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Tuesday Jan 22: Senate filibuster reform - will they or won't they?

For six years, Democrats in the Senate have chafed at an unprecedented abuse of the filibuster by Republicans, who have used the practice to hold up nominees high and low and require a supermajority for virtually every bill. But now that they finally have an opportunity to end much of this delay and abuse, Democrats are instead considering only a few half-measures.

When the Senate returns on Tuesday, it will still technically be in the first legislative day of the session, which means only a simple majority is necessary to change the rules for the rest of the session.

With the support of 51 senators, the rules could be changed to require a “talking filibuster,” forcing those objecting to a bill to stand and explain their reasons, at length. The current practice of routinely requiring a 60-vote majority for a bill through a silent objection would end, breaking the logjam that has made the chamber a well of inefficiency and frustration.

Several younger senators, led by Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Udall of New Mexico, say that if pressed, a majority of the Senate would support their plan for the talking filibuster. But older senators aren’t so sure, and have reportedly persuaded Harry Reid, the majority leader, to back off the idea. With the experience of having been in the minority themselves, these Democrats are fearful of losing a powerful tool should Republicans ever return to power in the chamber.

That would squander a moment for change. Supermajorities were never intended to be a routine legislative barrier; they should be reserved for the most momentous bills, and the best way to make that happen is to require that objectors work hard for their filibuster, assembling a like-minded coalition and being forthright about their concerns rather than hiding in the shadows or holding up a bill with an e-mailed note.

Currently there are six opportunities to filibuster most bills, and Republicans have exploited them all. Mr. Reid wants to reduce those opportunities and speed things up, primarily by ending the filibuster on motions to proceed to debate on bills.

That change alone could a cut a week of delay on most measures. He also wants to curb filibusters that prevent conference committees from meeting and that hold up some presidential nominations.

A faster-moving Senate would be useful, but that should not be the only goal. The best way to end the Senate’s sorry history of inaction is to end the silent filibuster, forcing lawmakers to explain themselves if they want to block legislation supported by the majority.

by Anonymousreply 2001/25/2013

Let's hope that Harry Reid and other Democratic Senators don't sell us out. This has been a hallmark of the Republican plan to thwart Obama for the past four years. It's time for the Democratic Senators to walk it the way they talk it. Otherwise, it will be four more years of obstructionism.

by Anonymousreply 101/22/2013

They had better... or it's going to be a loooooong two years.

by Anonymousreply 201/22/2013

They won't, both sides love manipulating the filibuster. The Repugs love gridlock, and the Dems secretly love it because it gives them cover to sellout to the 1%. Two sides of the same coin.

by Anonymousreply 301/22/2013

I doubt if it will pass. Right now, it seems like a viable solution because of obstructionism, but this could bite us in the ass when the Senate changes in the future.

Other things that won't pass: Insider trading prohibitions, term limits for senators and/or representatives, and political action committee finance transparency.

by Anonymousreply 401/22/2013

(rolling eyes at R3)

by Anonymousreply 501/22/2013

High-level negotiations over changing the Senate filibuster are reaching a critical phase as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to prolong the behind-the-scenes talks to see if he can avoid overhauling the rules with only Democratic votes.

Reid is still weighing whether to change the filibuster rules with 51 votes, rather than 67 votes, if he cannot reach a bipartisan deal with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to pare back the use of the potent stalling tactic. The two leaders met Tuesday morning and then plan to brief their respective caucuses at party lunches in the afternoon.

That 51-vote move — dubbed by critics as the “nuclear option” — has never been successfully accomplished on the first day of a new Senate because of fears it could create a precedent exploited by future majorities to easily change rules designed to give the minority party tremendous power to block legislation.

[bold]Tuesday morning, Reid announced he would use a circuitous procedural maneuver to extend the first legislative day of the session for potentially several more days by recessing the chamber, rather than adjourning.[/bold] That would preserve his right to use the 51-vote option to change the rules — which supporters call the “constitutional option” — and give him leverage in his back-channel talks with McConnell.

[more at link]

by Anonymousreply 601/22/2013

[quote]Let's hope that Harry Reid and other Democratic Senators don't sell us out.

They don't have the balls to do what needs to be done.

by Anonymousreply 701/22/2013

I am worried about Harry Reid.

He looked frail and weak at the inauguration. Either he's sick or this is really taking a toll on him....

by Anonymousreply 801/22/2013

Update?

by Anonymousreply 901/22/2013

Reid delayed the vote.

[quote]Senate Democrats announced on Tuesday that they are still pushing filibuster reform, but are opting to negotiate with Republicans rather than act alone.

more at link

by Anonymousreply 1001/22/2013

The Democrats of this era like to open these discussions with a compromise. They still haven't learned that you save the compromise for the end.

by Anonymousreply 1101/22/2013

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are closing in on a deal that would avert the “nuclear option” on the filibuster but would pare back its use in several instances, sources said Wednesday.

No deal is final, sources said, but a bipartisan accord to avert a messy partisan showdown could be announced as soon as Thursday.

The exact contents of the package remain murky, but Reid is expected to win GOP concessions to speed debate during a handful of occasions, including to end filibusters intended to prevent debate from beginning on bills.

Reid (D-Nev.) has been pushing McConnell (R-Ky.) to drop the amount of procedural votes needed to enter a conference with the House, something the two men appear close to agreeing on. Reid has also been demanding that senators stop the practice of extending debate for 30 hours once a Senate filibuster has been defeated. And he’s called for expedited consideration of certain presidential nominations.

In the private talks, McConnell has sought to ensure Republicans get at least two amendments on bills during floor debates, sources say.

[bold]Reid appears to have made some concessions. He had proposed to require senators mounting a filibuster to come up with the 41 votes to do so. Current rules require those trying to defeat a filibuster to find 60 votes. Reid appears to have dropped that proposal in his talks with McConnell, sources say.

And Reid has already dropped the so-called “talking filibuster,” a plan sought by liberals in his caucus and that would require senators to carry out a stalling session on the floor, rather than threaten them.[/bold] Critics in both parties worried that it would virtually eliminate the filibuster.

A deal with McConnell would prevent Reid from taking the precedent-setting move of changing the rules by 51 votes, rather than 67, a move critics dub the “nuclear option” but supporters call the “constitutional option.” Future majorities could cite the precedent to change whatever rules they want, critics fear, eroding the power of the minority.

But Reid has grown furious at what he sees as GOP obstruction, and McConnell has demanded that the majority leader allow the GOP more opportunities to amend legislation.

[bold]A deal would still allow the GOP to filibuster in a number of other situations, including to end debate and prevent an up-or-down vote.[/bold] And 60 votes would still be needed to overcome a filibuster.

by Anonymousreply 1201/23/2013

Reid caves... what a surprise.

Sigh.

by Anonymousreply 1301/24/2013

If one person up there had any courage at all, he should end this silly thing once and for all. There is a sleazy "understanding" between the parties which has reduced the actual filibuster to a threatened filibuster. Somebody needs to call a bluff - make the other side actually do it and watch the deluge of anger rain down on them from across the country.

by Anonymousreply 1401/24/2013

bummer

Do you think Reid, being a Mormon, has some secret they keep threatening to reveal?

by Anonymousreply 1501/24/2013

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have come to a deal on filibuster reform. The deal is this: The filibuster will not be reformed. But the way the Senate moves to consider new legislation and most nominees will be.

“I’m not personally, at this stage, ready to get rid of the 60-vote threshold,” Reid (D-Nev.) told me this morning, referring to the number of votes needed to halt a filibuster. “With the history of the Senate, we have to understand the Senate isn’t and shouldn’t be like the House.”

What will be reformed is how the Senate moves to consider new legislation, the process by which all nominees — except Cabinet-level appointments and Supreme Court nominations — are considered, and the number of times the filibuster can be used against a conference report. You can read the full text of the compromise, which was sent out to Senate offices this morning, here (pdf).

But even those reforms don’t go as far as they might. Take the changes to the motion to proceed, by which the Senate moves to consider a new bill. Reid seemed genuinely outraged over the way the process has bogged down in recent years.

“What the Republicans have done is turn the motion to proceed on its head,” he argued. “It was originally set up to allow somebody to take a look at a piece of legislation. What the Republicans have done is they simply don’t allow me to get on the bill. I want to go to it on a Monday, they make me file cloture, that takes till Tuesday. Then it takes two days for the cloture vote to ‘ripen,’ so now it’s Thursday, and even if I get 60 votes, they still have 30 hours to twiddle their thumbs, pick their nose, do whatever they want. So, I’m not on the bill by the weekend, and in reality, that means next Monday or Tuesday.”

But the deal Reid struck with McConnell doesn’t end the filibuster against the motion to proceed. Rather, it creates two new pathways for moving to a new bill. In one, the majority leader can, with the agreement of the minority leader and seven senators from each party, sidestep the filibuster when moving to a new bill. In the other, the majority leader can short-circuit the filibuster against moving to a new bill so long as he allows the minority party to offer two germane amendment that also can’t be filibustered. Note that in all cases, the minority can still filibuster the bill itself.

[more bullshit at link]

by Anonymousreply 1601/24/2013

Once again, liberal Dems are blaming an apparently unsatisfactory deal - this on the filibuster - on failure or weakness. But what if this is what the Dem leadership really wants? They can whine about Rep obstructionism to their base while not having to step on the toes of their moneyed paymasters by passing actual legislation.

by Anonymousreply 1701/25/2013

U agree wuth R8. Reid looked very frail at the Inaugration. I have the impression he and Mitch McConnell don't get along, and that Chuck Schumer is going to be more prominent.

by Anonymousreply 1801/25/2013

If you look up "wimp" in the dictionary, you will see a picture of Harry Reid.

by Anonymousreply 1901/25/2013

They won't

by Anonymousreply 2001/25/2013
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