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Posted at 4:19 PM ET, 01/ 6/2011

Senator Nelson's office clarifies position on filibuster reform

By Greg Sargent

As you probably noticed, Senator Ben Nelson has taken a bit of a beating in the last 24 hours because he seemed to tell a local media outlet that he opposes filibuster reform. "The last thing we need to do is start changing rules, with 51 votes and simple majority, and make the Senate a smaller version of the House," Nelson said.

This ticked a lot of people off, because if Dems try to pass reform with 67 votes and include Repubicans -- or even if they try to do it by a simple majority with only Dems -- every vote will count, and a few defections could sink the entire effort.

Turns out, though, that in reality Nelson's position isn't as bad as it sounds, according to clarification sent my way by Nelson spokesman Jake Thompson.

Thompson emails that in fact, Nelson is open to supporting Senator Tom Udall's filibuster reform plan, which was introduced yesterday, as "a starting point." He adds that Nelson recognizes that "clearly the Senate is dysfunctional and too often dilatory tactics are used to obstruct it from working for the American people."

What's more, Thompson says, Nelson isn't completely ruling out supporting doing reform by a simple majority, which may be necessary if Dems can't reach a deal with the GOP. When I asked whether this is something Nelson could support, Thompson told me: "Americans want Congress to work together, so the bipartisan work underway on filibuster reform won't be helped by saying what he might do if it fails."

That's better than yesterday. Nelson isn't willing to say yet that he is open to supporting filibuster reform by a simple majority, but chiefly because he's worried it will scuttle bipartisan nominations. And he is not ruling it out.

"He also strongly supports open debate and has a clear record voting against obstruction, delay and political gamesmanship," Thompson continues.

I'd say this is moderately encouraging. Nelson supports fostering open debate in principle, which is what the Udall proposal does, and he may support the proposal itself, perhaps even if a simple majority vote is required to pass it. He just wants bipartisan negotiations to be given a chance. You can't be sure where Nelson will end up in the end, of course, but for now, this is an improvement, because again, every vote is going to count.

By Greg Sargent  | January 6, 2011; 4:19 PM ET
Categories:  Senate Dems, Senate Republicans, filibuster  
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Comments

Greg: "You can't be sure where Nelson will end up in the end, of course"

But you can be sure he's most likely going to be the 2012 version of Blanche Lincoln.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | January 6, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

"He...has a clear record voting against obstruction, delay and political gamesmanship,"

Really? Can I get a witness?

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

OT, but seriously humorous:

They had to go read that danged Constitution and all....

" Two House Republicans have cast votes as members of the 112th Congress, but were not sworn in on Wednesday, a violation of the Constitution on the same day that the GOP had the document read from the podium.

The Republicans, incumbent Pete Sessions of Texas and freshman Mike Fitzpatrick, missed the swearing in, but watched it on television from the Capitol Visitors Center.

"That wasn't planned. It just worked out that way," said Fitzpatrick at the time, according to local press on hand, which noted that he "happened to be introducing Texas Congressman Pete Sessions while glad-handing his supporters in the Capitol Visitor Center that he secured for them when the House swearing in began."

There is no provision in the Constitution for a remote swearing-in by television.

This is amusing, of course, but the error has procedural implications. The House Rules Committee today was preparing the Republicans' health care repeal bill, but had to abruptly adjourn -- Sessions was the member who offered the motion to constitute the Rules Committee, but he hadn't been sworn in at the time.

Only those members who are sworn in are allowed to conduct official business.

There's some question about how far reaching this error might turn out to be. Because the House held a vote to approve new rules for the 112th Congress yesterday, the vote included two Republicans, Sessions and Fitzpatrick, who weren't able to vote. I'm not an expert on House procedures, but apparently Dems could argue that all business conducted with votes from Sessions and Fitzpatrick are void, and force Republicans to, as Roll Call put it, "restart the entire process of opening the new Congress."

This would not only be embarrassing for the new GOP majority, it would also delay the vote on health care repeal."

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2011_01/027417.php

Posted by: suekzoo1 | January 6, 2011 4:47 PM | Report abuse

OH come on. If the Dems can have a President who wasn't born here, surely Republicans can have a few Congressmen who aren't "technically" Congressmen...right?

Kidding... birthers are nuts!

Posted by: outsider6 | January 6, 2011 4:59 PM | Report abuse

There is no provision in the Constitution for a remote swearing-in by television.
-----------------------------------------------------
This is the first derivative of an actual swearing in. Watching other people getting sworn in. Bwahahaha!!!

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | January 6, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

That's some funny stuff about those two Republicans.

They were at a fundraiser while the official swearing in was happening.

What tools!

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 6, 2011 5:12 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if Nelson, along with the Cornhusker kickback, received assurances from the Democratic Party that they would provide an endless spigot of money for his (failed) 2012 reelection bid.  It'll be interesting to see the reaction here as Barry and the DNC squash any "more and better" primary opponents.  

Posted by: TrollMcWingnut | January 6, 2011 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Wow! So the Democrats might just attempt to pass a meaningless "reform" of the Senate, if they can water their already meaningless proposal down enough to suit Ben Nelson. Meanwhile the Republicans completely rewrite House rules to allow everything they like, prohibit everything they don't like, and make the opposition party, if there were one, powerless to do anything. Can't wait to get my next fundraising call from the DSCC, DCCC or DNC.

Posted by: AlanSF | January 6, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

"I wonder if Nelson, along with the Cornhusker kickback, received assurances from the Democratic Party that they would provide an endless spigot of money for his (failed) 2012 reelection bid. It'll be interesting to see the reaction here as Barry and the DNC squash any "more and better" primary opponents.

Posted by: TrollMcWingnut"

You know, if Republicans didn't filibuster everything that moved, then you wouldn't need 60 votes and Nelson's vote wouldn't have mattered and...

*sigh* I've lost you haven't I?

SEAN HANNITY RULEZ!!!

Posted by: DDAWD | January 6, 2011 5:23 PM | Report abuse

DDAWD,

I would agree.  Nelson is a risk because of Republicans.  And Real Democrats looooove Nelson.

Posted by: TrollMcWingnut | January 6, 2011 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Good use of the lingo, though. I'm sure Palin is going winky crazy.

Also, Democrats got rid of the Cornhusker Kickback. It was the Republicans who wanted to keep it in.

Posted by: DDAWD | January 6, 2011 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Greg,

Wasn't Ben Nelson one of The Gang Of Fourteen that agreed to defeat Democratic Filibusters, when Bush was in the White House?

I believe he then voted for cloture on Bush nominees, and called for straight up or down votes.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 6, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Sue:

Here is the title from Ryan Grim HuffPo:

"Two House Republicans Missed Swearing In While At A Fundraiser In The Capitol, Violating Constitution On Day It Was Read"

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/06/two-house-republicans-vot_n_805423.html

A parable regarding the state of American politics. Only true.

Posted by: wbgonne | January 6, 2011 5:34 PM | Report abuse

There is no provision in the Constitution for a remote swearing-in by television.
-----------------------------------------------------
This is the first derivative of an actual swearing in. Watching other people getting sworn in. Bwahahaha!!!

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | January 6, 2011 5:03 PM
.....................

Republicans are allowed to do that, because they have magical TV sets, that allow them to perform remote miracles.

Recall when Senate Majority Frist(R) diagnosed Terri Schiavo as being alive and well, just by looking at TV reports?

Posted by: Liam-still | January 6, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

We need securitized swearing in, so we can lay bets on who shows up.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Y'all are killin' the interwebs today! Cheers!

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 6, 2011 5:46 PM | Report abuse

OT, but I just caught this. Speaker Boehner is going to have a LOOOONNNNGGGGG two years with the RWNJs!

http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/01/06/5778682-boehner-reacts-to-birther-outburst

Posted by: Michigoose | January 6, 2011 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of bets, you can get some really good deals on the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee on intrade. I don't think anyone is at 20%

Posted by: DDAWD | January 6, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

But in the real world, U.S. plans to send 1,400 more Marines to Kandahar.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 6, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/01/06/5778682-boehner-reacts-to-birther-outburst

Speaker Boehner is going to have a LOOOONG two years with the RWNJs!!

:-)

Posted by: Michigoose | January 6, 2011 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I disagree, Greg. I think Dems would do well to ignore Nelson. Weakening a bill for his benefit gave them the health care mess.

Posted by: Alex3 | January 6, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Sorry for the double. . .

Posted by: Michigoose | January 6, 2011 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Old Weepy is A Profile In Jello.

" Williams: I'm curious as to how much responsibility you feel specifically because of something that happened this morning. During the reading of the Constitution, Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey, was reading a portion of the document, interrupted by someone who heckled from within the chamber. It was to express doubt over the president's American citizenship. Provided you believe the president is an American citizen, you've got 12 members co-sponsoring legislation that does about the same thing, it expresses doubt. Would you be willing to say, "This is a distraction, I've looked at it to my satisfaction. Let's move on"?

Boehner: The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there. That's good enough for me.

Williams: Would you be willing to say that message to the 12 members in your caucus who seem to either believe otherwise or are willing to express doubt and have co-sponsored legislation?

Boehner: Brian, when you come to the Congress of the United States, there are 435 of us. We're nothing more than a slice of America. People come, regardless of party labels, they come with all kinds of beliefs and ideas. Uh it's, it's the melting pot of America. It's not up to me to tell them what to think."

.............................

So in other words, Old Weepy, if some of your majority start sponsoring legislation that denies The Holocaust, or claims that 9/11 was a Inside Job by the American Government, you will just go along with them?

Posted by: Liam-still | January 6, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

We need securitized swearing in, so we can lay bets on who shows up.
-----------------------------------------------------
Good idea! If you can't fight Wall Street, we might as well join them.

Then we could create NoShow Default Swaps and sell to each other to gin up even more betting activity.

Posted by: 12BarBluesAgain | January 6, 2011 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I just love the irony of a guy named Sessions, missing the first Session.

There is the makings of an Abbott and Costello skit in that bit of irony. Who's in Session...............

Posted by: Liam-still | January 6, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

@ Boehner-

"It's not up to me to tell them what to think."

Profile in Courage.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 6, 2011 6:04 PM | Report abuse

"It'll be interesting to see the reaction here as Barry"

I have to ask you a question, because I really don't understand this use of the president's childhood nickname as some kind of derogative--and I have seen it often. From a psychological viewpoint, what is that about to you? Why do you think calling him by a nickname bestowed on him by other small children demeans him in some way?

It's a serious question -- I am completely mystified. It's kind of like calling Mitt Romney 'Mitty.' what's the point?

Posted by: fiona5 | January 6, 2011 6:04 PM | Report abuse

"Who's in Session..............."

I dunno but I bet he has a wide stance.

Posted by: Ethan2010 | January 6, 2011 6:09 PM | Report abuse

"I have to ask you a question, because I really don't understand this use of the president's childhood nickname as some kind of derogative--and I have seen it often. From a psychological viewpoint, what is that about to you? Why do you think calling him by a nickname bestowed on him by other small children demeans him in some way?

It's a serious question -- I am completely mystified. It's kind of like calling Mitt Romney 'Mitty.' what's the point?

Posted by: fiona5"

It's a white power thing. They think that they have "control" over Obama by calling him by the name that they choose rather than his own name.

Just live with it. To deal with Conservatives is to deal with racists. I've stopped letting that bother me.

Posted by: DDAWD | January 6, 2011 6:10 PM | Report abuse

All, Happy Hour Roundup posted:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2011/01/happy_hour_roundup_160.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | January 6, 2011 6:25 PM | Report abuse

"I have to ask you a question, because I really don't understand this use of the president's childhood nickname as some kind of derogative--and I have seen it often. From a psychological viewpoint, what is that about to you? Why do you think calling him by a nickname bestowed on him by other small children demeans him in some way?

It's a serious question -- I am completely mystified. It's kind of like calling Mitt Romney 'Mitty.' what's the point?"

As I've said before, and you may not have seen it, it's because BushHitler McHaliburton was taken.  Now, if you ask Ethan, Liam, DDAWD and Cao, among others, it's because I am a racist.

Also, I think Romney's nick is Mittens.  

Posted by: TrollMcWingnut | January 6, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Yes, calling him Barry is your subliminal way of calling him boy, since it was a nickname given to him, when he was a schoolboy.

If you did not always call him Barry, and occassionally come up with some other creative name, or even an occassional reference to him as The President, I would cut you some slack; but since you always refer to him as Barry, it clearly is your not so well disguised way of calling him an Uppity..... Boy.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 6, 2011 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Of course Liam, how could it not be? I'm interested why you felt the need to comment though. You have called me a racist for this In the past. Did you think I had forgotten?

Posted by: TrollMcWingnut | January 6, 2011 7:47 PM | Report abuse

I've heard more double talk from Senators on filibuster reform than on any other issue.

On the one hand Senators are loathe to give up the immense power that individual Senators can wield by filibustering or threatening to filibuster legislation or confirmation of a nomination.

On the other hand Democratic Senators complain about the Republicans' obstructionist filibustering tactics.

Only Senator Harking has been a consistent supporter of filibuster reform. So I'm not holding my breath that anything will come of this latest reform effort.

My advice to Dems: If you're not serious about meaningful reform drop the idea. We don't need any more window dressing reforms that don't work as intended.

Posted by: billeisen1 | January 7, 2011 5:49 AM | Report abuse

Of course Liam, how could it not be? I'm interested why you felt the need to comment though. You have called me a racist for this In the past. Did you think I had forgotten?

Posted by: TrollMcWingnut | January 6, 2011 7:47 PM
...................

Apparently you do not keep track of even your most recent gibberish. Take a look at it. You brought my name into the conversation, and a few minutes later you are puzzled as to why I responded.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 7, 2011 12:06 PM | Report abuse

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