The Huffington Post is reporting that Senators Reid and McConnell have agreed to a scaled-down filibuster reform proposal. Scaled-down is generous. This proposal not only does nothing to reform the broken filibuster, but could make the Senate even worse.

This proposal, which sadly will probably be enacted today or tomorrow, would make only the most minor changes to Senate rules. Forget removing the undemocratic 60-vote requirement for all pieces of legislation. That wasn't even in the most ambitious reform proposals. The idea, proposed by Senators Merkley and Udall (NM) that Senators should be forced to hold the floor and hold Jimmy Stewart-style filibusters? That's gone. How about the very modest reform of putting the burden on 41 Senators to sustain a filibuster, instead of the current requirement of 60 Senators to defeat a filibuster? That too, has been abandoned.

So what does this proposal contain? The motion to proceed can still be filibustered, but debate can end on it immediately if Mitch McConnell and 8 minority Senators sign on. Once cloture has been invoked on the motion to proceed, the motion itself must be voted on immediately. The post-cloture debate time for most Presidential nominees has been cut, as has the debate time for district court judges. There have also been some modifications to the rules about motions to go to conference. Finally, Republicans, in exchange for approximately nothing, will get the opportunity to propose two amendments on all bill.

This all leaves reformers like myself mystified and disappointed. Basically, it came down to the fact that some Democrats, and most notably Harry Reid, don't really want to change the rules of the institution. They are basically fine with the way it is working, apparently. Either that, or they're too afraid that the rules will come back to bite them when they're in the minority. I've always said, in the long-run progressives generally want action from government, conservatives generally want stasis. The filibuster, therefore, is a long-term impediment to our goals. Other great Kossacks like KagroX and Chris Bowers have pointed out that this deal is better than nothing, and that progress takes time. I get that, I just expected better.

Finally, I should just mention how absurd it is that we're making deals with and trusting Mitch McConnell, the man whose number one stated goal was to make Obama a one-term President. The principle of negotiating with him is almost as bad to me as the final result.


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