Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Filibuster reform now -- or not

By Frank Moraes 

We are on filibuster reform eve. Three weeks ago, Harry Reid recessed the Senate, so when the Senate comes back into session tomorrow, it will still technically be the first day. And so, they can reform the filibuster with a simple majority vote. The question is whether they will. It is looking more and more like the Democrats will do what we can almost always depend upon them doing: folding. If there were a Nobel Prize in being spineless and not standing for anything when it matters, the Democratic Party would have racked up a whole lot of them over the last three decades. But there is no such prize, so all they've racked up is a bunch of losses.

I have two positions on the filibuster: ethical and practical. From an ethical standpoint, I'm against it. The filibuster makes an already ridiculously undemocratic Senate even more undemocratic. This isn't about minority rights; we have the Constitution for that. This is about minority veto power. We should get rid of it for purely ethical reasons.

But there is perhaps an even more compelling practical reason to get rid of it. The Republicans will destroy the filibuster as soon as it is to their advantage. The moment a Democratic minority blocks their legislative agenda, the filibuster will be killed. Any Democrat who thinks otherwise is hopelessly naive. The Republicans play for keeps and when they are in power, they don't fret over the thought that at some time in the future they might not have the filibuster to protect them. Anyway, the Republicans are also whiners. Even with their excessive use of the filibuster, most Senate Republicans think they have been badly abused.

So what's the problem? Well, Harry Reid, a man I have long admired, seems to be set to collapse on filibuster reform. Actually, it is worse than that. Politico reported last Thursday that he no longer supports the "talking filibuster" where senators would have to hold the floor in order to grind the Senate to a halt. So what we are likely to get is a change in the rules that will be useless. But! It will set a precedent so that when the Republicans are in power, they can destroy the filibuster and the Democrats will have absolutely no room to complain.

I still have a little hope. Jeff Merkley, who wrote the main reform plan being discussed, says that he has the votes. So who knows? According to AMERICAblog, not only is Harry Reid wavering, but so are both of my senators, Feinstein and Boxer.

Regardless, write or call your senators. This is really important!

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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  • re:
    >>It is looking more and more like
    >>the Democrats will do what we
    >>can almost always depend upon
    >>them doing: folding

    This is definitely the truth. One thing I've actually admired about the GOP is that they ferociously fight tooth and claw for what they believe in. I recall when George W. Bush first entered the White House. He rammed through his extremist agenda as though he had an overwhelming mandate. The fact he'd lost the popular vote by 530,000 votes never made him waver in the slightest bit.

    By Blogger Marc McDonald, at 7:13 PM  

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