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Posted at 12:10 PM ET, 12/ 1/2010

One Senator's modest proposal: Force Senators to actually filibuster

By Greg Sargent

The problem for those who want to do away with the filibuster and restore some functionality to the Senate is that some argue it requires a two thirds vote to make it happen -- a virtual impossibility given today's Senate math. (Update: See below.)

But Senator Jeff Merkley, one of a younger crop of reform-minded Democrats, has thought of a way around this problem: Start with a smaller reform that could make filibustering much more politically difficult than it is right now. Merkley is working behind the scenes to build support for a rules change that would force Senators to actually filibuster on the floor.

Merkley is distributing a memo making this case to colleages, which was sent my way, and I'm told Merkley will bring the idea up at a Senate caucus meeting today. Merkley notes that it's a myth that there's currently a way to force Senators to filibuster on the floor, and proposes:

The public believes that filibustering senators have to hold the floor. Indeed, the public perceives the filibuster as an act of principled public courage and sacrifice. Let's make it so.

Require a specific number of Senators -- I suggest five for the first 24 hours, 10 for the second 24 hours, and 20 thereafter -- to be on the floor to sustain the filibuster. This would be required even during quorum calls. At any point, a member could call for a count of the senators on the floor who stand in opposition to the regular order, and if the count falls below the required level, the regular order prevails and a majority vote is held.

Under Merkley's proposed change, if a party or group of Senators oppose bringing a bill to the floor for debate -- or opposes ending debate -- they will have to sustain continued opposition on the floor of the Senate. If they don't, the filibuster collapses. The idea is to force the filibuster out into the light of day, where the public can see what's happening.

Merkley's office believes such a change to the rules could be accomplished with a simple majority vote in the Senate, and Merkley will be pushing colleagues to join his effort to make such a vote happen at the outset of the new session in January. Read his full memo here.

UPDATE, 12:55 p.m.: The question of whether two thirds are needed to do away with the filibuster is actually up for debate. Senator Tom Udall, for instance, has argued that each Congress has the right to change its rules under a simple majority vote, and he has vowed to try to force such a motion on the first day of the new Congress, doing away with the 60-vote threshold for procedural motions.

Merkley's contribution to this debate is suggesting a somewhat more modest rules change -- forcing Senators to actually filibuster on the floor -- that might gain more support in the Senate than a wholesale nixing of the filibuster might.

By Greg Sargent  | December 1, 2010; 12:10 PM ET
Categories:  Senate Dems, Senate Republicans  
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Comments

"Force Senators to actually filibuster"

Not a new idea. Unlikely to actually happen. A filibuster is an excuse, as currently formulated, for senators to accomplish nothing and, most of them, get the afternoon off. And yet, they can blame their lack of progress on rules that they themselves could change at the beginning of any session. And it allows obstructionist politicians to argue they are serving their constituents while not doing anything but saying "no".

Why would they want to change that?

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | December 1, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I like his idea. Time for these obstructionist jack*sses to crawl out from under their rocks and defend their nonsense in the light of day.

Posted by: lcrider1 | December 1, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Yawn. This is hardly a new suggestion.

But Senator Merkley should ask himself a very important question: would he still support these rules when his party is in the minority?

The Democrats have no one to blame but themselves. They are hoping that we conservatives will simply forget their reprehensible behavior during the Bush Admin.

I haven't. The scorched earth tactics of the left and Democrats lowered the bar for acceptable behavior in American politics. Anything goes now. They sowed, now they reap. They made this bed, let them lie in it in relative silence.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 1, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

"The idea is to force the filibuster out into the light of day, where the public can see what's happening."

Darn stupid public!

Posted by: sbj3 | December 1, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

"their reprehensible behavior during the Bush Admin."

Reprehensible! That's a strong word.

Also, do I have to look up the # of filibusters the Republicans have pulled off vs. the Democrats to show there is virtually no comparison numbers wise to the amount the Republicans have attempted?

Posted by: mikefromArlington | December 1, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I think part of this should also be that it takes 40 votes to sustain, rather than 60 votes to defeat, a filibuster. That is, you specifically need to make a visible vote against a piece of legislation and presumably face some scrutiny as to why you made that decision. This should go for whether Democrats or Republicans are in the majority.

Posted by: klautsack | December 1, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I do like the idea though of forcing them to visibly filibuster rather than hiding behind the walls of Congress where they're probably getting bj's from lobbyists, both literally and figuratively.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | December 1, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

"The Democrats have no one to blame but themselves. They are hoping that we conservatives will simply forget their reprehensible behavior during the Bush Admin. I haven't. The scorched earth tactics of the left and Democrats lowered the bar for acceptable behavior in American politics. Anything goes now. They sowed, now they reap. They made this bed, let them lie in it in relative silence."

Always the victim, never the victimizer. If it makes you feel good do it. Freedom without responsibility.

Today's GOP: Putting the Con in Conservative.

Posted by: wbgonne | December 1, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Just so you know, Jeff Merkley is a public employee union flak, as opposed to the more common corporate shill. It almost doesn't matter. Learning who owns who in Congress is about as important as learning the difference between the species of seagull at a garbage dump.


Posted by: shrink2 | December 1, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

"public employee union flak"

Yeah, that's right, government workers are scum. They don't even deserve unions. Of course, no one does. I forgot. But just what do you have against government workers? Was your mailman mean to you when you were a child?

Posted by: wbgonne | December 1, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

"is a public employee union flak, as opposed to the more common corporate shill"

And you see the hyper-concentration of SuperCapitalists as equivalent to unions for government working people?

Shrink: analyze thyself.

Posted by: wbgonne | December 1, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

@skip-

"I haven't. The scorched earth tactics of the left and Democrats lowered the bar for acceptable behavior in American politics. Anything goes now. They sowed, now they reap. They made this bed, let them lie in it in relative silence."

Oh, spare me the righteous indignation. Yawn. Both sides use it and both sides need it.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | December 1, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

All

Correction: Mark Kirk was sworn in on Monday

The liberals are rubes because they refuse to understand, or are unable to understand, that in a democracy, government must act with the consent of the people.


________________________


To All Liberal Rubes


You do not realize that Mark Kirk was sworn in yesterday - by Court order.

That means the Senate has 42 Republicans, not 41 anymore.


In addition, Joe Manchin is up for re-election in 2 years - don't expect him to vote for any high-profile liberal agenda items for special interests.


The reality is that the liberals need 3 Republican votes in the Senate.


Dream On, Rubes.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 1, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Sniveling in my general direction won't change the facts. The Democrats in congress engaged in a scortched earth policy.

What is amusing, though, is the fact that the liberals here can't deny it. Instead they attack me for pointing it out. Clear proof that I hit the mark.

What is also quite amusing is the way the liberals here decry the very same tactics that the Democrats used when they were in the minority. To me, this is a function of the true believer mentality. Many liberals truly believe that theirs is the ONLY way forward. Therefore they throw tantrums when anyone or anything stands in the way of their relentless march leftward. Stopping the political opposition by any means at all is, to the liberal true believers, nothing more than proper. Afterall, to them the world will be utopia once all aspects of the liberal agenda have been installed in America.

Look how well it has worked elsewhere!

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 1, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

skip's post is utterly devoid of irony. unless its meta-irony.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | December 1, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

This is an excellent idea, and in my opinion it has a better chance of passing than the other filibuster reform ideas I've seen thus far. And to address skipsailing's ridiculous question, "would he still support these rules when his party is in the minority?", the answer would be, "of course, you ridiculous human, he wouldn't be proposing them otherwise!"

I also remember when Democrats were in the minority, and while your characterization of their tactics is--again--ridiculous, I would take no issue with giving them the opportunity to make such dramatic (and still effective) displays against the many short-sighted, regressive policies proposed by their conservative colleagues, forcing the media and the public to more closely examine why they are forgoing weekend breaks to take such principled stands. I say bring it on.

Posted by: billy_burdett | December 1, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Merkle - wasn't he involved in some play for the Chicago Cubs - he didn't touch second or something and he was declared out ???


Sounds like the same thing all over again......

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 1, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

The Republican idea of coherence?

HALPERIN: If your leaders came to you and said ‘we have a deal with the White House. We’re going to extend unemployment benefits but the tax cuts for people making over a million dollars a year will not be extended, but that helps to pay for it,’ would you take that deal? Would you vote for that package?

PENCE: Look, I think the worst thing you could do for people that are struggling in this economy and looking for a job is raise taxes on any American. We don’t want to help with one hand and take away with the other.

HALPERIN: So would rather extend the tax cuts for every American, including those making over a million, or have the unemployment benefits extended, if that’s the choice?

PENCE: This isn’t a corner, but I feel the paint. I’m good. Nice move. I played chess with my son the other day and I lost, so I’m not good at this chess thing. Let me tell you, I think the minimum we have to do for Americans right now that are struggling in unemployment in this economy is make sure no American sees a tax increase.

http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2010/12/01/pence-millionaires/

Posted by: pragmaticagain | December 1, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

"They don't even deserve unions"

I worked for HHS for a couple of years. I declined to join the union simply because I'd be embarrassed to look my grandfathers in the face if I did join. They both worked in steel mills under dangerous conditions. I worked in an air conditioned building behind a desk and made substantially more than them.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | December 1, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

billy burdett will make a great contribution here. I had almost forgotten the role that liberal condescencion played in the most recent electoral defeat they suffered.

by all means sneer away. It makes the movement just so loveable to Americans everywhere!

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 1, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Senator Udall


Well - it is correct there is a dispute. However, up to now it has been accepted that two-thirds are needed. Harry Reid "made-up" this new idea.


One thing: democratic Senators are looking beyond 2012, when they may not be in a majority. So why would they want to change this rule.


It's not going to happen. Dream on.


Remember, the rule used to be all the Senators - so before Alaska and Hawaii, they needed 96 votes.


Then I think it was reduced to two-thirds - and then reduced again to the three-fifths where it is now.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 1, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Greg:

"Merkley is working behind the scenes to build support for a rules change that would force Senators to actually filibuster on the floor."

I fully support this rules change. I have long thought that if a group of senators wants to maintain a filibuster - ie refuse to close debate - then they ought to actually have to, well, engage in debate.

Posted by: ScottC3 | December 1, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I think going back to real filibusters is a fine idea in principle. I believe it would require a change to Senate rules but of course there's a window at the beginning of each new Congress where that can theoretically be done by a simple majority. Unfortunately it isn't going to change the outcome of the next two years in any meaningful way, even if it were accomplished.

As things stand now, Democrats still care about trying to deliver ~something~ for the American people as a whole while Republicans only care about delivering for Republicans. So the only way anything at all is going to get done in the next congress is for Democrats to basically accept the short end of every deal. Otherwise, the House and Senate are just going to be in the business of vetoing each other's bills. The good news is that Greg, et al, will have plenty of opportunities to naively decry Democrats as spineless sell-outs, which is always fun.

Posted by: CalD | December 1, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

"But just what do you have against government workers?"

Maybe I am having Déjà vu all over again, but I am pretty sure we had this argument already. I've had it more than once with someone here. I've been a gubmint worker. I've been a gubmint contractor, a manager with lots and lots of employees and also a represented employee (you realize, government doctors would be brutally exploited like farm workers if they didn't have a "labor" union). I have nothing against me, in fact, I'd love some more of me. I am against public employee unions. I'm not against organized labor, nor unions in general, I am against public employee unions that advance the careers of the elected officials they own.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 1, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I worked for HHS for a couple of years. I declined to join the union simply because I'd be embarrassed to look my grandfathers in the face if I did join. They both worked in steel mills under dangerous conditions. I worked in an air conditioned building behind a desk and made substantially more than them.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | December 1, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Yup, we now have a service economy primarily. So what? Doesn't matter what the job is. Individual workers lack any power unless they are collectively organized. Capitalists have inherent power in capitalist society. So does government. Put it this way: what's the first thing a GOP president is going to do? Attack government workers. Cut their pay. Fire them. Lay them off. Who's going to protect those workers, if not for unions? BTW: these government workers are your neighbors, your friends and family members. They are postmen and FBI agents, court clerks and environmental regulators. They are not alien monsters. They are vital to our nation. They are human beings and fellow citizens.

Posted by: wbgonne | December 1, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

"I am against public employee unions that advance the careers of the elected officials they own."

I must be missing something. You have no problem with unions but you despise government unions and the political leaders who support those unions. Why?

Posted by: wbgonne | December 1, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

TO All Liberal Rubes

Any newly elected democrat knows they will be in office for the next 6 years - except Joe Manchin and Coons who I believe were elected for 2 and 4 years respectively.


Why would anyone want to reduce their power later in their term - when they know that the Republicans may control the Senate after 2012 ???


That is just not going to happen.


Clearly - the liberals are so power-hungry that they do not understand how the Senate works.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 1, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

All, good new post from Adam Serwer on the right wing's response to the WikiLeaks scandal:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/12/gop_obama_wont_hit_wikileaks_b.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | December 1, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I encourage any rules change that obliges elected representatives to stand by their principles on legislative decisions.
I discourage any rule that allows elected representatives to hide behind procedure as an excuse for not getting things done.
I don't think this is a party issue, I think its an "honest government" issue.

Posted by: OldUncleTom | December 1, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

"Put it this way: what's the first thing a GOP president is going to do? Attack government workers. Cut their pay. Fire them. Lay them off."

And? Nobody is entitled to a job. Yet.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | December 1, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Not only do I have no problem with unions, I strongly support union internationals (call me a commie). The race to the bottom is what the wing nuts call "efficiency" or "global competitiveness"; it exists because of the exploitation of labor in general. I also believe government worker unions are corrupt by definition.

Once when I had this argument somewhere else, I was trying to describe the difference between working for an entity that can not go out of business and that has the ability to tax people and one that can and does not. The person finally declared that there is no moral difference between profit and taxes, which seems ridiculous to me.

But it is such a paradox; I think there is no moral difference between getting elected as a result of the money you got from industries that expect your career to be a good investment and getting elected as a result of the people who work for you expecting a nice return on their investment.

In other words, I think public employee unions are fundamentally different than private sector unions. For one thing, government does not have to make money, nor even spend efficiently. When government labor and management get together and decide to do something absurdly wasteful of taxpayer dollars, who is going to stop them? The press? A whistleblower? I could line up countless examples of what is commonly called waste, fraud and abuse. It is as if no one cares. But people do care, they just don't dare defy the union management relationship.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 1, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Merkley's proposal is a good one, and would be complementary to Harkin's fillibuster reform bill that would require a decreasing number of Senators required to break the filibuster as the days advance.

I am reminded of something Justice Scalia wrote in a concurring opinion this year, directed in that instance towards whether signers of public referenda petitions had to right to keep their names from being publicly disclosed, but also relevant to the often-secretive nature of Senate filibusters and anonymous holds:
"Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed."
Doe v Reed (2010), Scalia J., Concurring.

I think requiring the minority party or other minority group to stand up for what they believe in, to make their case before the Senate and the public, would be a vast improvement for the country. Too often a mere threat to filibuster is enough to stop legislation, and when a bill does manage to move forward anyway, it receives more than enough votes to pass. Let the Senators put their money where their mouth is, if they truly believe a bill is not worth passing, or a judicial or other nomination should be disapproved.

Posted by: reach4astar2 | December 1, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

I would like to see the suggestion made in one of Steve Pearlstein's chats adopted. It's less radical than what has been discussed, but it may well solve 85 - 90% of the problem.

"The Senate Rules of Procedure should preclude the use of the filibuster on a Motion to Proceed, or to bring a bill before the Senate for unlimited debate. This would also require elimination of the parliamentary tactic of "filling the amendment tree," thereby blocking additional amendments to be offered. This would ensure all ideas could be offered, debated, and voted upon.

Only after a full and fair debate and amendment process should the filibuster be permitted, and then only to end debate. Doing so would ensure that legislation is, at a minimum, considered by the full Senate. It could have the effect of forcing compromise during the amendment process to achieve consensus.

And, most importantly, these changes would retain the extremely important principle of protecting the rights of the minority to block a bill if a 60-vote majority is not achieved."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2009/11/10/DI2009111007049.html?sid=ST2009111110703

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/10/AR2009111018739.html

Posted by: jnc4p | December 1, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I have an alternative suggestion that Senators can institute without any vote or rules change at all. That change is to use your own brain to vote for or against things based on your devotion to your constituents and country. It is PARTY loyalty and subservience that causes the current morass that is ruining the entire Republic.

Posted by: LHO39 | December 1, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

@wbgonne: "I must be missing something. You have no problem with unions but you despise government unions and the political leaders who support those unions. Why?"

Because they are insular, incestuous, corrupt, and specialize in securing moneys and perks for public employees at the expense of private tax payers?

Or perhaps because the ostensible reason for unions was to protect labor from the rapacious tendencies of robber barons in the private sector. What point, except the collection of dues, do public sector unions serve? The government does not operate for profit. The public sector is not the home of rapacious capitalists. As such, why do public employees need representation, except to protect and favor them over the tax payers who pay their wages?

Full disclosure: while a public employee, I am not represented by a union. But if I were, I certainly wouldn't like the dues, but I certainly wouldn't turn down the perks that went with it.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | December 1, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

"The liberals are rubes because they refuse to understand, or are unable to understand, that in a democracy, government must act with the consent of the people."
____________________
If you are referencing the United States as a democracy, it is not. It is a plutocracy both annotatively and denotatively.

Posted by: polysciprof | December 1, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Skipsailing, from the looks of your previous comments and responses, your attitude seems to be much the same as that of the GOP's current leaders--respond to the most respectful, civil, compromising gestures possible the same way as you'd respond to patronization, insults, or outright dismissal: with utter contempt, nastiness, and blatant misinformation. You're not fooling anyone with your knee-jerk protestations of "condescension", "intellectual elitism", etc. (i.e. things that you yourself do not hesitate to resort to when you see fit). Most of the points you make are riddled with fallacies, inaccuracies and assumptions, and some of them are so ridiculous that they're not worth even responding to. If you want to call that condescension on my part, knock yourself out, but to me it's just calling a dog a dog.

Posted by: billy_burdett | December 1, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

"I think public employee unions are fundamentally different than private sector unions. For one thing, government does not have to make money, nor even spend efficiently. When government labor and management get together and decide to do something absurdly wasteful of taxpayer dollars, who is going to stop them?"

OK. Certainly true that government is a different entity than private industry and that, as a result, the government-cum-employer has incentives that private industry doesn't. Corporations act solely to increase profits for themselves. Without restraints, corporations will exploit labor whenever possible. So the need for unions is clear (Right Wing Ideologues excluded).

Government has a political aspect that corporations don't so government-as-employer is not inclined to pursue profits only. Indeed, most of what government does is not even designed to earn profit; it is intended to provide public services. And if government becomes too oppressive an employer, the employee-as-citizen can exercise the vote and attempt to un-employ certain elected officials. In that sense, public employees have more protection than private employees. But how much more?

How much power do un-organized government workers have over their government employers? Not much, I'd say. For one thing, bad bosses exist in government just as much as they do in the private sector. For another, public workers are literally at the mercy of political winds which, as we see today, are blowing right into their faces. Public workers are now routinely vilified and demonized, as if they aren't real Americans with families and lives but parasites living off other citizens. What is going to happen to government workers as the next couple of years go by? Or if a Republican becomes president in 2014?

As far as waste, fraud and abuse, yes that is a problem. In my experience, however, the great majority of that waste, fraud and abuse is caused by private companies gaming government systems. Certainly not by government workers loafing or stealing or whatever.

All that said, there are areas where government worker unions have inordinate power due to politics. I think law enforcement and police unions are the prime example. And I have seen police threaten to ruin politicians who didn't kowtow. It is wrong. But I don't think police should be barred from unionizing because of that. I don't the problem -- or the solution -- can be located within "the union management relationship." But I'll listen to counterarguments if care to share them.

Regardless of the employer, individual workers are essentially powerless unless they act collectively. And since we are now in the fifth decade of anti-labor attacks, astronomical concentrations of capital, hostility to public employees, and plutocracy, I say give all workers all the help possible.

Posted by: wbgonne | December 1, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

To put it another, mercifully-shorter, way: I think there is today a far greater chance that government officials will punish government workers than collude with them.

Posted by: wbgonne | December 1, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

I like the idea. We have reached the point that we have to move forward and anything that removes roach blocks is a good idea. Doubt the old coots will allow it. We really need to clean house and remove all these long term senators.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | December 1, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

"Full disclosure: while a public employee, I am not represented by a union."

Kevin, I most certainly don't wish this upon you, but you do realize that your public employer is almost certainly already looking for an employee body count. I really do believe that it is Conservatives today who live in ivory Towers of theory, divorced from the real world. Like Liberals were in the 70s. But here's the problem with living in theories: the real world doesn't care whether we believe in it or not.

Posted by: wbgonne | December 1, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Abolish the Senate.

Posted by: HillRat | December 1, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

"Senator Tom Udall, for instance, has argued that each Congress has the right to change its rules under a simple majority vote, and he has vowed to try to force such a motion on the first day of the new Congress, doing away with the 60-vote threshold for procedural motions."

Uhm so what happens?

Well from 2011-2013. The Democrats have a theoretical 53 votes.
Though Leiberman and to a great extent Manchin will vote pretty independent.

And the Democrat Senate will accomplish what?
Nothing.
Because the House is Republican and won't send the senate anything.

From 2013 - 2015?!?
The Senate is 22 Dems and 11 Republicans.
11 Dems in Republican states.
Delaware will finally get to choose Castle ( No Donnelly won't get a second chance ).
Though I believe both Kirk and Brown could be in dangerous territory.

Pretty much, you can count on the Republicans gaining about 3-4 seats.

Making THEM the beneficiaries of no filibuster with possibly a very Republican House.

In 2014?!?
20 Dems and 13 Republicans -- in a mid-term, possibly lame duck presidency.
And these are the 13 who survived the original Obama wave.

Nope they are gaining MORE seats. Probably another 3-4.

So yea. Force the removal of a filibuster, during a session it won't help you and can only help the opposition ( who only need to get 4 votes to empower the house ) ... while handing the stage over to the opposition for at least 4 years.

Smart move.

Posted by: chromenhawk | December 1, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

The filibuster needs to go, now!

When you have one party (Republican) that is willing to burn the entire country down (filibuster abuse) in their foaming at the mouth quest for power (that they don't deserve) - you have a dysfunctional gov't. And that's what we have now here in America.

.

Posted by: DrainYou | December 1, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

"I think there is today a far greater chance that government officials will punish government workers than collude with them."

Hmmm, I've never lived in a red state (and I never will), but this isn't the way it is in blue states.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 1, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

I really want to be a US Senator, it's a job where you don't have to do anything at all.

Posted by: MikeV2 | December 1, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse


Silly Dims, "a rules change that would force Senators to actually filibuster on the floor" is itself a rules change. And like ANY proposal to change the rules, Merkley's would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate.

Dims who got slaughtered in the midterm elections and can no longer sustain a cloture vote for any of their bad legislation want to change Senate rules. Good luck with that.

The filibuster rule is not going anywhere Dims.

Posted by: screwjob22 | December 1, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse


RULES OF THE SENATE:

V. SUSPENSION AND AMENDMENT OF THE RULES

The rules of the Senate shall continue from one Congress to the next Congress unless they are changed as provided in these rules.

XXII. PRECEDENCE OF MOTIONS

... on a measure or motion to amend the Senate rules, in which case the necessary affirmative vote shall be two-thirds of the Senators present and voting

Posted by: screwjob22 | December 1, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

One thing to remember.
There are differences between govet union and trade union.

Govt Union - spend money and have a say on who will negotiate their contract.

Labor Union - Negotiate contracts with who they will work with. No say.

One good example is teachers unions. I have no problem with them campaigning for and supporting Congressmen, Senators, State Governors and legislators. Hell even the State School Superintendent.

None of those negotiate contracts directly.
BUT ... and that is a big but. I see them endorsing local school board members as a conflict of interest.

Big difference.

Labor Union -- if I show up for a 3 day work assignment without my tools. I expect to be sent home. Without pay. And to not only lose that day of work but the whole three days.
OH. And I will get fined $50 to replace me.

Govt Union -- Those tools were supposed to be provided. And you pay regardless of whether you send them home.

Final difference, which is a companion of the first.

Labor Union -- works hard with pride regardless of the employer. That is how they get continued work.

Govt Union -- is so in bed with one specific party that it is in their best interests to give 110% when their party is in power and 50% when the opposition party is in power.

How much of a republican run government is from the union employees purposely dragging their feet and making things run rough?
I would like to think their pride in labor makes them work just as hard for both.
But the doubt is there.

Posted by: chromenhawk | December 1, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Years ago, the filibustering senators had to stay on the floor and talk. They brought in cots, some read from the phone book if they couldn't think of anything else to say, they had to worry about arranging eating and bio breaks.

I think this is aq great idea. They need to go back to filibustering on the floor, except no reading from the phone book.

They would have to do it on TV. The public could argue about what they were filibustering about and there could be pressure and/or ridicule if appropriate.

Posted by: StanKlein | December 1, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like a good idea to me. Like StanKlein, I remember when Senators had to stay on the floor and actually talk.

With the appalling state of public education these days, perhaps we could take care of two problems at once. In addition to making the party doing the filibustering actually work to sustain the filibuster, if the Senators were to aloud science, math, or literature texts, we could increase the public education level and provide some humor as a bonus. Imagine, for example, James Inhofe reading aloud "Moby Dick," or perhaps "The Origin of Species."

Posted by: apn3206 | December 1, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

The Dems popularized the filibuster for all the nonsense in the 90s when they lost control of the Senate....it isn't a Republican tool....

Posted by: dungiven | December 1, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

chromenhawk - you obviously have never encountered a govt. employee. I am a Republican who took leave from the private sector to work in Washington in a govt position. I was there for two different administrations. The only real difference was that the new administration changed the titles of programs so they could take credit for them but the work was basically the same. No govt. employee worked any harder or less because of who was in power. Most of it was background noise. There were employees who were smart and hard working and there were slackers. Frankly not much different than the private sector job I came from. What I did find is that Republicans are so convinced that govt workers need watched for abuse that they impose all this horrendous reporting and red tape to track what they do. Democrats are convinced that private companies need watched and they impose all this horrendous reporting and red tape to track what they do. Chromeenhawk and many others here are probably the types who hold low level mid wage jobs and feel so oppressed at work that they turn around and try to take it out on govt workers with the whole "I pay your salary" crap. Most of you probably don't even pay any taxes. But the Constitution says speech is free, not that it was to have any value by having an informed opinion behind it.

Posted by: Moderate4USA | December 1, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

"Republicans are so convinced that govt workers need [to be] watched for abuse that they impose all this horrendous reporting and red tape to track what they do. "

Bing! True!

"Democrats are convinced that private companies need [to be] watched and they impose all this horrendous reporting and red tape to track what they do."

Bzzzzt. False.

Redemocrats are so convinced that govt workers need [to be] watched for abuse that they impose all this horrendous reporting and red tape to track what they do.

Sorry. Only half right. No one gives a rat's ass what happens in the "private" sector, unless it might lose real money, like, politically significant zeros behind the numbers.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 1, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Shrink2 - What do you base your opinions on? Direct experience in the govt sector? Democrats are so buys trying to regulate every possible negative outcome that they overdo just about everything when it come to regulation. A certain amount of regulation is necessary of course because there are bad apples out there, but the extent that it goes these days negates any real benefit. And i spent more of my time in govt at times filling out reports required by OMB (and Republicans) convinced that money and time was being wasted that there often wasn't much time to actually successfully implement our program (which in this case was helping to outsource and improve citizen contact centers to improve how citizens got information and services) Ironic, no?

Posted by: Moderate4USA | December 1, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

In two years the Dimwitcrats will be back in the minority and praising the filibuster rule as if it were inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial and the dollar bill.

Posted by: thebump | December 1, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

chromehawk: "Force the removal of a filibuster, during a session it won't help you and can only help the opposition ( who only need to get 4 votes to empower the house ) ... while handing the stage over to the opposition for at least 4 years.

"Smart move."

I don't care about the politics; that's not an excuse for not doing what is obviously the right thing. It's just wrong to have a minority of 42 dictating policy. Elections should have consequences.

skipsailing28: "What is also quite amusing is the way the liberals here decry the very same tactics that the Democrats used when they were in the minority."

BS. This liberal doesn't approve of the tactic regardless of which side uses it, so please stop generalizing where you have no evidence to prove your assertion.

The way Republicans have used the filibuster has made the Senate unable to do anything. There's no other legislative body I know of that operates this way (or, to put it more accurately, fails to operate).

I'm willing to live with the consequences of majority rule. If you can't muster a majority, the answer isn't to have rules that allow you to block legislation; the answer is to go out and win more seats. The Senate, with unequal representation, is already undemocratic enough. We don't need to pile another inequity on top of it.

Posted by: dasimon | December 1, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Addendum:

Is there any doubt that Republicans would get rid of the filibuster when they get a bare majority in the Senate? So Democrats may as well do it first, pass some legislation, and let House Republicans take responsibility for shooting it down.

Posted by: dasimon | December 1, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

A conservative commenter wrote: "Silly Dims, 'a rules change that would force Senators to actually filibuster on the floor' is itself a rules change. And like ANY proposal to change the rules, Merkley's would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate."

True, except at the beginning of each new Congress, which is just about to happen, when the Senate can pass new rules or get rid of old ones with a simple majority vote. Who's silly, again?

Posted by: billy_burdett | December 1, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

Moderate4, yes and yes, what you said makes sense. I am trying to talk about corruption. Crony capitalism, pay to play, I don't see either party in a good way. It is hard to explain, but it isn't either.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 1, 2010 11:40 PM | Report abuse

Moderate4USA ;

You said :
No govt. employee worked any harder or less because of who was in power. Most of it was background noise. There were employees who were smart and hard working and there were slackers. Frankly not much different than the private sector job I came from.

I believe that. Like I said, I would hope their pride in work ... but the doubt is there.

It is like in Calif. There was one State School Superintendent whose wife had a private business selling services to school districts.
The business was in effect before he was elected.
But once elected it looked like a potential conflict of interest.
How many districts would work with her in hopes of getting on her husband's good side?

The conflict of interest in Gov't union employees siding so exclusively with one party is not in the actual doing. But in the appearance.

You also said :
What I did find is that Republicans are so convinced that govt workers need watched for abuse that they impose all this horrendous reporting and red tape to track what they do. Democrats are convinced that private companies need watched and they impose all this horrendous reporting and red tape to track what they do.

Yep that pretty much sums it up.

And finally you said :
Chromenhawk and many others here are probably the types who hold low level mid wage jobs and feel so oppressed at work that they turn around and try to take it out on govt workers

Errr. Did I or did I not state that I am a labor Union member?
Kind of implies mid-wage.
Kind of implies a lot.

Or are you trying to cause a situation where you claim labor union employees, because they are mid-wage jobs need to shut the F up and listen to their bigger and smarter govt union brothers.

Heh. Reminds me of when the local school board decided they wanted to require all high school grads to qualify for State University not just meet the state minimum standards.
And the teacher's Union rep stood up and applauded them, saying such standards would prepare the children for lives that were not wasted as plumbers or carpenters.

*Big grin* I stood up after him and asked him if he really wanted a copy of the broadcast of the meeting to be given to the plumbers and carpenters union hall not 5 miles from the building.
So they would know the teachers consider their lives wasted.
And if he was prepared for an outright war between unions.
Because THAT is what those unions would do.

You have never seen a union rep apologize so quickly.

OR be replaced by the end of a week.

I guarantee you, the MOMENT a govt employee union rep badmouths trade union members will be the moment that govt employee union rep is thrown under the bus.

Cause the bus?
Is driven by a Teamster.

Posted by: chromenhawk | December 2, 2010 12:51 AM | Report abuse

"The Dems popularized the filibuster for all the nonsense in the 90s when they lost control of the Senate....it isn't a Republican tool...."

This common Republican talking point doesn't hold water (as usual). Look at http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/reference/cloture_motions/clotureCounts.htm for a count of filibusters and http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/history/one_item_and_teasers/partydiv.htm to see which party controlled the Senate when.

Filibuster is the tool of the minority party. The big jump in filibusters during the 90's (from 60 to a then record 80)came during the 103rd Congress when the Republicans were in the minority. There was a small rise (from 80 to 82) when the Democrats became the minority in the 104th Congress, but then the filibuster count dropped to 71 or less until the Republicans became the minority again in the 110th Congress.

The grand total of filibusters during the 108th and 109th Congresses combined (when the Republicans whined incessantly about Democrats abusing the filibuster) was 130. The total number of filibusters mounted by Republicans during just the 110th Congress was 139! Republicans have tallied 125 filibusters so far in the current 11th Congress and are promising more unless they get their way.

If you go back and look at the last 40 years, there have been 6 new records set for the number of filibusters. 5 of them were set by Republicans.

Posted by: jimwalters1 | December 2, 2010 6:13 AM | Report abuse

@screwjob22:
You like to quote Senate rules for why the filibuster can't be removed without a 2/3 vote.
.
Please show us where in the Constitution this is provided for? The only thing in the Constitution is that the Houses of Congress may establish their own rules. For that to happen they have to have a vote to continue the previous sessions rules. It saves time and keeps things nice and comfy to do so for sure.
.
However, that initial vote is not governed by any rules from the previous Congress and as such is a simply majority vote with the VP casting a tie breaking 51st vote if needed.
.
It is called the Nuclear Option. Go look it up.

Posted by: rpixley220 | December 2, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

For all of those talking about doing this ... let's do the math.

47 Republicans all say no.
Leiberman will say no. ( 48 )
Manchin ran basically as a Republican who will caucus with the Dems.
He also took over the seat of Robert Byrd ( gang of 14 ) and can seek cover by continuing Byrd's policy.
Running again in next cycle ... nope he will say no. ( 49 )

Ben Nelson is already going to get primaried by progressives for the Cornhusker buyout, and was an original member of the gang of 14 ... so he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
No. ( 50 )

So the Dems now need to keep EVERY single one of
Bill Nelson,
Claire McCaskill,
John Tester,
Kent Conrad,
Sherrod Brown,
Bob Casey Jr, and
Jim Webb.
All Running in 2012 in pretty tough situations.

And possibly lose Stebenow, Kohl, or Klobucher as Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconson are trending purplish.

Not to mention Landrieu, Innouye, and Mark Pryor. All original members of the gang of 14 who would have to look pretty hypocritical to say "oh NOW the nuclear option makes sense!'

That makes 12 people who can be cherry-picked off for the 51st vote.
Many of which are probably looking at progressive primary challenges anyways and even if they weren't ... running primary challenges on over half your sitting Senators WILL cost you the Senate.

It ain't happening.

Posted by: chromenhawk | December 3, 2010 6:15 AM | Report abuse

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