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Posted at 2:27 PM ET, 01/ 5/2011

Harry Reid sure sounds serious about filibuster reform

By Greg Sargent

There's been a lot of speculation of late that Harry Reid -- under attack from Republicans -- may flinch from supporting the filibuster reform package that Senate Dem reformers have just unveiled. But in remarks on the Senate floor moments ago, he did sound pretty serious about making real reform a reality.

I've also got some new intel from Senate aides on how Reid views the path forward -- in particular, they say Reid still reserves the right to pass these reforms by simple majority. But first, Reid's remarks on the floor:

In the entire 19th century, the Senate saw fewer than, 12, a dozen filibusters. Now we see that many in a single month...Rather than offer amendments to improve legislation or compromise for the greater good -- as members of this body have done for generations -- the current minority has offered amendments simply to waste time, to delay us from proceeding to a bill or to score political points. The American people love government but they don't like too much politics in government.

These rules are central to the Senate, but they are not sacrosanct. Senate procedures and rules have changed since the Senate was founded at the beginning of this century. Those decisions have never been made without great deliberation, and no future change should be made any differently...

Here's the bottom line: We may not agree yet on how to fix the problem - but no one can credibly claim problems don't exist. No one who has watched this body operate since the current minority took office can say it functions just fine. That wouldn't be true, it would be dishonest. No one can deny that the filibuster has been used for purely political reasons -- reasons far beyond those for which this protection was invented and intended.

The key here is Reid's point that there's precedent for changing Senate rules, and that the primary condition for so doing is that it be done with great deliberation. This is why Reid is negotiating with Republicans in the quest for a possible deal on reform, a senior Senate Dem aide tells me. "This is a major change," the aide says. "Both sides have to have a role in the dialog."

And yet, Reid still reserves the right to pass these reforms by a simple majority in the Senate, the aide says. This would be in keeping with the so-called "Constitutional option," which allows (though there's some dispute around this) each Congress to set its own rules by a simple majority vote on the first day of the session. Here's how this would work: By adjourning today, technically the "first day" of the session continues when Congress returns on January 24th, at which point the Senate could theoretically pass a rules package by simple majority vote.

At bottom, Reid is once again managing a delicate balancing act: He wants to preserve the right to pass a rules package his caucus supports by simple majority should a deal with the GOP prove impossible. At the same time, Reid wants to give the GOP a real chance to play a role in the process, so no one can claim Dems recklessly or unilaterally rammed these changes through. The reason for this, the aide says, is simple: Senate rules have only been changed seven times in the past. And even some Dems are worried about setting a precedent where any new majority can, willy-nilly, unilaterally change the rules for no other reason than that it benefits their interests.

To be sure, we don't know what will happen next. Perhaps Reid will reach some kind of deal with McConnell that waters down reform, and ask his caucus to accept it. But it's worth reiterating that recent history shows Reid is pretty good at pulling off the sort of balancing act he's again undertaken, with results that are very satisfactory to Democrats.

By Greg Sargent  | January 5, 2011; 2:27 PM ET
Categories:  Senate Dems, Senate Republicans, filibuster  
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Comments


12Bar


You are a troll, and you harass people

First on Chris's blog and again


YOUR RUDENESS KNOWS NO BOUNDS


How is it that your lesbian character forces you to be so UNCIVIL AND HOSTILE ALL THE TIME


Please stop.


.

Posted by: RainForestRising | January 5, 2011 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Of course Republicans will complain about the process, it isn't as if one trick ponies are hiding something. And for all of you 'Dingy Harry' Republicans: Sharron Angle. Scoreboard. My mother could have beaten Harry Reid.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 5, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

"The American people love government"

This is debatable.

Posted by: jnc4p | January 5, 2011 2:43 PM | Report abuse

"At bottom, Reid is once again managing a delicate balancing act: He wants to preserve the right to pass a rules package his caucus supports by simple majority should a deal with the GOP prove impossible. At the same time, Reid wants to give the GOP a real chance to play a role in the process, so no one can claim Dems recklessly or unilaterally rammed these changes through."

Once again, Reid is too cute by half. If the rules packages passes with all Democratic votes and 0 Republican votes, it will be portrayed in the media as being "recklessly" and "unilaterally" rammed through, regardless of whatever the process was. The even better outcome for Republican messaging would be if it passed with zero Republican votes and one or two Democrats voting against it as well.

See this from The Atlantic profile of Mitch McConnell:

"“We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off of these proposals,” McConnell says. “Because we thought—correctly, I think—that the only way the American people would know that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan. When you hang the ‘bipartisan’ tag on something, the perception is that differences have been worked out, and there’s a broad agreement that that’s the way forward.” "

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/01/strict-obstructionist/8344

Posted by: jnc4p | January 5, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

"...but they don't like too much politics in government."

This is laughable. Government wouldn't exist without politics, you could say government is politics. He was trying to say, people do not want the people in government to spend *all* their time fighting with each other; people want the political process to mitigate the destructive result of politics with no government and don't make me trot out the poster child.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 5, 2011 2:53 PM | Report abuse

To Majority Leader Reid, Senator Udall and all other Democratic Senators:

As a loyal Democratic voter, donor and activist, I expect nothing short of a total solution to Republican abuse of Senate rules to block nominations and legislation.

To the Republicans: Climb on board or be driven over.

Posted by: paul65 | January 5, 2011 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Of course, Senators have the right to change their own rules by a simple majority! Read the Constitution!

And if that feels like abuse of power, then please refer to the fact that no such change was contemplated until Senate Republicans decided to abuse their power for real.

Posted by: paul65 | January 5, 2011 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I missed the passing of the gavel.

Did Boehner ball his eyes out or what?

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 5, 2011 2:58 PM | Report abuse

mikefromArlington: Not only did Boner cry his eyes out when becoming speaker, he turned extra bright orange, causing one C-Span camera to crack.

Hey Republicans: that "man" is your leader!

Posted by: paul65 | January 5, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

@paul65 "Of course, Senators have the right to change their own rules by a simple majority! Read the Constitution!"

This is absolutely true. Whether it is a good idea is a separate subject.

"To the Republicans: Climb on board or be driven over."

Watch out when it starts to go in reverse.

Keep this also in mind:

"And even some Dems are worried about setting a precedent where any new majority can, willy-nilly, unilaterally change the rules for no other reason than that it benefits their interests."

If the Democrats do this on a straight party line vote, then it's probably going to be open warfare for the entire rest of the session. And the next time the Republicans take the majority in the Senate, it will be even worse for the Democrats.

"there's no going back. You've changed things... forever." - The Joker (The Dark Knight 2008)

Posted by: jnc4p | January 5, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

And to think, he's third in line for the Presidency.

Putin, Kim Jong and Ahmadinejad must be lickin' their chops.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 5, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

"For two years, Democrats in Congress have hoped their large majorities would make it easy for them to pass extremely partisan legislation. Now that they've lost an election, they've decided to change the rules rather than change their behavior. They should resist the impulse. Democrats should reflect on what they have done to alienate voters, not double down on the approach that got them here."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/04/AR2011010402032.html

Posted by: sbj3 | January 5, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

McConnell is a message machine. I'm not even sure he believe half the crap he says.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 5, 2011 3:10 PM | Report abuse

"Did Boehner ball his eyes out or what?"

Apparently, he was "teary."

Posted by: suekzoo1 | January 5, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

"then it's probably going to be open warfare for the entire rest of the session. "

the Republicans have already announced that will be, so doesn't matter what Dems do.

the abuse of the filibuster has turned the Senate into a playground for corporate lobbyists to kill regulation and anything else they don't like. here's a flyer advertising corruption:

" Can you turn Congressional rules and procedures into a tactical advantage for achieving your policy goals? Absolutely!

While he helps corporations place secret holds for his corporate clients, Duffield has elected a new crew of Republican senators to boost his business. In addition to his lobbying gig, Duffield serves as “Policy Director” of Crossroads GPS, the undisclosed corporate front group that helped elect Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and other freshmen Republican senators."

To be able to this blatantly buy and sell republican congressmembers is an affront to the Constitution and the very idea of democracy.

Posted by: fiona5 | January 5, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

"Unilaterally changing the rules of the Senate by a bare majority would be unprecedented – no Senate Majority Leader has ever done such a thing. Moreover, it would forever change the nature of the Senate and constitute a naked partisan power grab. Such a move would disrespect our bipartisan system and the will of the American people."

http://hotair.com/archives/2011/01/04/filibuster-reform-pretty-much-going-as-assumed/

Posted by: sbj3 | January 5, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

sbj: "it would forever change the nature of the Senate and constitute a naked partisan power grab"

As if what the Goopers have been doing for the last two years can't be described in exactly those terms...

good grief

Posted by: suekzoo1 | January 5, 2011 3:28 PM | Report abuse

@sue:

"The Majority Leader is always the first to be recognized on the Senate floor, and he can use that power to offer a series of Democrat amendments to pending legislation in a manner that prevents Republicans from offering any of their ideas. This is called “filling the tree.” According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Majority Leader Reid has employed this tactic a record 44 times. He has used it to block minority input into legislation three times more often than the previous Majority Leader, and more than the past six Majority Leaders combined.

"... Reid has indicated his lack of interest in deliberation by moving to shut down debate the very day measures are first considered on the Senate floor. According to CRS, the majority has done this nearly three times more, on average, than the previous six majorities. In fact, the current majority in its two Congresses in power has moved to end debate on measures a total of 29 times prior to any amendments even being voted on. The previous majority did this less than half as often—only 12 times in the preceding two Congresses.

"... The current majority has completely eliminated the committee process for important matters. According to CRS, this majority has set a record for bypassing the committee process, doing so 43 times total. In fact, according to CRS, it has done this almost 50 percent more than the last majority and, on average, twice as much as was done in the prior seven Congresses (1993 to 2006)."

Posted by: sbj3 | January 5, 2011 3:34 PM | Report abuse

There are two likely outcomes:
1) A meaningless rules package that tweaks the filibuster in some easy-to-circumvent way that gets 67 votes and really does nothing

2) Real reform that passes on a partisan majority vote.

Point being any package that the Republicans would sign on to would have to be useless because they simply love abusing the filibuster far too much to give it up. The only way this is really going to change is without them.

The whole thing is honestly very stupid. Everyone knows a majority can change the rules and everyone knows a majority can end a filibuster by appealing to the chair and upholding the ruling from appeal. Why the Senate engages in this mass delusion that supermajorities are required for anything other than veto-overrides, constitutional amendments and treaty approval (because those are in the actual Constitution) is beyond me.

The Senate is and always was a majority rule institution, it simply chooses to pretend it is not.

Posted by: Scientician | January 5, 2011 3:37 PM | Report abuse

sbj3, what all your quotes fail to do is complete the train of thought. They should all have been followed by the words. Reid's hand was forced into this because of the Republicans legislating in bad faith and, in an unprecedented manor, blocked the legislative process purely for political purposes.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 5, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, Mike - but I can't think for you.

Posted by: sbj3 | January 5, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

@sbj3 ""The Majority Leader is always the first to be recognized on the Senate floor, and he can use that power to offer a series of Democrat amendments to pending legislation in a manner that prevents Republicans from offering any of their ideas. This is called “filling the tree.” According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Majority Leader Reid has employed this tactic a record 44 times. He has used it to block minority input into legislation three times more often than the previous Majority Leader, and more than the past six Majority Leaders combined."

Keep in mind that the actual Udall proposal addresses the issue of Filling the Amendment tree by allowing the minority three (3) amendments to be filed by the minority leader.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/Rules%20Reform%20Resolution%201.5.11%5B7%5D.pdf

This wasn't discussed previously (including in the piece with Senator Udall and Senator Alexander last night on the PBS NewsHour) and appears to be a new concession by the Democrats.

If they were serious about passing this with bipartisian support, then Reid should have included in his statement some contrite comments about how both sides have played a role in the filibuster problems and how the Udall proposal is attempting to redress the legitimate Republican grievances such as these. Instead we were treated to another lecture about how pure and noble the Democrats are and how the Senate dysfunction is all the Republicans fault.

This statement "No one who has watched this body operate since the current majority took office can say it functions just fine." is just as true as this one "No one who has watched this body operate since the current minority took office can say it functions just fine."

Posted by: jnc4p | January 5, 2011 3:45 PM | Report abuse

sbj:

1) Harkin's package guarantees the minority 3 (germane) amendments thus fixing the tree problem. Naturally this will not satisfy the right since this is a disingenuous objection because (see #2):

2) Reid fills the tree (and the "tree" exists) because the Republicans continuously engage in filibuster-by-amendment, adding many pointless and irrelevant amendments to bills they don't like to slow them down.

3) The committee process is similarly being abused by the minority who do everything to slow down bills, and mislead the majority by negotiating for months pretending like there's a deal when in reality there is no deal to be made. Chuck Grassley did this on health care, then went back and bragged to his constituents that even if he got everything he asked for in the bill, he would still vote against it.

Republicans are not good faith partners in government. Just ask them, they tell you they don't believe in government, hate it, want to drown it, etc. Why is anyone surprised they behave as they say they will to destroy the ability of the government to govern?

Posted by: Scientician | January 5, 2011 3:45 PM | Report abuse

"Sorry, Mike - but I can't think for myself."

That's why I'm here buddy.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 5, 2011 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Greg: they need to recess today, not adjourn.

Posted by: andrewlong | January 5, 2011 3:46 PM | Report abuse

"Unilaterally changing the rules of the Senate by a bare majority would be unprecedented "

Filibuster was not even part of the original Senate rules, did not happen until much later.

Posted by: fiona5 | January 5, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

While I agree with the general view regarding filibuster reform expressed in Reid's speech, like others I also question the assertion that "the American people love government". That's sort of a random, unquantifiable statement that adds nothing to his argument and makes him seem out of touch.

I was also a little confused by his claim that "Senate procedures and rules have changed since the Senate was founded at the beginning of this century."

I was unaware that the Senate was founded at the beginning of this century. Or the last one. Or the one before that.

I'm not trying to be petty. I just find myself wondering just how much Reid's rhetorical sloppiness diminishes his effectiveness as Majority Leader. Not every political leader has the acumen of a Churchill or Kennedy, but come on.

Also, Greg, I could be wrong on this (I'm no expert on Senate rules) but I thought I'd heard multiple places, including an interview with Jeff Merkley, that for the first day of the Senate to be technically extended until they return , they have to RECESS, not ADJOURN. I belive adjourning would end the session. Can you check me on that?

Posted by: sydla | January 5, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

While I agree with the general view regarding filibuster reform expressed in Reid's speech, like others I also question the assertion that "the American people love government". That's sort of a random, unquantifiable statement that adds nothing to his argument and makes him seem out of touch.

I was also a little confused by his claim that "Senate procedures and rules have changed since the Senate was founded at the beginning of this century."

I was unaware that the Senate was founded at the beginning of this century. Or the last one. Or the one before that.

I'm not trying to be petty. I just find myself wondering just how much Reid's rhetorical sloppiness diminishes his effectiveness as Majority Leader. Not every political leader has the acumen of a Churchill or Kennedy, but come on.

Also, Greg, I could be wrong on this (I'm no expert on Senate rules) but I thought I'd heard multiple places, including an interview with Jeff Merkley, that for the first day of the Senate to be technically extended until they return , they have to RECESS, not ADJOURN. I belive adjourning would end the session. Can you check me on that?

Posted by: sydla | January 5, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

"Sorry, Mike - but I can't think for you.

Posted by: sbj3"

That's why Sean Hannity is around, right, sbj?

Posted by: DDAWD | January 5, 2011 3:50 PM | Report abuse


The Republicans are simply much better parliamentarians than Reid and consistently ran circles around him even when he had a 60-seat majority at his disposal. Harry Reid is an abrasive, abusive majority leader. This buffoon is now admitting he lacks the authority to form a consensus.

Posted by: screwjob23 | January 5, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

One thing those who are quick to change the Senate rules should reflect on is this dialog from A Man for All Seasons:

Alice: Arrest him!
More: Why, what has he done?
Margaret: He's bad!
More: There is no law against that.
Roper: There is! God's law!
More: Then God can arrest him.
Roper: Sophistication upon sophistication.
More: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal, not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal.
Roper: Then you set man's law above God's!
More: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact — I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh, there I'm a forester.I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God.
Alice: While you talk, he's gone!
More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man's laws, not God's — and if you cut them down — and you're just the man to do it — do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. "

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/A_Man_for_All_Seasons_%281966_film%29

Or to paraphrase for current circumstances:

"Reid: So now you'd give the Republicans benefit of the Rules!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the rules to get after the Republicans?
Reid: I'd cut down every Rule in the Senate to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last Rule was down, and the Republicans turned round on you, where would you hide, Reid, the Rules all being flat? This Senate's planted thick with Rules from coast to coast — the Senate's Rules, not Obama's — and if you cut them down — and you're just the man to do it — do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Republicans benefit of the Rules, for my own legislation's sake."

Posted by: jnc4p | January 5, 2011 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Ha! Snorted my tea. Quite a delight to see the first post. RainForestRising calling someone a troll. Priceless!

Posted by: Amminadab | January 5, 2011 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Ammin, stick around, pull up a chair, but if you do, you'll need this.

http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/89140

It was written for RFR. It works for anyone you just can't bear, but most people (like me!) only have RFR on it. .

Posted by: shrink2 | January 5, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

""then it's probably going to be open warfare for the entire rest of the session.""

It isn't open warfare now? C'mon...

"The Senate is and always was a majority rule institution, it simply chooses to pretend it is not."

Exactly. Even if we don't like the majority, the majority must rule. That is the nature of republican democracy. IMO, it goes both ways. You cannot have a functioning government where the minority calls the shots. That my Tea Party friends, is the very definition of tyranny. I have no doubt Dems are going to end up in the minority one day and the crazies are going to pass all kinds of whacky laws. I don't have to like it. That's the way our government was intended to operate. The way it has been for the past year is an abomination.

I think Harry Reid feels he has to get in front of this train and slow it down. If for no other reason than to preserve the power of the majority leader...

"But it's worth reiterating that recent history shows Reid is pretty good at pulling off the sort of balancing act he's again undertaken, with results that are very satisfactory to Democrats."

Really? I seem to remember major tax cuts for the rich and the utter blowing up of our deficit.

Posted by: Alex3 | January 5, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Two years from now 23 democrat Senators are up for re-election.

Let them change whatever.....and then live with it when in the minority in 2012

Posted by: georgedixon1 | January 5, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

"Harry Reid is an abrasive, abusive majority leader. This buffoon is now admitting he lacks the authority to form a consensus."

Hahahahahahahahaha you stupid losers. Your drunk uncle could have beaten him, but no, you chose Sharron Angle. Sharron "OJ" Angle. And you people know Democrats are arrogant and incompetent, still you chose: Sharron Angle. So why don't you think about why you did that next time Harry Reid seems dingy to you.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 5, 2011 4:03 PM | Report abuse

What would had happened if Nevada and Delaware had good Republican candidates and somehow Republicans had been sucessful in Washington and California, would the Democrats been interested in revising the majority rule or would they insist on everything staying exactly the same as the last Senate? Somehow it depends where the shoe fits. If the rules are changed, what happens to the Democrats in 2012 if the Republicans capture the Senate and maintain control in the House?

Posted by: sales7 | January 5, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Let's be clear, passing filibuster reform via a straight majority vote is a power grab, but a very legitimate one. That's how democracy works, the majority gets its way and the Courts can check the majority based on the Constitution. Empowering the minority to block anything and everything is bad for accountability since voters no longer know who to credit or blame for anything.

The whole point of having legislative branch elections every 2 years (pretty unusual in worldwide terms) is a big check on majority overreach anyway.

Posted by: Scientician | January 5, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

@jnc4p: I certainly hope that those who disagree with me are at the least reading your posts.

I do realize that Udall's proposal would stop Reid's "filling of the tree" but I don't see any fixes to Reid's other "abuses".

What many here probably don't understand is that I, and many people from both sides of the aisle, support Senate rules reform - but sincerely believe they must be changed with bipartisan support.

You already made this point but it can't be repeated enough: The majority of voters (this site excepted?) are not so naive as to believe that rules that are changed by the majority will be perfectly fair to the minority.

Posted by: sbj3 | January 5, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

"What would had happened if Nevada and Delaware had good Republican candidates..." they did, Republicans decided they weren't good enough, tee hee.

"...somehow Republicans had been sucessful in Washington and California..." you could have been, but you didn't have good candidates, just like the Ds in MA, VA and NJ. The candidate really matters sometimes.

"...would the Democrats been interested in revising the majority rule?"

I say yes, because the energy for this is coming from Merkley, the OR frosh who took a look at the process and realized there was good reason for America to hold its Senate in contempt of the people. This is good for both sides, it really is.

No senior Senator would drive this, they stand to lose. It isn't a partisan issue actually.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 5, 2011 4:22 PM | Report abuse

"If the rules are changed, what happens to the Democrats in 2012 if the Republicans capture the Senate and maintain control in the House?"

In a perfect world, they would have to live by the same rules. Of course, in a perfect world, the rules would only have to be written once. In the imperfect world in which we live, the clever bastards always figure out a way to circumvent the rules, so the rules end up needing to be changed.

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 5, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Pass the rules change as presented and reduce the bottleneck. The change would not be permanent as some have indicated. They may be changed on the first day of every new session.

Posted by: sober1 | January 5, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

paul65 said: "And if that feels like abuse of power, then please refer to the fact that no such change was contemplated until Senate Republicans decided to abuse their power for real."

Surely you jest. When the Republicans had control of the Senate the Dems did precisely the same thing to Republicans. The fillibuster rules are there to protect overreaching by either party. If Dems want Rep support for bills, they need to seek compromise. Refusing to permit the minority to participate in the process is always a mistake.

Posted by: longbow1 | January 5, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

sbj3, I guess I haven't seen any sort of rebuttal to the rules changes other than platitudes that don't note how any of the individual proposed changes would negatively affect them in the minority.

Or does the GOP leadership not want to come out and say blatantly that blind holds allow the minority to backlog appointments to ensure dysfunctional Govn't.

And calling it a power grab doesn't constitute getting specific.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 5, 2011 4:29 PM | Report abuse

sober 1 wants to reduce the bottleneck...nuff said, but that the rules may be changed on any day of any session.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 5, 2011 4:29 PM | Report abuse

So, since House Republicans just changed the rules, does that mean they just implemented a "power grab" and should be condemned?

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 5, 2011 4:32 PM | Report abuse


Then after next year's election, when the GOP regains the majority, they are free to change Senate rules such that no member of the minority party has a seat on any Senate committee.


Posted by: screwjob23 | January 5, 2011 4:35 PM | Report abuse

"they are free to change Senate rules such that no member of the minority party has a seat on any Senate committee."

And which part of the new proposal is the equivalent of the above?

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 5, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I hope Reid does eliminate the filibuster. The House will keep any foolishness in the Senate that Reid causes from becoming law.

Then in 2012 when the GOP takes the Senate, they will have a filibuster-proof chamber with only 51 Senators.

Go Harry!

+++

Posted by: Hawaiian_Gecko | January 5, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

@longbow1

"When the Republicans had control of the Senate the Dems did precisely the same thing to Republicans."

That's only marginally true- this only occurred on the most offensive bills and psychotic nominees, as opposed to on every single issue that passed through the senate. Not the same thing.

"If Dems want Rep support for bills, they need to seek compromise."

Because essentially declaring Senators Grassley and Snowe co-presidents for half of 2009 wasn't just that. Or the same thing all over again with (in succession) Shelby, Corker, and Brown in late spring 2010.

Shall I continue?

Posted by: holyhandgrenaid | January 5, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse


The rules of the House have nothing whatsoever to do with the rules of the Senate.

Article I Section 5

Posted by: screwjob23 | January 5, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

@Scientician "Let's be clear, passing filibuster reform via a straight majority vote is a power grab, but a very legitimate one."

It depends on the definition of "legitimate". You can probably get Vice-President Biden and the Senate Parliamentarian to approve the changes on a straight party line majority, but the results won't be accepted as "legitimate" by a good 40% or so of the country. Given the current atmosphere regarding the debate over the constitutionality of the Health Care Law and the Obama administration in general, this will be like pouring gasoline on a fire of the more fringe elements.

The Republican narrative will be quite simple. The Democrats had proposals that the Republicans obstructed. There was an election. The Democrats lost the election (as defined by loosing a number of seats in both Houses of Congress greater than the historical average for mid-term Congressional elections). Had the Democrats won the election, they could have claimed a mandate to change the rules to address Republican obstruction of things like Climate Change legislation (which I don't believe was ever even brought up for a vote). Instead, since they lost the election the narrative will be that the Democrats are "cheating", changing the rules after the fact that they lost the election and their agenda was perceived as having been repudiated.

More important than enacting any one party's agenda is that the governing institutions of the country be perceived as legitimate by the vast majority of citizens. Changing the rules of the Senate with 0 Republicans voting in support of the change does not further that, regardless of whether the changes are done "with great deliberation" or if both sides "have a role in the dialog".

I actually believe that the Udall proposal, as presented, is reasonable and should be passed on the merits. I'd leave out the talking filibuster section for now, but it's something that can probably be lived with. However, I think it's a bad practice and precedent to do this on a straight party line vote with a bare majority.

As an aside, it's also ironic to hear Democrats complain of how "disfunctional" the last Senate session was and how much of their agenda was obstructed by the Republicans when they managed to pass into law more progressive legislation than any Congress since LBJ.

Posted by: jnc4p | January 5, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

If the Republicans sweep to power in the 2012 elections and the Senate is now under majority rule, so be it. They will be in power, and accountable to the voters for what they do. No more blaming the minority for being unable to pass this or that. No more requirement for silly bi-partisan "no one is to blame" bills.

Literally dozens of democracies work this way, and it works fairly well. In Britain, Universal health care survived Margret Thatcher's 3 majorities because even Thatcher knew that voters would throw her government out of power if they touched the NHS. Same will happen with the Republicans and Social Security or Medicare. The quickest way out of power would be to end those programs unilaterally (which is why all the suggestions to cut or gut social security require bi-partisanship, so voters can't blame anyone for it).

It's called accountable government and it isn't something to fear.

Posted by: Scientician | January 5, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Hawaiian_Gecko, nobody is proposing getting rid of the filibuster.

Where the hell do people get their news from?!?!

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 5, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

"The rules of the House have nothing whatsoever to do with the rules of the Senate.

Article I Section 5"

Really? That's like brand new information to me!

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 5, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

All, Sarah Palin wins a huge victory, gets Obama to drop "death panels":

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2011/01/a_victory_for_mendacity.html

Posted by: sargegreg | January 5, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse


Not only that Dims there is no "Consitutional option" or constitutional crisis needed on the House side either. A House rules change only requires a simple majority vote.

So let Harry Reid make his bold move today, and tomorrow the House can likewise rule that all committee membership is Republicans-only.

Posted by: screwjob23 | January 5, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

"As an aside, it's also ironic to hear Democrats complain of how "disfunctional" the last Senate session was and how much of their agenda was obstructed by the Republicans when they managed to pass into law more progressive legislation than any Congress since LBJ."

You seem like a smart, educated person with no ax to grind. Are you sure you are a Republican?

Posted by: shrink2 | January 5, 2011 4:52 PM | Report abuse

mikefromArlington

I get it from reading the actual Rules Reform Resolution being put forth by Senator Udall.

2. Debate on a motion to proceed to the consideration of any matter, and any debatable motion or appeal in connection therewith, shall be limited to not more than 2 hours.

You should try reading the real deal sometime.

+++

Posted by: Hawaiian_Gecko | January 5, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

jnc4p:

"It depends on the definition of "legitimate". You can probably get Vice-President Biden and the Senate Parliamentarian to approve the changes on a straight party line majority, but the results won't be accepted as "legitimate" by a good 40% or so of the country. "

That same 40% also thinks ACORN rigged the 2008 election, Obama is a muslim or a foreigner or both, and really does not accept the legitimacy of any Democrat winning any office anywhere. So there's no love lost by the Senate fixing its rules.

Also, numerous polls attest to a couple things about the filibuster:
1) The public doesn't actually understand it
2) They don't care about procedure period.

So the Republicans can shriek and cry and rend their garments. Voters simply don't care about process. Voters didn't care about "Deem and Pass" they didn't care about using Reconciliation, they didn't care that Republicans set records for obstruction, they didn't care that Demint put a hold on everything, or that Shelby put a hold on all nominations over some trivial earmark he wanted.

If voters cared about process, 2010 would have turned out very different at the polls. They don't, so change the rules and deliver the public better government, which is what the Democrats are better at. They at least start from policy ideas that work rather than contrived excuses for tax cuts and comforting the comfortable which is the only thing Republican ideas are designed to do.

Posted by: Scientician | January 5, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

"A House rules change only requires a simple majority vote."

As does a Senate rules change.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 5, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

mikefromArlington

I get it from reading the actual Rules Reform Resolution being put forth by Senator Udall.

2. Debate on a motion to proceed to the consideration of any matter, and any debatable motion or appeal in connection therewith, shall be limited to not more than 2 hours.

http://www.scribd.com/mobile/documents/46332500

You should try reading the real deal sometime.

+++

Posted by: Hawaiian_Gecko | January 5, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

"What many here probably don't understand is that I, and many people from both sides of the aisle, support Senate rules reform - but sincerely believe they must be changed with bipartisan support."
Posted by: sbj3
_____________________________________

Oh... so you agree that the Republicans should stop with their underhanded tactics and political maneuvering? I had no idea you thought that. From your proclivity to ONLY focus on what you think Harry Reid is doing "wrong" I had assumed you thought that Republicans were acting in good faith.

I'm glad you and I can agree! :)

Posted by: Patzer111 | January 5, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Hawaiian_Gecko,

The filibuster is not being removed, only modified.

There would be a requirement to actually, you know, filibuster, rather than not even allowing debate. In other words, cloture by a 60 seat majority would still have to occur.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 5, 2011 4:59 PM | Report abuse

"I'm glad you and I can agree! :)"

Look, Obama's plan is working.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 5, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

There are two likely outcomes:
1) A meaningless rules package that tweaks the filibuster in some easy-to-circumvent way that gets 67 votes and really does nothing

2) Real reform that passes on a partisan majority vote.

Point being any package that the Republicans would sign on to would have to be useless because they simply love abusing the filibuster far too much to give it up. The only way this is really going to change is without them.

The whole thing is honestly very stupid. Everyone knows a majority can change the rules and everyone knows a majority can end a filibuster by appealing to the chair and upholding the ruling from appeal. Why the Senate engages in this mass delusion that supermajorities are required for anything other than veto-overrides, constitutional amendments and treaty approval (because those are in the actual Constitution) is beyond me.

The Senate is and always was a majority rule institution, it simply chooses to pretend it is not.

Posted by: Scientician |

---------------------

Because it plays into the Democrat's hands to make it seem as if they never abuse the rules - and look, we're trying to reform things and the Republicans won't play nice with us....

The truth is that the Republicans met Reid with the only tactics available to them to fight the "fundamental transformation of this great nation" promised by the President and enacted by the Dems.

Reid used “filling the tree" 44 times ("a record".

Reid shut down debate more than any other majority leader for decades. He doubled the times the Republicans did it the last time they had the majority.

Reid " set a record for bypassing the committee process, doing so 43 times total.... almost 50 percent more than the last majority and, on average, twice as much as was done in the prior seven Congresses (1993 to 2006)."

So, why is he now talking about reform? To get around the 2010 election that is why. No more, no less.

Posted by: LMW6 | January 5, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Oh... so you agree that the Republicans should stop with their underhanded tactics and political maneuvering? I had no idea you thought that. From your proclivity to ONLY focus on what you think Harry Reid is doing "wrong" I had assumed you thought that Republicans were acting in good faith.

I'm glad you and I can agree! :)

Posted by: Patzer111 | January 5, 2011 4:57 PM


I'm sure you were WHINING when the democRATS were out of power and did the exact same thing, eh kook?

Posted by: WorkOrStarve | January 5, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

shrink2, thanks for the link. Do you know what the "allow in incognito" function does?

Posted by: veritasinmedium | January 5, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

"Reid used “filling the tree" 44 times ("a record".

Reid shut down debate more than any other majority leader for decades. He doubled the times the Republicans did it the last time they had the majority.

Reid " set a record for bypassing the committee process, doing so 43 times total.... almost 50 percent more than the last majority and, on average, twice as much as was done in the prior seven Congresses (1993 to 2006)."


All of these are results of unprecedented obstruction by McConnell.

Nice try though.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 5, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse


SENATE RULE XXII

"Is it the sense of the Senate that the debate shall be brought to a close?" And if that question shall be decided in the affirmative by three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn -- except 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 -- then said measure, motion, or other matter pending before the Senate, or the unfinished business, shall be the unfinished business to the exclusion of all other business until disposed of.

Posted by: screwjob23 | January 5, 2011 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Senate Action on Cloture Motions
Congress Years Motions Filed Votes on Cloture Cloture Invoked
111 2009-2010 136 91 63
110 2007-2008 139 112 61
109 2005-2006 68 54 34
108 2003-2004 62 49 12
107 2001-2002 71 61 34
106 1999-2000 71 58 28

That was from http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/reference/cloture_motions/clotureCounts.htm.

I notice a patter of obstruction in those numbers, do you?

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 5, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

@patzer: "From your proclivity to ONLY focus on what you think Harry Reid is doing "wrong" I had assumed you thought that Republicans were acting in good faith."

If you are under the impression that I have never disagreed with the GOP or some of their tactics then you have not been reading my posts.

Posted by: sbj3 | January 5, 2011 5:14 PM | Report abuse

The filibuster was put in place to prevent a majority from "steam rolling" a minority. Let's see if there are any recent examples. E.G. forcing a vote on a huge bill (Obamacare) and not allowing any time to review the bill. sounds as though the filibuster rule worked just fine in this example. Now if Reid wants to start managing the senate as it was intended i.e. allowing open discussion and discussing amendments, then perhaps he would have "serious" goals. As it is now he is simply playing partisan politics agian. From the House side I understand that the liberal wing (at least according to Wasserman-Schultz and Weiner on Face the Nation) they are prepared to take any steps needed to stunt the "tea party" agenda. Amazing how things look when it is not from the liberal perspective!

Posted by: fcrucian | January 5, 2011 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Actually the filibuster was put in place by mistake when a very early Congress accidentally passed a new set of Senate rules that omitted the "previous question" rule that had been there in the 1st Senate.

Whatever it became, its origin is sheer happenstance.

Posted by: Scientician | January 5, 2011 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Another important thing to remember about the filibuster is that it is asymetrical. Most of what the right wants to pass is tax cuts. That they can do through reconciliation, which cannot be filibustered. It's how both the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts passed. The filibuster knife only really cuts liberal legislative goals.

Posted by: Scientician | January 5, 2011 6:27 PM | Report abuse

shrink2, thanks for the link. Do you know what the "allow in incognito" function does?

Posted by: veritasinmedium | January 5, 2011 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Remember your history children!!

In 2005 the Senate Republicans threatened to kill the filibuster and failed because of Democrats - including Harry Reid!!

Yes! This is all B.S.!!

If you need some guidance in finding this fact, search for "The gang of fourteen".

Posted by: jjcrocket13 | January 5, 2011 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Harry has the distinct whine of a girley man.

Posted by: mpg515 | January 5, 2011 7:15 PM | Report abuse

"But it's worth reiterating that recent history shows Reid is pretty good at pulling off the sort of balancing act he's again undertaken, with results that are very satisfactory to Democrats."
-----------------

Yes, Gene, the Dems should be very happy. They've almost bankrupted the country. That's what they want. Right?

Posted by: PS7900 | January 5, 2011 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Dems just don't get it, Reid want to compromise with the GOP on Senate rules while the GOP crammed through their rules in the house with no regard to what the Dems wanted. Why is it bipartisan is Democrats working with the GOP but no one cares that the GOP is blatant about not working with the Dems when they are in power?

Mitch McConnell has changed the Senate forever. It is no longer a gentleman's club where one party respects and tries to work with the other. Mitch has shown he will use every trick and loophole to get his way so there is no reason the dems should play with the old rules while the GOP plays a new game with new rules...

Posted by: soapm | January 6, 2011 12:26 AM | Report abuse

It is a good idea to allow the law to move forward. However, If the Minority sees that there is no compromise than it should retain the power to easily prevent the Bill from passing. Otherwise this proposal has no validity. If Mr. Reid forces through a rule change it will be a clear signal to the Republicans that they must do everything in their power including limiting the deby ceiling which would certainly curtail the power of the Senate Democrats.

Posted by: zvifink | January 6, 2011 5:23 AM | Report abuse

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