unconcerned with criticism from the public and their peers."

I just got a chill.

Posted by: willows1 | December 16, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

@willows1 "Let's just let this phrase hang for moment:

"sufficiently determined to change the rules and sufficiently unconcerned with criticism from the public and their peers."

I just got a chill."

Sounds like the next Republican Senate majority to me.

Posted by: jnc4p | December 16, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Could you please do some vote counting so those of us who want to get involved can better target their efforts?

Posted by: SamPenrose | December 16, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

you really only notice the 60-vote thing for confirmations and when the same party controls both houses and the white house.

i don't really want a system where judges are always getting confirmed on party line votes either.

this whole thing is really stupid. the senate's fine. the american people suck, but that's life.

Posted by: eggnogfool | December 16, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

The Senate is decidedly *not* fine. I don't want the filibuster to be removed, just modified so that when it is used, it is used and nothing else gets done. If its important enough of an issue then you should be able to stand on your merits and say, we shouldn't do anything else until the issue is resolved.
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Let the American people see what their elected representatives are doing. And see the complete obstruction it causes.
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Ditto for the anonymous holds. That one Senator can simply stop a bill with no ability to be overriden is simply amazing.

Posted by: rpixley220 | December 16, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

@rpixley

Holds don't stop bills, they just state that there isn't unanimous consent, so a vote is required.

And the constitution says the senate decides its own rules, and the senate wanted a 60 vote threshold. arguing about how a filibuster should or should not work is nonsensical; it is whatever the US Senate deems it to be.

Posted by: eggnogfool | December 16, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

The GOP a few years ago threatened the nuclear option against Dems in mid-term, so they obviously believe this does not have to be done on the first day.

Posted by: lauren2010 | December 16, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

--*I just got a chill.*--

That's the Siberian blast of Klein's Stalinist instincts.

Posted by: msoja | December 16, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Would getting rid of the filibuster as we known it make it possible for the GOP to win an Obama impeachment vote in a Senate trial? They'd only need a few Dem traitors to swing the Senate tide, and clearly, the Dems have more than a few traitors.

I am quite sure the GOP House will indeed call for his impeachment at some point.

Posted by: lauren2010 | December 16, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

@eggnogfool:
I stand corrected, holds can be overriden by a cloture vote.
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Which is subject to a filibuster.
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Which proves the point that the filibuster needs to be reformed. The Senate is not meant to require a super majority to do anything. Indeed the filibuster wasn't born until the "move the previous question" rule was removed in 1806.

Posted by: rpixley220 | December 16, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

"i don't really want a system where judges are always getting confirmed on party line votes either."

Well, then, I guess Barack Obama and Joe Biden should not have set one up starting with Chief Justice John Roberts back in 2005.

Posted by: krazen1211 | December 16, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

@Lauren:
Not clear what you mean here. They would be able to impeach him, but they would not be able to convict him (conviction constitutionally requires 2/3).

@rpixley:
The Senate is "meant" to determine how it wants to operate itself. It did that. If the framers didn't want the Senate to require supermajority, then they should have put that in the Constitution. If we don't want them to require a supermajority of themselves, then we should try to amend the constitution.

@Krazen:
Roberts got Dem cloture votes (i.e., real votes).

Posted by: eggnogfool | December 16, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

"Roberts got Dem cloture votes (i.e., real votes).
"

Roberts did, although he didn't get their 'fake' votes. Associate Justice Sam Alito didn't even get that courtesy.

These 25 rotten partisans tried to filibuster Sam Alito. Payback is a B I T C H!

Bayh (D-IN)
Biden (D-DE)
Boxer (D-CA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Dayton (D-MN)
Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Obama (D-IL)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Schumer (D-NY)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Wyden (D-OR)

Posted by: krazen1211 | December 16, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Or the case of Miguel Estrada, who got 55 votes, and probably could have made it to the Supreme Court in President George W. Bush's 2nd term. But the leftists hate the idea of conservative minorities.

http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=108&session=1&vote=00312

So no crocodile tears for the leftists crying about stuff like filibusters.

Posted by: krazen1211 | December 16, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

@krazen1211:
The difference is the Dem's used the filibuster for major issues to which they objected.
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The GOP is using it for *everything*.
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That is the problem. Not that it is being used, but how it is being used...or abused in this case.

Posted by: rpixley220 | December 16, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

"The difference is the Dem's used the filibuster for major issues to which they objected.
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The GOP is using it for *everything*."

A conservative Hispanic judge is a major issue? Who knew?

Posted by: krazen1211 | December 16, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

In fact lets look at the leaked memos dating back to that time.


At the same time, November 2001, the Durbin aide noted that the liberal groups were particularly worried about Estrada, a Honduran immigrant whose short career had been a rocket ride through the upper reaches of Washington's conservative legal circles. The groups believed that the Bush administration was using Estrada's ethnic identity to bulletproof his judicial ideology -- and they were not sure how to fight back. Estrada was "especially dangerous," the memo writer summed up, "because he has a minimal paper trail, he is Latino, and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment."

A string of memos from 2002 shows advice that Kennedy was getting from his staff. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), then chairman of the Judiciary Committee, had agreed to give hearings to Bush's controversial nominees -- a courtesy, he argued, that Republicans had failed to offer Clinton in his second term. The memo writer urged Kennedy to draw Durbin and Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) into a coalition to press Leahy to stall nominations until after the 2002 election.

After the election, the Democrats were once again in the minority. It was a bitter defeat for the Democrats, who saw Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia unseated in a sharp-edged campaign and lost a Minnesota seat when Sen. Paul D. Wellstone died in a plane crash. The remaining tool available for blocking Bush judicial nominees was the filibuster.

Leaked memos from Kennedy's office sketch the arguments used to persuade reluctant Democrats to test the filibuster on Estrada. "It will be harder to defeat him in a Supreme Court setting if he is confirmed easily now," the staffer summarized. A successful filibuster strategy would require Democrats to approve most Bush nominees to take off the heat for resisting a few, the aide wrote. But it would thwart GOP efforts to set up an "assembly line" of confirmations and -- for good measure -- these fights against conservative judges "particularly energized" the Democratic base.

Another memo indicated that Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) was dragging his feet over the filibuster. The Kennedy aide urged his boss to cajole Bayh and to explain to him just how bitter and politicized the nomination process had become. Later, an aide offered talking points for Kennedy to use in a speech to the entire Democratic caucus. "I've been here for 40 years . . . and this Administration is the worst," the script went. "They dare us to prevent them from packing the courts of appeals with ideologues. . . . We can't repeat the mistake we made with Clarence Thomas."


Yep, Ted Kennedy and company just wanted to sock it to President George W. Bush. He must have realized even then that if Bush made inroads with the Latino community his loser pal Kerry would have no chance at winning the White House.

Posted by: krazen1211 | December 16, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

From your post:
"A successful filibuster strategy would require Democrats to approve most Bush nominees to take off the heat for resisting a few."
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Which entirely proves my point. They were willing to sacrifice objecting to most in order to prevent the ones to which they really objected.
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As opposed to the GOP who is using the filibuster to block even routine spending bills. Hell they blocked voting on health care for 9/11 FIRST RESPONDERS just to get their beloved tax cuts to the rich.

Posted by: rpixley220 | December 16, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

"Which entirely proves my point. They were willing to sacrifice objecting to most in order to prevent the ones to which they really objected.
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As opposed to the GOP who is using the filibuster to block even routine spending bills. Hell they blocked voting on health care for 9/11 FIRST RESPONDERS just to get their beloved tax cuts to the rich."

I thought you lefties claimed that the Democrats only filibustered important things for a good reason.

It's good to know that we agree that those 'real objections' were taking a really cheap shot at President Bush's minority judicial nominees.

Quite a long way from "i don't really want a system where judges are always getting confirmed on party line votes either."


Shouldn't have crapped in the pool if you don't like the smell of sh*t. Over time, that smell festers.

Sadly the last 2 years have seen far more than just 'routine' spending bills.

Posted by: krazen1211 | December 16, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

"I thought you lefties claimed that the Democrats only filibustered important things for a good reason."
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Nice straw man you keep extending. I never said they had 'good' reasons, just that they considered those issues important to them.
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"Quite a long way from "i don't really want a system where judges are always getting confirmed on party line votes either.""
I never said that.
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"Sadly the last 2 years have seen far more than just 'routine' spending bills."
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Indeed, something about the GOP tanking the economy with failed economic and regulatory policies and unfunded wars tend to require much more than routine work to fix.

Posted by: rpixley220 | December 16, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

The fact that the bottom 20 states are allowed to hold the rest of this country hostage is out outrage that should have been rectified years ago. The 20 bottom feeder states make up less than 10% of the population (shy of 30 million), and yet due to the idiotic notion of "decorum" in the Senate, this 10% is allowed to hold the entire 90% of the remaining population hostage if they manage to pull just 1 vote to the bottom of the cesspool with them. As you can imagine, a vast majority of the "senators" from the bottom feeder states are members of the GOP.

The Senate should be ruled by majority, or at the very least should be ruled by 2/3 vote according to population. But the pussyfoot Democrats would never take the time to assert real democratic power that rules by majority or even super-majority based on population only. Instead, they cow-tow to the nothing that is Wyoming (in terms of population), and the similar nothing that is Alaska or the Dakotas or the MIA since 1865 states like Mississippi and Alabama.

You suggest that Dems have to be prepared to deal with a rebuke from the public. What public? The two people on a ranch in Jacksonhole that voted for one of the two no-name senators that represent the vacant state of Wyoming?

Give me a break. A vast majority of this country would have supported efforts in January 2009 to abolish the bottom feeders' ability to throw a wrench in the middle of every meaningful legislation the Dems tried to pass. Of course, that would take real political courage, something that Democrats have none of.

We also have President "changed" to Compromise, who disregards what the public and what the majority wants in favor of helping out the bottom feeder republicans who run the senate like it is their own private fiefdom.

The Senate needs to be reformed--and has needed the reform for 40 years. 10% of the country should not be in control over what 90% of the country, or 80, 70, 60, 55% want. It's wrong and it's backwards.

The Senate is about as Democratic as the House of Lords in the 1980s. A waste of government salary and benefits. If the Republicans are serious about cutting the fat, they should start with a constitutional amendment abolishing the anti-democratic institution known as the senate.

Posted by: hopeadoped | December 16, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

"Indeed, something about the GOP tanking the economy with failed economic and regulatory policies and unfunded wars tend to require much more than routine work to fix."

Not really, that's what they just deluded some people into thinking.

The United States of America was an economic powerhouse without universal health care.

You ought to follow the entire conversation that you jumped into. Your fellow leftist pretended to care about the things you call a strawman.

Posted by: krazen1211 | December 16, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

"The Senate needs to be reformed--and has needed the reform for 40 years. 10% of the country should not be in control over what 90% of the country, or 80, 70, 60, 55% want. It's wrong and it's backwards."

Unless, of course, it comes to homos getting hitched.

Posted by: krazen1211 | December 16, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

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