Two things about this. One is that the majority leader right now, with no rule change at all, can force a talking filibuster whenever it’s in the interests of the majority to make it happen.Wow. A lot to unpack there isn't it?
And the second is that this plan is destined to be a flop. Here’s what would actually happen in a talking filibuster. Republicans would take to the floor and start arguing for the bill. Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the Republican-aligned media would treat them as heroes. That would only increase pressure on potentially wavering Republicans to stick to the party line. After all, we all know how this works. It won’t be a difference of opinion; any issue elevated in that way will suddenly turn out to be a critical issue on which basic principles of the republic rest. Anyone who betrays the party on such an important matter must surely be a RINO – and surely deserves a tea-party primary challenge. The result? Republicans would be stacked up in line to deliver ringing denunciations of the offending legislation, stocked with the latest talking points – remember, there’s no need to read from phone books or recite recipes when there are transcripts of Glenn Beck’s show or your favorite conservative blogger to deliver.
Democrats would eventually have to bring down the bill. And realizing that the whole circus would start up anew the next time they try it, they would quietly put an end to talking filibusters.
Bernstein is saying reforming the filibuster to require the GOP to actually filibuster (the way commoners understand it) is silly because it would result in Rush Limbaugh getting mad, Republicans rallying around the Republicans, Democrats going soft, and then giving up and quitting.
Pretty weak minded reasoning isn't it? Reeks of Broderism.
First, Sen. Merkley's reforms include more than making Senators filibuster the way the common man understands it. The goal is to increase the political cost of filibustering, which you can only do by forcing Senators to mouth off. Notably, the reforms also require filibustering Sentors to be present. The current rules do not require this, and using the current rules to make them work the same way is unweildy and complicated. Plus...you guessed it...it would be subject to filibuters. Senator Merkley's reforms actually requires 40 Senators to be in the chamber and standing in opposition to the measure when any member demands the return of regular order. If any one of the obstructing Senators so much as goes to the bathroom, the filibuster is broken. (Which should lead to some rather interesting TV!)
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly...why the hell should Democrats be afraid of Republican hysterics and Rush Limbaugh? I would think Democrats would welcome the putting of some Senators faces to the Republican noise machine. Especially on bills of the Democrats' choosing. Talk about campaign material. A real Republican filibuster, with Fox News, Rush, Drudge, the Washington Post, and the whole list of discredited pundits who know all and see all, would be a tremendous gift to Democrats across the board. Especially if, after finally killing the filibuster off, they go ahead and pass their bill.
It isn't Democrats who would go wobbly after an event like that. It is Republicans after seeing the damage. I should note Bernstein isn't completely opposed to filibuster reform, but his solutions focus more on legislative mechanics rather than raising the political price of obstruction. In fact, he seeks an expedited process for executive appointments without noting that all Senators of both parties use holds on appointments to extract concesssions from the executive branch for constituent services. If there is anything the all Senators wont want to give up, it is their ability to advise the President on key appointments in their backyards. Inexplicably, he still wants to keep the filibuster in place for judicial appointments. Despite the fact that the judicial branch is in crisis for this very reason.
Which brings us back to the whole point of the talking filibuster: the goal is to increase the political cost of obstruction. Bernstein, in true Broderist form, feels like having to actually mouth off and have floor fights over legislation will be bad for democracy. I say nothing but good can come of it.