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View Diary: Today in Congress: deregulation dressed up as 'jobs' bills; filibuster dysfunction metastasizes (17 comments)

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  •  I wonder how Harry Reid... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bear83, irmaly

    can justify dropping the ball so badly on reforming the filibuster when he had the chance. It was bone-headedly stupid and now we're stuck with a deadlocked Senate. We might have had a real chance to get something done if it was a functional Senate vs. Boehner's House.

    Conservito delenda est pro is deleo orbis terrarum!

    by Stwriley on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 06:13:42 AM PDT

    •  Just think what could have been done (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stwriley, sgtlejeune

      with a functional Senate vs. Pelosi's House.

      "Here is my principle: Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle." Franklin D. Roosevelt

      by bear83 on Thu Nov 03, 2011 at 06:17:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  If the votes had been there... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stwriley, RhodaA

      If there had been 51 votes for the change, I don't know if he could have stopped it. So it was more than just Reid at work here. It's possible that he dissuaded some Dems from considering supporting the changes, but I think the reality was that there just weren't 51 supporters.

      Of course, a lot of that reality grew out of the fact that Senators had convinced themselves that there weren't 50 others, so they wouldn't stick their necks out. Sometimes there's a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy at work on these things. It can't happen, so I won't risk voting for it. Even though if I did risk it, it just might happen after all. That sort of thing.

    •  in *gulp* defense of the filibuster (1+ / 0-)
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      Stwriley

      Perhaps Reid takes a longer view of things than some posters here.

      The filibuster, for all it is abused today, was fairly widely used even in the 19th century.  It actually does represent a useful tool for the minority party to exert some influence over the legislative agenda.  Although the basic principle of our republic is that majority rules, the winner-take-all system of our elections and legislative bodies allows for the minority party in either house to be basically ignored.  Given that the Senate was designed to be somewhat anti-democratic, and slow down legislative action, the filibuster as originally conceived seems to fit the founders ideas.

      There are all kinds of arguments for why occasionally slowing the process down may be beneficial.  Most reek of the stuff we used to talk about in my undergrad days as a poli/sci nerd (fairness, checks and balances, etc.)  Many are purely political (allow for the legislature to gauge public opinion on a given piece of legislation, apply public pressure, etc.)  What's more, it's not as if Democrats haven't turned to the filibuster at times when they were the minority party.

      All that being said, however, fundamental reform does need to happen.  The filibuster today is being abused.  200+ years of jurisprudence, and a legislature comprised mainly of attorneys, has given us a body of people versed in and willing to accept various legal 'fictions.'  Legislatively, this translates to what we have today:  the  constructive filibuster.

      Rather than demand a legislator or party actually hold the floor and continue debate indefinitely,  the party wishing the filibuster merely needs to express its intention to do so.  Unless the majority can muster the 60 votes needed to end debate, the filibuster stands, without anyone ever actually having to keep the floor.  

      Restore the filibuster to its original state.  Change the rules to require a filibuster to more closely resemble its historical self.  If you want to stop the business of the senate indefinitely, you must keep the floor indefinitely.  Bust out the dictionaries, the bibles, and the dense literature- and get reading.

      This would be hard.  So hard, in fact, that stopping the Senate from doing anything would be all but impossible unless it was an issue that actually was amenable to that.

      As an added bonus, perhaps some well read Senator can read War&Peace (or whatever other long, dense literature you prefer) into the record.

      •  And post-cloture time on motions? (1+ / 0-)
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        Stwriley

        And nominations?

        That's what we were actually talking about.

        What does the legacy of the 19th century filibuster have to say about post-cloture time on motions to proceed, or nominations?

        Nothing, of course. Since there was no such thing as post-cloture time in the 19th century.

        But the relatively short history of cloture does tell us what the intent of including post-cloture time was: allowing for still-pending amendments to be considered. But since there aren't any amendments to motions to proceed or to executive and judicial nominations, what's the point?

        Post-cloture time on those matters only exists as an accidental relic of the drafting of cloture rules, written when no one had yet conceived of the possibility of filibustering procedural motions or nominations. They didn't even consider the possibility that a modified rule for non-amendable matters would be necessary.

        And so here we are.

        •  re: nominations (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Stwriley

          Agreed.  I mostly see the filibuster as applicable in the case of the actual vote on a piece of substantive legislation.  Not on nominees, and certainly not on any procedural votes.

          Some want reform of the filibuster, others suggest it should be done away with entirely.  I mostly felt like commenting on why I think reform is the better way to go.  I guess my simple one step reform isn't a one step reform anymore.

          1.  No filibusters on procedural votes, or on nominees.

          2.  A filibuster must actually take place on the Senate floor, if it is to happen.

          Two steps is still fairly simple, I suppose.

          •  Mine was simple, too. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Stwriley

            But now it's going to have to change.

            My small-bore reform was: make the motion to proceed non-debatable. And eliminate post-cloture time on nominations.

            That was the minimum I felt was necessary for reform.

            The only hitch in the plan was that making the motion to proceed non-debatable might invite the minority to begin offering multiple motions to proceed to their own preferred matters. But I was assured by procedural experts that that would never happen in a million years, and the prerogative to offer motions to proceed would always remain with the Majority Leader.

            That didn't even last a year.

            So now I have to revive my Plan B on that, which is a rule making motions to proceed non-debatable when offered by the Majority Leader or his designee.

            •  that is small bore (1+ / 0-)
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              Stwriley

              As it has been a while since I was using any parliamentary procedure, I want to make sure I've got what you're saying straight.

              The cloture vote is a procedural vote on whether to end debate and vote on the motion to proceed.

              The motion to proceed, if I recall, is a motion on whether to proceed with debate on the proposed legislation.  If I'm not mistaken about that, then I do think making this non-debatable is a good idea.  Debate ought to be saved for the actual debate on the legislation.

              I guess I would like to know this:  if my understanding is correct (and it very well may not be), what is the harm in allowing the minority party to move to proceed?  If they offer a motion that can't be debated, it seems there are two possible outcomes.  Either the motion fails altogether and there is no proceeding to debate, or the motion passes and the legislation fails to win passage from the majority.

              Although, I suppose that scheme would allow for a totally novel way of obstructing business in the Senate:  the introduction of frivolous legislation to prevent the majority from addressing their agenda.

              Is that [time wasting] the main harm to done by the minority offering motions to proceed?  Or, are there others I'm not thinking of?

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