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The World’s Worst Deliberative Body Retains Its Title

[ 153 ] January 24, 2013 |

Filibuster reform is dead. Why? Harry Reid and senior Democrats flat out don’t want it.

Reformers think Reid changed his mind again in December, after a series of amendments to the Defense Authorization bill went awry and he began to worry that a talking filibuster, if not properly managed on the floor, could actually mean no filibuster at all in some cases. Reid said as much to me during our interview. When I asked him why he didn’t go for Merkley’s talking filibuster proposal, he said he’d concluded that it actually does get rid of the 60-vote threshold. He was, instead, pursuing a gentleman’s agreement with McConnell to encourage more talking filibusters.

A second explanation for Reid’s early enthusiasm for reform might be that Reid needed to convince McConnell to strike a deal and that the only way to do that was to scare him a bit. “Whenever you change the rules here,” Reid said, “you have to show the other side you can change them with 51 votes.” It’s the fear of the partisan reforms, in other words, that leads to bipartisan reforms.

Reid still wants to keep Republicans a little scared. He recalled that earlier in the 112th session of Congress, Senate Republicans began filing motions to suspend the rules after their filibusters were broken. “They couldn’t win these votes,” Reid said. ”It just ate up time. I put up with it for awhile and then said no more. I went to the floor, and I said that’s dilatory. The chair said no, it isn’t. I overruled the chair, and now you can’t do that because I set a precedent. I’m capable of doing more of that.”

Oh, Reid wants to keep Republicans scared! If there’s one thing Harry Reid is good at, it’s cowering the Republicans into not using every tool at their disposal, including turning the Senate into a one-chamber government shutdown, in order to do it!

What has really outraged Reid is that Jeff Merkley has called out which Democratic senators are at fault by name:

On a private call with the Bay Area Democrats on Wednesday, Merkley identified Reid as the key person in the talks, and he urged activists to target members of Reid’s leadership team ahead of their meetings next week, according to people on the call. He also characterized Democratic Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Joe Manchin (West. Va.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) as wrestling with his proposal, sources say.

A lot of usual suspects here. Baucus and Feinstein are terrible. Manchin genuinely doesn’t want to see the Democratic agenda pass. Unclear whether Pryor really does either. Disappointing on Leahy and Boxer, but a lot of older Democrats, and this includes Carl Levin and Reid, would rather see nothing happen today than not have the ability to ensure nothing happens when the Democrats next lose the majority.

What’s also clear is that the Democratic Senate caucus is generationally divided, more so than Republicans. Newer senators came into the body at a time of extreme partisanship and a Republican war on the body’s traditions. Older Democrats still want the body to be a genteel place where we can all listen to Trent Lott and John Ashcroft sing and have martinis together after the session. In other words, one generation understands what it takes to win, the other does not.

Basically, what this means is that nothing will get done in the next 2 years because the Senate will continue to get in the way. In 2015, we will have this fight all over again. Merkley, Udall, Warren, and other filibuster reform supporters will have 2 choices. Try to finally convince their senior colleagues (some of whom will retire by then) that change needs to happen for the good of the republic. They’ll probably fail but we might see some more changes of various efficacy. Or the Republicans will win the Senate (I am skeptical of this because I think they will again nominate enough loons that people like Pryor and Begich might hold on a la McCaskill) and hopefully the reformers will join the Republicans in gutting the filibuster once and for all. It’s undemocratic no matter who controls the Senate.

…Tom Harkin with the reality of what Reid’s actions mean:

“He can go out and give wonderful speeches, things like that,” said Harkin. “But with the House in the hands it’s in, and the fact that the Senate, now, you have to have 60 votes to pass anything… well, I daresay that Obama’s package, his very aggressive proposals, will not get very far. They’ll be so watered down that they won’t be recognizable.”

Thanks Harry.

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  • John

    Two points:

    1) Given that Republicans control the House, nothing was going to get done in the next two years, anyway.

    2) I am far from convinced that the Merkley-Udall proposal for talking filibusters would have done much good.

    • Remember also, it changed the numbers from 60 to pass to 41 to block. That’s huge.

      • John

        No, it did not do that.

        • Jameson Quinn

          Though Reid did make this threat and the votes for it existed until Mcconnell threw them a bone.

          • John

            Did he? I’ve always thought this would be a really sensible reform, but I don’t remember seeing anything suggesting it as a real possibility in this round of filibuster reform talk.

            • Quinn’s right, the Reid alternative he proposed if McConnell didn’t agree to a compromise was to flip the numbers from 60 to 41.

              The Merkely-Udall plan maxed out at 20 people needed to hold the floor under the talking filibuster.

      • Greg

        It was floated as an alternative to Merkley-Udall, but there weren’t enough bites.

      • PSP

        Huge for Republicans, if they ever get in the majority again. The Republicans have shown party discipline and will get 41 votes, sol long as they have 41 members. They may need several members less then that, with Democrats switching sides.

        Getting a Democratic minority to hold together like that would be as unlikely as 80 degree weather in Maine tomorrow.

    • JKTHs

      Both of those.

    • mds

      As Professor Loomis says, placing the onus on the obstructive minority by requiring 41 votes to continue debate rather than 60 votes to end debate would have been major. No more letting single Republican senators take turns noting the absence of a quorum, which requires 51 senators to be on hand to answer a quorum call, or the Senate is presumed adjourned. The filibustering side would instead have to keep 41 people around to uphold the filibuster.

      Also, I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention over the past few years, but presidential appointments have also been routinely blocked, regardless of who controlled the House. Clearing out that logjam would have also been extremely useful, especially for federal court appointments.

      • Cols714

        I agree. Making the party blocking the legislation to constantly come up with 41 votes would have been a game changer.

      • John

        It would have been major, but it was not part of the Merkley-Udall proposal.

    • Murc

      Given that Republicans control the House, nothing was going to get done in the next two years, anyway.

      The House votes on appointments, now? When did that happen?

      There’s a judiciary that needs staffing, you know.

      • John

        The agreement actually ought to have a real effect on making appointments easier.

    • Green Caboose

      I understand (1). But was, and is, at stake is the ability of Democratic Presidents to get nominations (Judicial and Executive) confirmed.

      This has never been a problem for GOP Presidents – they can stack the judiciary with people to the right of Robert Bork and there is always a set of Democratic Senators happy to help the process.

      Let’s face it, too many Democrats are fucking wimps.

      • John

        The deal should help with getting nominees confirmed.

  • JKTHs

    I guess that’s the one positive thing that would come from the GOP taking control of the Senate. They wouldn’t hesitate for a second to get rid of the filibuster the moment the Democrats block something that has a decent chance of passing.

  • It’s hard to understand why someone’s love of the Senate (and I believe Reid legitimately loves the Senate in a “I’m sitting at Henry Clay’s desk” sort of way)would allow it’s reputation be destroyed for tradition’s sake. Isn’t its survival more important than one tradition? To paraphrase Lincoln, are all the traditions but one to go unexecuted, and the Government itself go to pieces lest that one be violated?

    Does anyone like Strom Thurmond that much?

    • Trent Lott

      When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years, either.

  • mds

    but a lot of older Democrats, and this includes Carl Levin and Reid, would rather see nothing happen today than not have the ability to ensure nothing happens “keep their powder dry” indefinitely when the Democrats next lose the majority.

    FT, as they say, FY.

    • somethingblue

      Yup.

    • drkrick

      They have to protect their phoney-baloney privileges.

  • I don’t understand why Feinstein doesn’t get a primary challenge. California could do a hell of a lot better.

    • JKTHs

      But her Wikipedia page says she’s “super liberal.” You can’t do much better than that!

      • BoBo Brooks

        I like your Burkean, modest point of view and your research style, would you like to intern for me?

        • JKTHs

          Absolutely. But then again, by offering me this position, you’re making me make myself look bad.

      • John

        That was added to the article a few hours ago. I removed it, because it is nonsense.

        • JKTHs

          In its place you should have put “even the liberal”

    • Richard

      Because she is very popular here. She’s been an institution here. A primary challenge would have zero, let me repeat zero, chance of winning. Plus she just won last November with no primary challenge and almost no Republican challenge. In all likelihood, she will not run for reelection in six years (she would be 85 years old then).

      • DocAmazing

        Because she is very popular with the Party hierarchy here.

        Fxt.

    • Vance Maverick

      My understanding is that our Democratic machine is quite powerful, and prevents plausible challengers from reaching the ballot with any support. The choice last fall was Feinstein and six unfunded eccentrics. (I voted for the one with a vaguely sane soak-the-rich platform, but never heard of him except through the voter information pamphlet.)

    • The real reason is money and fame. Feinstein has a lot of each. This is a tough state to run statewide in unless you have them, and very few people do to the extent she does.

      The biggest disappointment of last year was that she didn’t retire. I was so thrilled when Kindee Durkee stole her entire campaign warchest. Not kidding.

      • I grew up in L.A. Lived there during the Cranston era, however. Never liked Feinstein.

        • Richard

          You’re in the minority. She was a very, very popular major of SF and just barely lost election as governor. She’s a five term US Senator and only one of those elections has been close. Last November, she got more votes than any Senate candidate in the history of the US.

          • John

            Every winning California Senate candidate in a presidential election year is going to get more votes than any Senate candidate in the history of the US.

            • Richard

              Not true. Its only the case where the opposition vote is low If the opposition gets more than 45% of the vote, it wont happen.

              The question posed was why there hasn’t been a strong primary challenge to Feinstein. The reason is obvious. She’s very popular, can raise a ton of money and no primary opponent would stand a chance of beating her.

              • John

                Maybe in theory, but in practice it looks to me like Feinstein broke a record set by Boxer in 2004, who broke a record set by Feinstein in 2000, who broke her own record set in 1992, who broke a record set by Pete Wilson in 1988.

    • S_noe

      I just want to bring up Micky Kaus’s primary run for the LOLs.

    • Because people have basically decided it makes more sense to wait her out and then run for the seat when she retires.

      • What Keynes said applies not only to economics.

  • NonyNony

    It’s undemocratic no matter who controls the Senate.

    Which is exactly why Republicans won’t get rid of it. There’s no way that, given how demographics are going, they are going to get rid of something in such a way that would give the majority more influence in the Senate.

    The best chance to get the Republicans to ditch it passed during the Bush admin, when they threatened the ‘nuclear option’ on Supreme Court nominees and Democrats backed down. If they’d let the Republicans go ahead and nuke it, Reid would probably be ditching the remainder of the filibuster today. But preserving Senate tradition is more important than governing, apparently.

  • Steve S>

    Oh, for the love of Christ, you Green Lantern Clowns are a hoot. Who in their right mind ever thought the Senate would reform itself? What kind of sad sack would waste time advocating for a policy that had approximately zero chance of ever coming to pass?

    • +1

      Never had a chance.

      51 votes my ass

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        Just like the public option. If, somehow, the Senate actually instituted majority rule, we’d quickly discover that, on a huge number of progressive policies, the real problem isn’t the 60th vote, but rather the 50th. The filibuster provides “centrist” Dems with much needed cover.

        • John

          I don’t think that’s really true on a lot of issues. It’s certainly not true on appointments.

    • I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.

      Someone was mean to you. You don’t like that. I get that part.

      • Unless I’m reading a layer of sarcasm into your comment that you didn’t actually intend.

    • Anon21

      You take sort a sort of naively cynical view of the process. I could easily see partisanship trumping institutional loyalty; indeed, I suspect it will do so at some point in the next 10 years.

      • rea

        It will happen as soon as a Republican majority wants to pass something over the opposition of 41 Democrats.

        • Are they really that short-sighted and stupid, to shoot themselves in the foot like that?

          Probably.

    • Sly

      If we wanted to advance an argument that perfectly captures the ideal of democratic accountability and has absolutely no chance of becoming reality, we’d be calling for a constitutional amendment that abolishes the Senate. Changing the procedural rules of the body is a cakewalk by comparison.

  • FlipYrWhig

    Everyone who enjoys bashing Obama for not getting liberal policy enshrined into law should remember that shit like this is absolutely commonplace among Senate Democrats.

  • cpinva

    well, i feel ever so much better now. do these people well & truly not understand the lunatics they’re dealing with? just because a bunch of lunatics elect another lunatic to the senate, doesn’t make them any less the lunatic they are. now, they’re just addressed as “sen. lunatic”.

    perhaps it’s time to primary those older dems, who don’t retire. get some young, fresh, partisan democrats in the senate, the kind who don’t give a shit, if the republicans won’t meet them for cocktails and peanuts, after the senate is adjourned for the day.

    • BigHank53

      While you’re wishing for a plausible primary challenger, don’t forget to ask for a pony, too.

      • JKTHs

        You’re right. As long as they have a D next to their name we should accept them wholeheartedly without exception.

        • You shout feel free to put as little heart into your acceptance as you deem appropriate.

  • Pingback: Which Senators Killed Filibuster Reform and Need a Primary? - Keystone Politics()

  • Scott Lemieux

    I’m puzzled as to why this is Reid’s fault. He didn’t have the votes. The real blame has to go to people like Boxer, Feinstein, and Leahy.

    • See Steve S above.

    • mds

      Well,

      Under the agreement, the minority party will be able to offer two amendments on each bill, a major concession to Republicans.

      reads like handing Senate Republicans a gift in exchange for fuck-all. If it’s all going to be 2009’s immediately-reneged “gentlemen’s agreement” all over again, why change anything?

      Yes, it speeds up the motion to proceed process, so that stalling every last thing doesn’t waste as much legislative time. But given that filibustering the bill itself, and filibustering any hypothetical conference report, remain as easy as ever, so what?

      • John

        The two hours of debate after cloture on nominees is a real concession.

        • mds

          So, as long as a nominee can garner five Republican votes, they can get confirmed faster. If forty-one Republicans continue what they’ve been doing since 2009, on the other hand, the nominees are still blocked. Oh my God, how could Mitch McConnell have possibly been suckered into such a giveaway?

          • John

            For the most part, nominees haven’t been blocked by there not being 60 senators willing to vote for cloture. it’s been that there was a hold, and Reid was slow to push it through, in part because of the amount of time that the 30 hours of post-cloture debate would require, which could only be avoided by unanimous consent.

    • catclub

      Yep, Reid is the face in front of the relatively anonymous group of senior Dems from generally not-very-conservative places.

      Reminds me of how you get the public option when you need:
      McCaskill, Landrieu, Webb, Baucus, Conrad, Pryor and Lieberman
      as your staunch allies in the progressive fight. You don’t.

    • Murc

      I’m puzzled as to why this is Reid’s fault. He didn’t have the votes.

      And it would seem that one of the votes he didn’t have was his own, and that he had no interest in letting the names of the Senators whose votes he didn’t have get out there into the wild where maybe their constituents and other pressure groups could do something about it in the future.

      • Right. It’s clear that Reid doesn’t really support anything stronger. Unless he is giving cover to his senior colleagues.

        • Not terribly surprising: it’s pretty clear that most of the tenured Senate Democrats view Republican “abuse” of the filibuster as the problem, an not the filibuster itself. That’ll change, eventually.

        • It’s clear that Reid doesn’t really support anything stronger.

          It is?

          What Scott said below.

      • Scott Lemieux

        With respect to the proposition that statements made after it was clear that majority support for a proposal doesn’t exist must reflect Reid’s sincere policy preferences, I’m going to vote “no.”

        • Murc

          So my choices are that Reid is either feckless, or a liar.

          Neither of those reflects well on Reid, although the latter would indicate that he does, indeed, not bear the lions share of blame for this.

          • Not a liar!

            (faints)

          • Scott Lemieux

            Reid is either feckless, or a liar.

            You seriously expect the public statements of political leaders to be entirely candid? Not only will you be offended an awful lot, you must not actually want anything to happen. (LBJ should have been honest about his position on civil rights as a Texas senator! Sure he never would have been elected, but lying, heavens to betsy!)

            • And the view that a majority leader who can’t impose his will on the whole of the Democratic Senate caucus must be feckless is…well an interesting view of recent history.

            • Murc

              You seriously expect the public statements of political leaders to be entirely candid?

              Yes. I do. I do not hold my political leaders to a lower standard than I do my neighbors. If anything, I hold them to a higher one.

              Not only will you be offended an awful lot,

              I am, in fact, offended an awful lot. Your point?

              you must not actually want anything to happen.

              I would submit that if the only way anything can get done is by wallowing in rank dishonesty, our system is irrevocably broken and we should seriously consider alternatives.

              • “Yes. I do. I do not hold my political leaders to a lower standard than I do my neighbors. If anything, I hold them to a higher one.”

                With all due respect (and I mean that non-ironically), this is just an incredibly naive view that isn’t remotely workable in the real world, where diplomacy (and really, basic human interaction), requires a certain level of non-candidness as a means to functioning properly.

              • Scott Lemieux

                I would submit that if the only way anything can get done is by wallowing in rank dishonesty, our system is irrevocably broken and we should seriously consider alternatives.

                Please to be citing any democratic leader of a broad coalition who is candid about her positions at all times. To be offended by “lying” that is an obvious necessity of the job is really silly. Major political leaders aren’t just speaking for themselves.

                • Murc

                  Please to be citing any democratic leader of a broad coalition who is candid about her positions at all times.

                  I’m not sure what the point of this question is. I can’t provide an answer to it. The fact that I can’t do so would indicate there is a severe deficiency in our leadership.

                  I’m pretty much not okay with that. I’m never going to be okay with that. I don’t think ‘refusing to settle’ makes me naive.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  The fact that I can’t do so would indicate there is a severe deficiency in our leadership.

                  Well, yes, that’s one way of looking at it. The far more plausible option is that your basis evaluating political leadership is severely deficient.

        • I don’t know if anyone is sincere. I do know that Reid could hold an up or down vote so that the people who support the filibuster had to do it on the record.

          So yeah, this is certainly Reid’s fault to that extent.

          • Making life difficult for some of your more powerful caucus members is generally not a good way to go about building goodwill with your members.

            • Nothing is getting done anyway, so there is no need to make nice. This is very different from 2008, when thay would have been a good argument.

        • But, but, but, Udall said he had 51.

          LMAO

  • jeer9

    Cynicism regarding Senate Dems is never unjustified.

    • Man, all the people who’ve spent so much time arguing that you shouldn’t be cynical about Senate Democrats really have egg on their faces!

      You know, like whatshisname, and that guy with the thing.

      • david

        is whathisname Joe, and that thing Lowell?

  • Jameson Quinn

    Giving up? Fuck that! Clearly we’re not going to get all we want here but the fight isn’t over. Dailykos has the latest, including petitions. Go there, don’t comment here.

  • Hugo Torbet

    In isolated cases, the filibuster rules are an abomination. However, I believe that as a general principle, it is better for the government to enact fewer new laws than more, and that new laws should be carefully conceived. Therefore, as a temper to politics, the filibuster rules are a good.

    • (the other) Davis

      I believe that as a general principle, it is better for the government to enact fewer new laws than more, and that new laws should be carefully conceived.

      Can you give one example of where the filibuster has actually served what you see as this “general principle”?

      Note also: the filibuster applies with equal force to appointments, where your principle does not even apply. As a result, the already-overstretched federal courts are gradually finding themselves with more and more unfilled slots.

      • (the other) Davis

        Just to clarify, I mean an example where the filibuster has actually served to ensure that a law is “carefully conceived.”

        • Malaclypse

          Keep in mind that Hugo believes that the Armed Men of the Fighting Midwest are a check on government tyranny. Wolverines!

          • (the other) Davis

            I’ve obviously lost track of which ‘nyms belong to people who have no interest in reality.

          • Hugo Torbet

            I believe in what?

            • John Protevi

              In this.

              See also.

              • Malaclypse

                Oh sure, be faster, and with the links. Showoff.

                • John Protevi

                  Cf.

            • Malaclypse

              Remember those three million armed heroes in Ohio and Michigan that we perfidious liberals want to confiscate guns from? Protevi spent a lot of time mocking you for it, did you forget?

              • John Protevi

                SIC TRANSIT GLORIA ANTI-IGNORNAMI

              • Hugo Torbet

                You self-identifying “liberals” have a lot of fun amongst yourselves about how the people in the red states don’t believe in evolution, and similar such self-congratulatory stuff, but it would be wise for you to watch how a truly dedicated citizenry mobilizes in support of its interests. If you all had one tenth of the commitment of those you dismiss as “gun nuts”, there probably wouldn’t be a Patriot Act today. There certainly wouldn’t be a Scott Walker.

                It’s really not enough to listen to NPR while you drive your Volvos on the tree-lined streets of your quaint New England towns.

                With that stated, one of the much more important things to watch in all this gun talk is how it will divide union membership and how it will cause many otherwise Democratic leaning voters to support Republican politicians. In fact, I have yet to meet a Teamster who doesn’t own a firearm, with the exception of some who have felony records.

                Why don’t you ask yourselves why a Feinstein would do something which so predictably will erode the power base of the Democratic politicians? This is much more useful than trying to figure out what I believe from a few statements in a few arguments with morons.

                • Malacylpse

                  it would be wise for you to watch how a truly dedicated citizenry mobilizes in support of its interests.

                  We did watch. Obama won. Now you go carry on with your sad little LARPing fantasies.

                • John Protevi

                  This is much more useful than trying to figure out what I believe from a few statements in a few arguments with morons.

                  HOW DARE WE QUOTE HUGO’S OWN WORDS BACK TO HIM! JUST LIKE A LIBERAL. NOW EXCUSE ME WHILE I DRIVE MY VOLVO TO YE OLDE LATTE SHOPPE.

                • Malacylpse

                  A latte? Hugo didn’t get many lattes. He was dug in too deep or moving too fast. His idea of great R&R was cold rice and a little rat meat. He had only two ways home: death, or victory.

                • Njorl

                  You self-identifying “liberals” have a lot of fun amongst yourselves about how the people in the red states don’t believe in evolution, and similar such self-congratulatory stuff.

                  Yes. Yes we do. I suppose we could justify weeping for them also, but, I’d prefer not to do so.

                • Sly

                  Those pussy New Englanders… when they’re not starting revolutions against the largest empire the world has ever known, they’re hurling themselves on top of children to shield them from a gun-toting madman.

                  They clearly need lessons in the martial virtues from some dirt farmer in Real America™.

  • anon

    VOTE HARDER!

  • Reminds me of what the CA Dems plan to do with their super majority

    When Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) was asked what he intended to do with his caucus’ new power, he responded with one word: Nothing.

    • Richard

      There has never been a filibuster rule in the California Assembly or the State Senate so the Democrats have been able to pass anything they wanted, with one exception, for many years given their majority. The exception was the budget which requires a 2/3 majority (its a provision in the State Constitution). Since the Dems now have a 2/3 majority in both houses, they wont need Republican support to pass a budget (and would also have the votes to overturn a gubernatorial veto). But it wont make any difference in passing legislation other than the budget so it really doesn’t give the Dems power to pass new legislation.

      • ‘It reminds me of’ is not nearly equivalent to ‘that’s exactly the same thing’ .

        The common theme isn’t the mechanism it’s the style of the actors. Excuses, excuses, excuses. Followed up by inaction.

        I’m just glad I didn’t have to make it all the way to the first weekend after the inauguration before getting the freezing cold water splashed all over me.

  • shah8

    I have a pessimistic optimism. I think that the Senate will eventually be forced to reform itself or face oblivion as fast-paced events occur within the next two years. I think the modern-day Credit Anstalt event is pretty close to happening. Plenty enough loans for everyone, but no demand. That has meant that their are a number of important states that economies that are completely untenable, no matter how many loans they get. Egypt and Greece, for two. There are a number of important corporations that are getting sketchy, Bumi is a good example of one that has already become radioactive.

    It’s not a matter of if, but when Egypt (the largest and most important) and other states collapses economically and socially, causing knock-on economic effects to their important trade members, and more crucially, to the mercantilist and primary materials exporting countries. And we haven’t begun to talk about Spain or Italy.

    When this happens, there will be need for rapid passing of bills, and the Senate had better not get in the way.

  • The Golden Freedom, which the magnates defended with every bit of chicanery and power they commanded, was the freedom of the few to oppress the many… ~ James A. Michener’s, Poland

    In the novel Poland, Michener describes how the “incredible liberum veto, by which one man in a Seym (parliament) of hundreds could negate and prorogue the entire work of the Seym by merely crying ‘I oppose!’ was a major cause of Poland’s disappearance from the map of Europe”.

    • Richard

      Wasnt the major reason for its disappearance the fact that it was simultaneously invaded by Germany and the Soviet Union who agreed to carve it up among themselves? Dont see how that had anything to do with the liberum veto.

      • He was talking about its previous disappearance – the reason it didn’t exist at the beginning of WWI.

      • He’s talking about the Kingdom of Poland. Prussia, Austria and Russia used the privilege of liberum veto to forestall Poland building up any kind of united defense and then simply carved the place out of existence.

        • Richard

          OK. I’m deficient in my pre WWI Polish history

          • rea

            American history, too–this is how Polish officers ended up fighting in Washington’s army.

            • Richard

              I will concede that my ignorance of pre twentieth century Poland includes the Polish impact on our Revolutionary War.

          • There’s a statue in Central Park commemorating that time they won a war.

        • Hogan

          But it took them three tries to get it right.

          • Njorl

            If they had been a bit more patient about it they could have had a “Partitions of Poland” Jeopardy category.

  • The Senate’s debate rules don’t just empower legislative minorities. Even more so, they empower individual Senators.

    That’s why it’s so hard to change them.

    • Lefty68

      Exactly. With the filibuster and other arcane Senate rules, any individual senator can gum up the works on any bill or nomination and bring it to nearly a dead stop until he gets what he wants. This makes every senator, majority or minority, a big wheel. If the Senate were “more like the House” (God forbid!) and had regular majority rule like almost every other democratic legislature in the world, this power would vanish. Any senator that votes to abolish the filibuster is voting to diminish his own political power.

  • BooMan’s thinking is that this will do little-to-nothing in terms of making it possible to pass legislation, but will make appointments easier.

    Which isn’t chopped liver.

    • Green Caboose

      If Booman is right then the real accomplishment has nothing to do with the filibuster nor with getting nominations approved that the GOP opposes, but does help with getting nominations approved the GOP is okay with.

      Because basically the GOP was using maximum stalling tactics on everything, even unanimous bills, to gum up the Senate.

      If this is the accomplishment then why the hell hasn’t our obviously incompetent PR wing of the Democratic Party been making this a major issue for the last 4 years?

      • rea

        Amazingly, at least with respect to nominations it became a major issue during the GWB years, even though the Republicans had blocked the hell out of Clinton appointments.

      • If this is the accomplishment then why the hell hasn’t our obviously incompetent PR wing of the Democratic Party been making this a major issue for the last 4 years?

        I’m not entirely clear on what you’re asking.

        Why haven’t party PR people put their efforts into talking about district court and sub-cabinet nominees being blocked in the Senate? Why have they, instead, been talking about health care, jobs, and women’s rights?

        Is that the question?

        • Njorl

          That actually highlights an important aspect of Republican strategy. If you intend to screw up the country by obstructing the legislative process, you might as well go all in. The press and the public have a limited capacity for blame, and will be unable to hold all of your malignant activities against you. I think this is related to their strategy of having such monstrous policies that people who here them accurately described think they must be Democratic propaganda.

  • Brent

    I don’t suppose anyone is likely to be too surprised by any of this. I never believed they would manage to do anything too significant anyway. But I will say this: Harry Reid really has no excuse to continue complaining about the minority abusing the filibuster. If it really bothered him as much as he claims, he and his caucus had a chance to do something about it and what they did instead was something very close to nothing at all. If they refuse to do anything to address the problem than they must not really believe its a problem. They are complicit in the status quo.

    • Joshua

      Harry Reid “complains” about it because it riles up the base.

      With the exception of appointments, I am sure he is more than fine with it. It gives him cover to not push through stuff that would take him off the invite list of many fine cocktail parties.

  • Greg

    Since we weren’t going to get anything done in the mean time, this is one of those situations where no reform is better than partial reform. This deal won’t change much of anything, the Senate will still be dysfunctional in 2015, but there will be a new crop of Dem Senators who don’t care about tradition who’ll be willing to support something like the 60/41 flip or better. All of this work isn’t for nothing. We have a coalition we can reassemble next time, we know where the stress points are, and they know we know, so we can hold them accountable back home.

  • scanner

    There’s an awful email from a Senate staffer on the main TPM blog voicing a common objection, saying “reforms under the constitutional option could be used to hurt us someday when President Rubio teams up with Speaker Cantor and Leader McConnell”.

    If we have all 3 of those, America (and the Democratic Party) deserves whatever is coming to it. At some point, you actually have to go out and win something, not just manage defeat. The onus is on us to work hard in a democracy for the outcomes we want, not just throw up a few roadblocks and take a nap.

    • Murc

      This.

      I would hate to live through another period of Republican control of all three branches of government, but if the Republicans win, they should get to govern.

      Same as if the Democrats win.

      • Also, if the Dems can’t muster 41 votes in this hypothetical scenario to block Defense Secretary John Bolton and EPA Director David Koch, what’s the point of having a Democratic party?

        • mds

          To keep powder dry.

          • jeer9

            :>)

        • That actually says rather a lot about this brand on internet-lefty, I think.

    • What exactly would stop “Leader McConnell” from abolishing the filibuster the minute the GOP had a Senate majority? The warmth and goodness of his reptilian heart?

      • Njorl

        No, the realization that Democrats want the government to function. The filibuster is inherently advantageous to Republicans. Sure, there might be things they could do if it didn’t exist, but they would be the kinds of things that would make them lose the next election in a landslide anyway.

    • tonycpsu

      +1. I understand that David Kurtz posting an email doesn’t mean that TPM endorses the substance of the email, but I don’t see why they felt the need to catapult that propaganda. I’m sure it’s coming from a staffer within the Axis of Fecklessness that Merkeley identified, and could be Shortered as “STFU, hippies.”

      In addition to your reasons why this logic is awful, it’s not like a Democratic minority will use the filibuster nearly as much as the GOP has, even after the GOP has set a new precedent. They just don’t have that nihilistic streak in them the way the GOP does.

    • Joshua

      Exactly. People deserve the agenda they vote for. And the people who win should pass their agenda.

      Not to “heighten the contradictions”, but maybe a couple years of raw red meat crazy would wake up enough GOP voters who aren’t aware of how nuts the party has gotten.

      Or maybe Rubio/McConnell/Cantor would moderate themselves knowing their agenda is really really unpopular.

      Even after a black guy named Obama won a convincing re-election, Dems are still operating like it is 1973. What’s funny is that Republicans are acutely aware of what is happening and grabbing anything they can (EV counting, etc.).

      • tonycpsuhttp://lawyersgunsmon.wpengine.com/2013/01/the-worlds-worst-deliberative-body-retains-its-title/comment-page-1#respond

        This is one case where I can’t totally rule out heightening of contradictions doing some legitimate good. The President’s policy choices and outcomes are pretty easy for the public to see, whereas the minutiae of whether a Senator voted for/against cloture or for/against the actual bill aren’t well-understood. This lets Congress largely escape accountability when it obstructs. Obama’s had to walk a fine line between working the refs and being seen by the public as a whiner who can’t use his BULLY PULPIT to get things done. I think lately he’s been rewarded for pointing out how broken things are, but the public didn’t really take notice until the fiscal cliff fiasco.

        • Joshua

          The President’s policy choices and outcomes are pretty easy for the public to see, whereas the minutiae of whether a Senator voted for/against cloture or for/against the actual bill aren’t well-understood.

          To say the least. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read something like “Bill fails with only 55 votes in Senate.” Huh? That’s not how Schoolhouse Rock told me Congress works.

          This doesn’t moderate Congress, it just ratchets up the crazy and polarizes it. People can campaign on really dumb and terrible ideas and then blame the other guy for not getting it done.

        • JKTHs

          I have to disagree on HTC. Too much path dependency and Overton window-shifting in the interim to make a difference. When Speaker Cantor and Leader McConnell pass the Granny Starving Act of 2015 which voucherizes Medicare, it’ll suddenly become the far left position to deprive those poor grannies of their ability to choose which health insurer gets the rents.

          • Joshua

            I don’t want anybody’s granny to starve, but I’m just one guy. If people want granny starvers, and vote for granny starvers, then they should get granny starvers.

            It’s not like the GOP has been shy about their platform the past few years – the chief granny starver was the Vice Presidential pick.

            • JKTHs

              Sure, but I meant that I disagreed that heighten-the-contradictions would actually work in this case. I agree that the filibuster should be torn down.

      • S_noe

        The upside of empowering majorities is that people get to see and judge the outcomes of those majorities’ programs. +1 in other words.

    • That email is ridiculous. You get that argument (let me add some bolding here for emphasis), “Is the progressive community oblivious about what happens when the minority has no tools to prevent majority excess?” Then later you get another reason: “There is ample room for mischief without the filibuster. The Senate doesn’t do anything — even publish the Record — absent consent. You dont need the filibuster to grind this place to a halt.”

      So, if the Democrats are in the majority, the Republicans still have “ample room” to obstruct them. But if the Democrats are in the minority they have “no tools” to stop the Republicans. That’s not an argument against the Merkeley/Udall plan, that’s an argument that the Democrats are simply useless.

    • mds

      reforms under the constitutional option could be used to hurt us someday when President Rubio teams up with Speaker Cantor and Leader McConnell

      Imagine the horror. Why, Sam Alito could end up on the Supreme Court.

  • Joe

    A lot of usual suspects here.

    But, “thanks Harry.”

    The same “lot” — not even a “few” — are the people who vote him Speaker. Maybe, Scott can write a post to explain how this works.

    If we want change, focusing on the real problem — here (it’s in there somewhere, admittedly) a certain breed of senator that wants to retain the old rules even after the changing Republican methods skewered the results — is the way to do it.

    • drkrick

      Majority Leader. Speaker is only in the House.

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