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January 03, 2011

Now That It’s Not All That Important, Democrats Are Pretty Excited About Filibuster Reform

Well, as excited as one can be about reforming the filibuster. It’s not the most exciting subject in the world. For proof of this, one need only look at who the NY Times trotted out to sell the latest version of reform….Walter Mondaallllle (sorry, I fell asleep on my keyboard just thinking of Mondale).

But it’s now clear that our reform was insufficient for today’s more partisan, increasingly gridlocked Senate. In 2011, senators should pull back the curtain on Senate obstruction and once again amend the filibuster rules.

Reducing the number of votes to end a filibuster, perhaps to 55, is one option. Requiring a filibustering senator to actually speak on the Senate floor for the duration of a filibuster would also help. So, too, would reforms that bring greater transparency — like eliminating the secret “holds” that allow senators to block debate anonymously.

Our country faces major challenges — budget deficits, high unemployment and two wars, to name just a few — and needs a functioning legislative branch to address these pressing issues. Certainly some significant legislation passed in the last two years, but too much else fell by the wayside. The Senate never even considered some appropriations and authorization bills, and failed to settle on a federal budget for all of next year. Votes on this sort of legislation used to be routine, but with the new frequency of the filibuster, a supermajority is needed to pass almost anything. As a result the Senate is arguably more dysfunctional than at any time in recent history.

Several other liberals are proposing their own versions and rationales for reforming the filibuster.

As a conservative my response is…fine, do it.

Democrats are fighting the last war here. They are still sad that with even 59 or 60 votes they couldn’t get everything they wanted (DREAM Act, Card Check, Cap and Trade, the government option in health care, etc) so now they think they should change the rules.

Here’s why that’s stupid and in fact (at least in the short run) helps Republicans…Democrats can pass any of their base pleasing pet projects and they will only die in the Republican controlled House.

Personally, I’d love to see Democrats go on record for some of those things. More enjoyable would be watching Ben Nelson, Joe Manchin, Jon Tester, Debbie Stabenow, Claire McCaskill, Bob Casey and Jim Webb vote against a good bit of it. At long last the cherished dream of idiots nationwide for bi-partisanship would be achieved.

The other option would be these swing state “moderate” Democrats voting in lockstep with the liberal base…let the GOP TV ads begin!

Additional fun would be provided by the usual wobbly “Republicans” voting yes on some of this. It would be…clarifying and fodder for primaries.

But wait, there’s more! If the Democrats make it easier to achieve cloture, that’s going to make life simpler for Republicans (assuming they take control of the Senate in 2 years).

Other than some nominations that might get through, it seems most of the benefits of filibuster reform, again at least in the short term, accrue to the Republicans.

So go for Democrats, reform the filibuster. We’ll be sure to send you a thank you note for it.


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posted by DrewM. at 01:53 PM

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