Potemkin Filibuster Reform

For your convenience, I’ll highlight what makes the proposed McCain/Levin filibuster “reform” (sic) worse than useless:

— Redundant filibusters, like the filibuster on the motion to proceed, and the multiple filibusters on conference reports, would be eliminated.

— If the minority leader and majority leader agree, the time it takes to vote to break a filibuster could be sped up from two days to two hours.

— More presidential nominees would qualify for fast-track consideration, unless a senator objected.

— The minority party would be guaranteed at least two amendments.

Point two is particularly priceless — “filibusters will proceed only in circumstances where the minority party wants them.” Yeah, that will solve everything!

Udall’s reform proposal isn’t great, but it moves the ball forward, and hopefully he has the votes. As Ezra says, McCain/Levin is just a diversion that would probably be worse than doing nothing.

54 comments on this post.
  1. jeer9:

    The idea that the senate dems would significantly reform the filibuster is about as realistic as the demand that Obama push for the public option or that Polanski be extradited. Was never going to happen.

  2. James E Powell:

    The only way the filibuster ends is if the right-wingers end it. The filibuster, like almost all of the veto/choke-points in our system, is designed to prevent democratic majority rule.

  3. sleepyirv:

    I look forward to the Senate Dems tinkering with the filibuster to marginal effect only to have the GOP to completely revoke it when they gain back control.

    Charlie Brown only had the ball yank away from 50 or so times. I wish the Democrats had that sort of learning curve.

  4. c u n d gulag:

    Someone get me a copy of Bartlette’s Quotations!

    What did Einstein say about the definition of “insanity?”

    Oh, wait, never mind.
    I remembered it.

  5. Semanticleo:

    Well, he did say that the difference between genius and stupidity, is that genius has it’s limits.

  6. joe from Lowell:

    While the idea that you would post-facto declare any reform not to be “significant” is was getting 1:7 odds in Vegas.

  7. joe from Lowell:

    “Ends,” maybe.

    “Weakened,” not so much.

  8. joe from Lowell:

    only to have the GOP to completely revoke it when they gain back control.

    You think the vast majority of GOP Senators – the ones who actually use the filibuster to significant effect – are going to get rid of something that has been their primary mechanism of exerting power over the last four years, and that empowers individual Senators?

    That does not seem obvious to me.

  9. Anonymous:

    While the idea that you would pre-event defend the dem party line is about 1:1000 in Vegas.

  10. joe from Lowell:

    Looking at these comments, I have to ask: am I the only who noticed that there are four Democrats engaged in the bipartisan talks, and 51 willing to vote for Udall’s reform?

  11. joe from Lowell:

    Actually, the Dem Party Line is the 51 votes for the Udall package.


  12. jeer9:

    That was me.

  13. joe from Lowell:

    I thought it was JenBob.

    You have become indistinguishable.

  14. jeer9:

    I keep mistaking you for Lanny Davis.

  15. joe from Lowell:

    I think your poor judgement has been sufficiently well-established that you don’t need to keep pointing it out like that.

  16. Davis X. Machina:

    They don’t mean it, though. You can tell. All that matters is that they mean it.

  17. swearyanthony:

    No. They will revoke it with a 2y expiry to go back to how it was, just in case. And enough of the useless Senate Dems will play along.

  18. LosGatosCA:

    “Worse than useless” is a trademark of the GOP caucus in the House and cannot be used to describe anything or anyone in the US Senate.

    “Worth a bucket of warm shit” is also take, by the Office of the Vice President.

    “Evil and Stupid” all rights reserved by the GOP majority on the Supreme Court.

    So the Senate will have to come up with something entirely new to describe their public political mutual masturbations.

  19. swearyanthony:

    I will wait to see those 51. Even without Lieberman, there’s enough grandstanding idiots to sink this.

  20. tonycpsu:

    Yeah, but that was 51 before this newer, shittier deal emerged. It’s pretty much a given that some bipartisan-curious Dems are going to start supporting McCain/Levin instead. It’s a pretty safe bet that the final product that gets 51 votes (all from Democrats, natch) will be a lot closer to McCain/Levin than Merkley/Udall — in other words, the usual “negotiating with themselves” that we’ve come to expect from the blue team.

  21. joe from Lowell:

    What do you mean “before?” Udall’s statement is from yesterday.

  22. tonycpsu:

    I hereby move that McCain/Levin be referred to as McLevin’ from now on, so that the sincerity and seriousness of the proposal can be adequately expressed.

  23. tonycpsu:

    Don’t be obtuse. Of course taking the whip count the day a counterproposal comes out means you’re getting an inflated number, since nobody’s had a chance to read and get behind McLevin’ yet.

  24. joe from Lowell:

    Don’t be obtuse.

    Don’t be a dick. I asked you a question, and you can answer it or not. No need for the tantrum.

  25. joe from Lowell:

    Also, you don’t typically announce your whip count unless they are actual, committed votes.

  26. tonycpsu:

    Committed votes aren’t committed until they’re recorded. You know how congress works well enough to know this.

  27. Walt:

    “bipartisan-curious” is fucking funny.

  28. LosGatosCA:

    Harry Reid captured the concept well when describing Specter’s pre-conversion voting reliability:

    “He’s always with us when we don’t need him.”

    That pretty much describes most senators on any tough Democratic sponsored vote. Unless they can be part of a safe, protected herd, their vote can’t be counted on until it’s cast. Senators like Kennedy, Wellstone, Feingold, some others over the years excepted of course.

  29. efgoldman:

    FWIW, I have just emailed my said-to-be-wavering Senator (Jack Reed, RI). I decided calling McLevin “a piece of shit” probably wouldn’t be politic, but I think my message was clear,

  30. Snarki, child of Loki:

    “So the Senate will have to come up with something entirely new to describe their public political mutual masturbations.”

    Entirely new? In the hidebound Senate? You jest!

    No, just the same old Soggy Biscuit, with (mostly) the same old players.

  31. joe from Lowell:

    This call to wait and see would be a lot more respectable if you weren’t assuming that the bipartisan proposal was a done deal.

  32. joe from Lowell:

    Just to reiterate where we are:

    We have Mark Udall saying he has 51 votes.

    We have a grand total of 4 Democratic Senators engaged in talks, which have produced a proposal that nobody has committed to supporting.

  33. LosGatosCA:

    You have revealed the real reason Evan Bayh left the Senate as such a grump. It was likely that 75th biscuit he ate that did him in.

  34. cpinva:

    so much for “elections have consequences”.

  35. LosGatosCA:

    I think that’s where Udall is, saying he has 51 votes.

    Where I am is eagerly awaiting his explanation on how those 51 votes ended up supporting something else when the kabuki dance / musical chairs sequence ends when the music stops.

  36. Dana Houle:

    Levin is substantively liberal, procedurally conservative:

  37. Semanticleo:

    elecitons have consequences

    For whom? Oh, yeah, The bell tolls for thee...

  38. tonycpsu:

    Thanks for the link. The flaw in Levin’s logic is that the unprecedented use of the filibuster, anonymous holds, etc. is itself a radical departure from procedural norms, and if you don’t do what you can to oppose those radical changes, you can’t really say you’re procedurally conservative.

  39. Semanticleo:

    I think the replication is more, Larry Summers

    But, normally, I give too much credit.

  40. Semanticleo:

    What is your obssesion with Udall? A behavioral tic, or something more pathogenic?

  41. dont be a dick:

    needs more douche

  42. Semanticleo:

    I think Summers hasn’t been given enough credit for his influential importance.

    But the role of douche, hasn;t received enough Media importance, either.

  43. Semanticleo:

    Or, his arteries are sclerotic, and the inflexibility makes him irreperable.

    Time to Primary their asses….

  44. wengler:

    Dissolving the Senate would also work.

  45. mds:

    Except then the state governors would have direct control over their territories.

  46. Pedant:

    Pick up a phone — they don’t give a damn about e-mails.

  47. Brien Jackson:

    “They will revoke it with a 2y expiry to go back to how it was,”

    This, of course, being completely impossible to do. But go on, tell me more about your superior knowledge and perception of American politics.

  48. Green Caboose:

    By contrast, the supposedly moderate GOP senators could be counted on joining the Dems when the GOP didn’t need their votes in order to improve their “vote ratings” for their campaigns back in their blue states, but on critical votes the are solid GOP.

    I admit that the 3 GOP votes for the stimulus package in early 2009 were an exception – Specter and the two from Maine – but even that early exception only served to make the GOP rule even stronger. The backlash from those votes pushed Collins and Snowe completely into the GOP’s hands during the health care voting and forced Specter to switch parties in a vain attempt to save his seat.

    When Scott Brown runs for Kerry’s seat (thanks, Obama – we Dems in competitive states like Colorado LOVE having to fight to keep our should-be-safe Senate seats after you bring one of our Senators into your cabinet) whoever opposes him would be most effective at running ads that list all the GOP filibusters he supported on all the legislation and nominations that are popular in MA -starting with Obamacare. A vote for Brown – or any GOP candidate – is a vote for Mitch McConnell and the policies he supports, regardless of what the candidate claims to support himself.

  49. Tucker (the other one):

    Meh. Fear will keep the local governments in line.

  50. Dana Houle:

    To be clear, Levin doesn’t describe himself as procedurally conservative, that’s my characterization of him.

  51. Matt:

    It’s even worse than this. It denies Reid the ability to fill the amendment tree, meaning McConnell is guaranteed to be able to attach at least two poison pill amendments to any bill. That’s a huge procedural change from current practice where amendments are negotiated as part of a unanimous consent agreement or blocked entirely by the Majority Leader. It’s a really bad deal.

  52. djangermats:

    Fear of these battleship-bloggung posts

  53. Lacking Moral Fiber aka Useless Muthfucka frmly Nemesis:

    Filibuster reform will never happen. At least, not with the current crop of gopers.
    Ya see, with the House gerrymandered for the next decade into gop hands and with the current filibuster abuse by the rw clowns in the Senate, its the gop who are running gummit. Elections no longer have consequences.

  54. LosGatosCA:

    Just to reiterate – those 51 votes did not materialize.

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