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No Farewell to the Filibuster, Sadly

Thursday afternoon, Max Baucus, by now the world-famous chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, predicted that all 60 Democrats and maybe more than one Republican would vote for the health-care reform bill that he, Harry Reid and a few others are preparing for the Senate floor. It might just be an idle boast. And it’s nowhere close to the 80 votes Obama said he wanted to attract for health-care reform when he inaugurated the effort. But it is yet another indication that, though as of Thursday they are allowed to, Democratic leaders aren’t planning on using reconciliation, a parliamentary procedure under which the bill would require only 50 votes to pass but would also complicate the policy and the politics.

Reconciliation is a weapon the Democratic leadership wanted to brandish in case moderates refused to get on the health-care reform train. Since the summer -- the low ebb of the effort -- Democratic leaders have rediscovered their confidence, and responsible commentators are now speaking as though a successful bill is inevitable. Reconciliation, it seems, might be the weapon that’s never used. I hear those are the best kind.

Indeed, the only reason to decry this news, it seems to me, is that using reconciliation to pass a major reform would have undermined the -- let’s face it, bizarre -- institution of the filibuster, a quirk of Senate procedure that, before the threshold for breaking one dropped from a two-thirds vote to a three-fifths vote in 1975, the minority exercised with far more discretion. Too bad. I guess we’ll have to wait for a messy judicial nomination fight to bring the filibuster back into the firing line.

By Stephen Stromberg  | October 16, 2009; 12:04 PM ET
Categories:  Stromberg  | Tags:  Stephen Stromberg  
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Comments

How many times did the republics (sic) use reconciliation to push through things, and in the middle of the night at the same time.

Posted by: mtravali | October 16, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Two things, first why hasn't anyone brought up the question of whether the Blue Dogs Democrats are going to side with Republicans in preventing an end to a filibuster when a health care bill comes to the floor? Harry Reid should force these turncoat Democratic senators into the open. I think the repercussions would be swift from the public and Democrats in particular. Secondly why is it that the news media regards automatic filibusters by Republicans as a standard operating procedure as if this supermajority has always been necessary for every bill? I seem to remember the absolute fit the Republicans had when Democrats threatened to filibuster some judicial appointments by Bush; they threatened to do away with the filibuster, the so-called nuclear option. But when the Republicans became the minority party every bill was to be filibustered. Democrats never routinely did this as the minority party during the Bush years.

Posted by: TRosenstein | October 16, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps the voting public will indirectly bring back the filibuster after their pockets get raided and they put these socialists out of office.

Posted by: millertek | October 16, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

The Dem arm twisting needs to apply to only 5 Senators to hold them in line--and likely only one twist on Max Baucus will be sufficient. If this fails, then the Dems will use 'Reconciliation' to pass a bill with 50 votes, plus Joe Biden breaking the tie.

This is eminently doable. The House Bill has several versions all of which include a public option, and the markup will fly easily thru the Senate.

I am very encouraged.

Posted by: LeftGuy | October 16, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

The RepublicanTs should use a new party symbol - Elephants aren't right because they have great memories.

It seems that RepublicanTs forget easily BUSHIE politics of reconciliation.

RepublicanTs employed the same procedure to pass major Bush agenda items
– The 2001 Bush Tax Cuts
– The 2003 Bush Tax Cuts
– Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005
– The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005
- Opening the Arctic National Wildlife for drilling.

Their ONE_SIDED memories and all out POLITICKING IS DISGUSTING.

DEMS have the POWER _ use it losers

Posted by: kare1 | October 16, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

If there were 40 or 41 Democrats holding up a Republican proposal, the Republicans would arrange for their Supreme Court to rule that the Constitution specifies a simple majority vote to pass legislation, and that the Senate did not have the right to on its own change that to 60 votes.

Posted by: jimk8mr | October 16, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

I don't trust any of those clowns working on this from any party. This is why....The president faces opposition for broken promises to the anti-war and homosexual activist communities. He faces opposition for his determination to break a "no tax increase" burdening families with health care reform, as well as cap-and-trade legislation, not to mention bailouts, stimulus, and budget concerns.
He's promised a public option for the uninsured, but then said it would not be required for final passage.
He's promised to win the "right" war in Afghanistan but is wavering on his own military adviser's request for resources.
He's promised to close Gitmo, it sits open today.
He's promised to create millions of jobs and not allow the unemployment to exceed 8%, but today its at nearly 10% nationally.
He's promised to be the most transparent president in history, yet conducting the final rounds of talks for health care reform entirely behind closed doors.
He's promised to put all legislation on the Internet for at least five days before he signs it into law but has not done this on any of the legislation he's signed in the first year of his administration.

They are pushing through a bill that has not even been writen yet.

Posted by: rainman2 | October 16, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

What Kare1 said!

Public option! Do it!

Posted by: thebobbob | October 16, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse


A public plan can offer the same benefits for 15-20% less dollars than insurance companies charge. Many large corporations and groups pay for health care by "self funding" and hire a claims administration company. They are not buying insurance but are spreading their risk for health care needed through their very large populations or risk pools. This is how their cost of care is determined, by use, not by uncontrolled administrative, profit and stock inflation charges. These savings can be used to buy more care and/or cover more people.

Insurance companies limit access to care through pre-existing condition exclusions and other administrative limitations, excessive co-payments and deductibles. These denials and diversions all increase insurance company profits, while reducing your access to the care you need.

Insurance companies are rationing your care. Insurance companies are spending millions lobbying congress trying to stop a public option that would eliminate some of their profits. Their monopolistic hold on the marketplace must be ended with a public option.

The fight is on with the insurance companies as they try to save their profits versus our needs.
CEO Health care administration.

Posted by: tideman1 | October 17, 2009 12:00 AM | Report abuse

The whole cloture thing has been turned on its head. The cloture rule is in place to break a filibuster, not prevent one. Most of the business of Congress is done behind closed doors, off the public record, and out of the public eye. A filibuster takes place on the Senate Floor and is recorded in the Congressional Record.

I think it's about time, Mr. Reid grows some nads and force the Republicans to filibuster. Let them state for the record why legalized extortion rackets should run our health care system!

Posted by: risejugger | October 17, 2009 2:25 AM | Report abuse

The RepublicanTs should use a new party symbol - Elephants aren't right because they have great memories.

It seems that RepublicanTs forget easily BUSHIE politics of reconciliation.

RepublicanTs employed the same procedure to pass major Bush agenda items
– The 2001 Bush Tax Cuts
– The 2003 Bush Tax Cuts
– Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005
– The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005
- Opening the Arctic National Wildlife for drilling.

Their ONE_SIDED memories and all out POLITICKING IS DISGUSTING.

DEMS have the POWER _ use it losers

Notice all of the above had to do with giving taxpayers their own money back. Not driving us all into red. What planet does the writer live on?

Posted by: mgrantham2 | October 17, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Two things, first why hasn't anyone brought up the question of whether the Blue Dogs Democrats are going to side with Republicans in preventing an end to a filibuster when a health care bill comes to the floor? Harry Reid should force these turncoat Democratic senators into the open. I think the repercussions would be swift from the public and Democrats in particular. Secondly why is it that the news media regards automatic filibusters by Republicans as a standard operating procedure as if this supermajority has always been necessary for every bill? I seem to remember the absolute fit the Republicans had when Democrats threatened to filibuster some judicial appointments by Bush; they threatened to do away with the filibuster, the so-called nuclear option. But when the Republicans became the minority party every bill was to be filibustered. Democrats never routinely did this as the minority party during the Bush years.

**********************

That kind of thinking is part of the problem not the solution. Just because one wears a hat called Democrat or Republican does not mean they loose their thought process.

Hopefully, others will follow suit and do whats right for the COUNTRY ,not just what the bobble heads of the party wants.

Posted by: frankn1 | October 19, 2009 6:37 AM | Report abuse

I believe the Senate, impose such restrictions as the filibuster, (senators have the right to establish rules of conduct) to produce an inordinate number of disputes, illogical ideological insensitivity displays, etc., as a means to be more conducive to corporate America causes, than citizen America causes.

These rules have nothing to do with the expedient completion of their constitutional duties. From all appearances they delay this responsibility. I believe this has been illuminated by the current debate on healthcare reform. Thanks to the internet's abilities, we citizens now have at our disposal a font of information, once held as close to the chest as possible by senators. Their campaign donor lists and amounts being the most telling. This ability educates we citizens about one very important element a senator should possess. Character exemplified by honesty.

The senate corporate sponsors have publicly endeavored to put healthcare reform well out of the reach of reconcilation. Ben Nelson, a democrat, proclaimed that healthcare reform would lack legitimacy unless passed by a senate super-super majority of 80 votes. Many other colorful efforts by various democrat and republican senators distance this reform from conciliation.

Senators, who are spectacularly attached to private healthcare entities, by their acceptance of millions of dollars in campaign funds, rely on the rules to provide an escape route when conflicts of this magnitude arise. This route, avoiding conciliation, allows the senators to require a super majority of votes on legislation their corporate sponsors wants to reject. Legal, yet immoral and cowardly.

This is my opinion, for all I know the democrat senate finance committee chairman Baucus was not in the least influenced by the use of private healthcare representatives to construct his proposal, hiring a former executive of Wellpoint Healthcare as his chief healthcare advisor, and the millions of dollars Baucus has received in campaign funds from private insurance business, when he voted twice to kill a public option. Perhaps Baucus truly had the health and welfare of we citizens at mind when he rejected the public option. Perhaps.

Posted by: wtmbilly | October 19, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I actually liek the filibuster. But the way it was till the Reagan years: the Senator who calls it talks the whole time. No breaks to sleep; no restroom breaks; no meals; etc. At least that showed conviction.

The way the rules have been changed, it is no longer a filibuster; it is a declaration of disagreement with no consequences.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | October 19, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately for your fantasy, sir, it is quite clearly stated in the Constitution that each house of Congress may establish it's own rules.

Art. I Sec. 5 Par. 2:
Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.

+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+

If there were 40 or 41 Democrats holding up a Republican proposal, the Republicans would arrange for their Supreme Court to rule that the Constitution specifies a simple majority vote to pass legislation, and that the Senate did not have the right to on its own change that to 60 votes.

Posted by: jimk8mr | October 16, 2009 3:21 PM

Posted by: rmlwj1 | October 19, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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