Skip to main content

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) has just recently announced his own set of proposals for Senate rules reform. And here it is (PDF).

Merkley's proposal doesn't seem to call for the actual elimination of the filibuster, but there's plenty to it that goes a long way toward curtailing its abuse, and bringing it back to the widely-held public conception of what the filibuster is (or ought to be), which is to say a difficult test of endurance that you'd only undertake on strong principle, as opposed to just putting holds on things, and then walking away, returning occasionally only to insist on another useless quorum call.

So keeping in mind that these are proposals that contemplate the continuance of the filibuster's existence, I'm just going to offer a quick run-down on the elements of the proposal, and tell you what I think:

Proposed Reforms:

#1) Narrow the Scope:

Eliminate the use of the filibuster on motions to proceed. Blocking deliberation has little place in a legislative body. If a Senator believes a bill is so deeply flawed that debate should be suspended, the senator still has the right to move to table the bill.

Good idea, and certainly one I've thought belonged in any package of reforms. The only thing I'd add is that it might  need a safety valve. For example, I'd perhaps make the motion to proceed non-debatable only if offered by the Majority Leader (and maybe Assistant Majority Leader, too) or his designee. Otherwise, if I'm Jim DeMint or Tom Coburn, I'd just make motions to proceed to my own bills all day long and force votes on them. Even if I don't have any bills, I'd just make them up just to kill a whole day voting down motions to proceed on bills as quickly as I could make them up. Presumably at some point the Majority Leader shows up and gets preferential recognition from the chair so that they don't get the floor anymore to make their motions, but then the Majority Leader has to spend all day on the floor, and that'd be a problem.

#2) Further Narrow the Scope:

We should consider further narrowing the scope. For example, it is worth debating banning filibusters on amendments since members would still have the right to filibuster the final vote. It is also worth examining the value of limiting filibusters on appointing conferees.

Good idea, but it could present a little more difficultly to implement. This would require a rule either time limiting consideration of all amendments, or allowing a different threshold for cloture (if the cloture rule is retained) for amendments. You can't just "ban filibusters," since they have the negative existence problem. That is, they don't exist independently, but are the outgrowth of a rules loophole -- that being the lack of a mechanism for limiting debate other than the cloture procedure. So banning or limiting them requires cobbling together a new rule, rather than just flipping a switch on an old one.

#3) Create an Expedited Path for Nominations:

The Senate is failing in its responsibility to “advise and consent” on nominations, doing extensive damage to the other branches of government. This is an abuse of its responsibility.

We should consider, therefore, an expedited regular order for nominations. The regular order for each nominee might still be subject to a filibuster, but only under the revised filibuster requirements discussed below.

Good idea in general, and theoretically should have Republican support, since this was their original nuclear option aim. Another worthy suggestion I've heard: eliminate post-cloture time on nominations. Apparently, the reason they allow post-cloture debate is so that further amendments might be considered. But you can't amend a nomination, so once you've invoked cloture on it, you should just get right to the vote.

#4) Require a filibuster petition:

Require a substantial number of senators, perhaps 10, to file a filibuster petition to block a simple majority vote on an amendment or a bill. By creating a public record, senators have to take responsibility for obstructing the process. This also prevents a single senator from blocking the regular order.

This one I'd need more explanation on. I don't see it doing anything that a roll call vote doesn't do, in terms of putting people on the record as to whether they want to insist on a delay. It also seems hard to enforce independently. Suppose only nine Senators sign the petition, but yet Senators continue to object to unanimous consent requests to proceed on the matter, make long speeches, refuse to yield, and ultimately vote against cloture? What good has the petition requirement done you, even if they haven't complied with it? If you still retain a cloture rule with a threshold higher than a simple majority, what difference does it make if a Senator refuses or neglects to sign the petition, but fully intends to vote no on cloture anyway? I don't think I get that one.

#5) Require filibustering senators to hold the floor:

The public believes that filibustering senators have to hold the floor. Indeed, the public perceives the filibuster as an act of principled public courage and sacrifice. Let’s make it so.

Require a specific number of Senators -- I suggest five for the first 24 hours, 10 for the second 24 hours, and 20 thereafter -- to be on the floor to sustain the filibuster. This would be required even during quorum calls. At any point, a member could call for a count of the senators on the floor who stand in opposition to the regular order, and if the count falls below the required level, the regular order prevails and a majority vote is held.

Several folks have asked how this would work in practice. So here is an example.

Upon request by a member, the Senate President would make the following announcement.

“The Sergeant-at-Arms will bar the doors and the Clerk will take count of all who stand in opposition to the regular order.”

The clerk would then announce:

“All senators who stand in opposition to the regular order will declare their opposition.”

The President would then report one of the following:

“[#] senators stand in opposition. This fails to meet the number required to continue the suspension of the regular order. The regular order is restored and a vote on this [bill/amendment] will be held, according to the rules, at [time stated].”


“[#] senators stand in opposition. This meets the number required to continue the suspension of the regular order. Debate will continue.”

This accomplishes two important objectives. It makes a filibuster visible to all Americans. And it places the responsibility for maintaining the filibuster squarely upon those objecting to the regular order.

This approach creates two specific ways to overcome a filibuster. First, there is still the existing method of following the current rules for deliberation followed by a 60-vote cloture requirement. Second, however, is that a filibuster could collapse at any time if the filibustering senators fail to maintain the required floor presence.

Good idea in general. Interesting approach to ratchet up the number as time passes. That's a good compromise for an idea that's generally well-liked but hard to choose a number for. Increasing the burden as the annoyance and obstruction factor increases is a good weighting option. I like it! (Senators might be a little intimidated by the idea of the Sergeant at Arms barring the door, though! Still, it won't do any good if Senators can hang out in the cloakroom and only come out when they need to boost their numbers for a head count.)

#6) Require continuous debate:

The Senate could also require debate to be continuous. Under this requirement, if a speaker concludes (arguing either side) and there is no senator who wishes to speak, the regular order is immediately restored, debate is concluded, and a simple majority vote is held according to further details established in the rules.

This further expands the visibility of the filibuster. Americans who tune in to observe the filibuster would not see a quorum call, but would see a debate in process.

Good idea in general. Both 5 and 6 are what the public thinks filibusters are and ought to be anyway. Hard to see how you lose by giving them what they want (though there's always a way).

#7) Establish the right of the minority to offer amendments:

The Senate wastes enormous amounts of time trying to work out a structure for the presentation and debate of amendments on any given bill. The Senate needs a regular order for the presentation of amendments so that, in the absence of an agreement between the Majority and Minority leaders, debate will proceed.

This regular order must be defined in the rules, and I suggest a regular order that includes the following:

** Starting five hours after the start of debate, a member of the minority party would present an amendment chosen by the minority leader.

** The amendment would be debated for two hours, with time evenly divided between the majority and minority, followed by a vote. 6

** A member of the majority party would present the next amendment with similar rules.

** After each party has had the opportunity to present five [or some other modest number] amendments each, a final vote will be in order.

This regular order would still be subject to the filibuster on any amendment or final vote, but such a filibuster would have to follow the revised guidelines for filibusters.

This regular order would also be subject to any unanimous consent agreement that modifies it.

For example, leaders might negotiate an agreement to consider specific additional amendments and the body might consent. Or perhaps members of the minority or majority might start a filibuster by filing a petition because they wanted the opportunity to have additional votes on amendments. The leaders might then negotiate such an agreement and the body might consent.

This approach has several points of value:

  1. This addresses a major grievance of the minority, namely, the absence of an opportunity to have their ideas presented and debated. In that sense, it is a strong compensating factor for making the minority spend more time and energy on filibusters.
  1. It gives the majority and minority leaders time to attempt to work out a unanimous consent agreement.
  1. But if that attempt fails, the body can proceed to debate and vote, honoring its responsibilities as a legislative body.
  1. The majority and minority leaders have an incentive to work out an agreement, since they might not want to be in the uncomfortable position of choosing which amendments to consider.

More than fair. And one other objection that it addresses is the objection of reform opponents who insist that they don't want to "turn the Senate into the House." One of the key differences is preserved, in that the House does not guarantee the right of the minority to amend the bill during regular debate, and preserves only the right to a single motion to recommit. That's a major, major part of what makes the Senate the Senate -- at least according to the Senators who enjoy this power. And it makes a certain amount of sense to have one chamber that works on a strict majority rules basis, and one that guarantees the minority a chance to have its ideas tested against those of the majority. That's the key thing here: test those ideas out with a vote.

#8) Decrease the Segregation of Members

Members of the Senate are segregated by party. They sit on different sides of the aisle in the Senate chamber. They sit on opposite sides of the room in committees. They caucus separately. Even the pages on the floor are designated as “Democratic” pages or “Republican” pages.

These practices may not have been significant in the past when senators lived in Washington and socialized on evenings and weekends. But now senators work evenings and then fly home, greatly diminishing the time for informal interactions with each other.

The segregation of the senators by parties unnecessarily deepens the partisan divide and we should end it. It is worth observing, by the way, that many state legislatures do not practice such segregation, facilitating the forging of informal connections between members of different parties.

Here are three specific suggestions:

  1.      Bolt down the desks in the Senate chamber permanently – fifty on each side -- and allow senators to choose desks anywhere they want on the floor among those available.
  1.      End the segregation of senators in committee meetings. One committee, Homeland Security, has already done this.
  1. End the designation of pages by party.

Well, interesting. It comes from the right place. The only thing about the pages is that they sometimes have to carry sensitive materials that Senators of one party don't want anyone from the other party to see. But then, you could always send your own staff on those errands, I guess.

So that's it. There are plenty of other proposals out there, too. But this one was the most recent, so I thought I'd react. I've done it a little informally, but I did that in the interest of getting it out there for discussion, rather than spending the day crafting something more put-together.

What do you think?

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 01:18 PM PST.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  The Merk with Rachel 1.1.10 (9+ / 0-)

    Filibusters should be the real kind

    Here we are now Entertain us I feel stupid and contagious

    by Scarce on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 01:21:55 PM PST

    •  Merkley has been in the senate 2 years... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Major Tom, Palafox, SmartAleq

      remember that. He's already a better senator than Wyden is after nearly 2 decades. Merkley does have previous experience--I'm just saying.

      Replace Wyden with Novick... Wyden's probably retiring in 2016. That's the CW anyway.

      Mel Gibson makes movies that look like snuff films shot by Abercrombie & Fitch's photographer. -9.38, -5.18

      by Nulwee on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 02:00:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I like Wyden... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Major Tom, Palafox

        But I do think he's become too much of an insider and I would LOVE to have a Merkley/Novick representation for Oregon in the Senate.  That would kick SO much ass!

        "Nothing's wrong, son, look at the news!" -- Firesign Theater

        by SmartAleq on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 02:13:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Merkley has been in the Senate 2 years.... (0+ / 0-)

        He obviously hasn't learned his place in the pecking order.

        The chances of the Republicans allowing anything like this to get anywhere in the Senate is absolutely and totally zero.

        They have perfected the use of the present system.  It has gained them control of the House again and nearly the Senate, and the next two years it will be used to try and overcome their failure this time around AND take over the White House, the Supreme Court and the separation of church and state.

        Free markets would be a great idea, if markets were actually free.

        by dweb8231 on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 06:03:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Weak tea. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tle, BusyinCA

      A majority is 51 votes out of 100. There's no need for no stinkin filibuster.

      Gender neutral marriage. NOW.

      by Montreal Progressive on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 02:04:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have to agree. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Montreal Progressive

        I was about to comment with a title of "Blow it up". These proposals are interesting, and seem largely reasonable, except for the fluff about desks and pages. But they're patches on patches.  First, rip out the knife, the filibuster and the unanimous consent nonsense, and go forward from there.

        Senator Merkley, your band is playing well, but the deck is tilting.

        I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

        by tle on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 04:00:05 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Go Merke! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I hope other Senate Critturs are paying attention.

      The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang, that jurymen may dine.

      by magnetics on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 04:51:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  # 5 and # 6 (11+ / 0-)

    are definitely on my christmas wish list...

    Like to see all these 70 something Senators who filibuster '' hold the floor ''

  •  Sounds good in general (12+ / 0-)

    It's quite tragic that this did not happen two years ago.

    "The perfect is the enemy of the good." - Voltaire

    by Lawrence on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 01:23:11 PM PST

  •  Merkley Lays Out A Course For Reforming The Filib (7+ / 0-)

    Here we are now Entertain us I feel stupid and contagious

    by Scarce on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 01:24:03 PM PST

  •  Rachel and Senator Merkley (5+ / 0-)

    on the filibuster, myths and reality.  Merkley has a well thought out plan...

    Link to segment:

    May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house. George Carlin

    by msmacgyver on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 01:25:04 PM PST

  •  keep in mind . . . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Whatever rules are adopted, WE will have to live with them too.

    Some of us might want to stick it to the GOPers good--but inevitably will come their turn to stick it to US good, too.

    So be careful what we wish for.  We might get it.

    •  Don't worry about what you wish for. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Major Tom, ManhattanMan, Big Tex

      What matters is what you'll get. And Republicans will do this to Democrats the minute the filibuster gets in their way.

      Just because someone wants to preserve it for the future doesn't mean the rest of the world will agree to leave it there for you where you wanted it.

      •  of course what we wish for doesn't matter anyway (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Major Tom

        since the Dems will cave in on all of it anyway.

        •  Including this comment. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Major Tom

          Dems will ...

        •  Hard to blame Congress when (0+ / 0-)

          President "I pre-emptively cave" Obama sets the stage. Look, the fact is that our dreams and plans are out the window as of January. We need to start on a NEW  Long-Term Plan to further progressive goals. It's clear that Obama isn't working out and will be an impediment to progressive policy so the first order of business is removing that impediment.

          I suggest we actively seek to minimize Obama as a realistic candidate in 2012. He's flawed and we need to spread that to every Democrat out there.

          We also need to be identifying NOW what the characteristics of an acceptable nominee will be and make it clear that we will actively oppose any candidate that fails to meet those characteristics. We need to ONLY actively support those who strive to further progressive goals, and STOP voting for short term gain. We don't need more and better democrats, we just need better democrats. THEY will make our case for us and THEY will be persuasive because THEY will believe in what we're trying to do.

          We also need to expand our media message. I'm so tired of Carville, Brazille, and Begala being the face of Democrats on tv. We need to be speaking out that DLC democrats DO NOT represent Democratic principles, they represent DLC principles.

          I want Katrina van Houvel(sp) on EVERY pundit show explaining our positions. I want Maddow and Olbermann to do more than just host a tv show. They need to be headlining Democratic events. These are the people I recognize. You all know even more progressive thinkers that I do. Why aren't we pushing to hear from them? Saturate FauxNews, CNN, the networks, everywhere with OUR message.

          It seems lie we are always backing off assuming that if we complain or oppose elected Dems then it hurts the party. Sorry but the party and those elected Dems are hurting us. A bad Dem voting like a Republican is no different than actual Republicans and should be treated as a Republican.

          •  Apologies to all (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Having just re-read that it sounds like I'm blaming US for not doing enough. I'm just frustrated. I know we all are frustrated. I didn't mean to offend. I also know that smarter people than me have already being saying all these things...and doing them. I have this sense of a party with great potential but we continue to nominate and elect some of the weakest among us to lead. I cried the night Obama was elected. They were tears of joy. I'm NOT a weeper. I seldom cry. I also had tears in my eyes today when our party cannot even lead us to pass permanent middle class tax cuts. The tears were for electing this "head of party" that undercuts our work in Congress by caving before negotiations begin. I simply cannot support him in 2012. Somebody please reassure me we'll have an alternative to put up against him...I need something to hope for right now.

  •  Love it. (6+ / 0-)

    I think it goes a long way toward solving the problem of obstructionism, while maintaining the voice of the minority.  I think it's pretty good.

    (-9.62/-6.77) "If you don't lie down in front of the door, you're less likely to get used as a doormat" (Maddow 9-2-09). United we bargain, divided we beg.

    by revelwoodie on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 01:33:07 PM PST

  •  Lots of good ideas... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Tom, Lawrence, dzog, barkingcat

    forcing filibustering obstructionists to stand on the floor is the key, IMO, because the american people would actually see the wasting of time, something so many are unaware of presently.

    I propose a toast, knowing that our ties subsist because they are not of iron or steel or even of gold, but of the silken cords of the human spirit. 11/9/10

    by BarackStarObama on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 01:33:48 PM PST

  •  I think it's pretty damn good (6+ / 0-)

    And very fair.

    No way the GOP could have come up with this.

    It will be interesting to see if they support it.  Ha.  But at least they can't filibuster.

    Just would have been nice to have this reform when the dems still had the house...  ;)  but I realize in Jan '09 they didn't know the repubs would be as bad as they were...

    "Mediocrity cannot know excellence." -- Sherlock Holmes

    by La Gitane on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 01:35:30 PM PST

  •  Would go a long way (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dzog, talismanlangley

    towards fixing things, but I still say the very idea of a Senate is outdated. It should have its powers severely weakened through constitutional amendment.

    •  Larry Sabato, I believe, has said ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Major Tom

      ... we should abolish the Senate completely and move to a parliamentary system centered upon an enlarged version of the House.


      •  And if it had a chance in hell, I'd support it (0+ / 0-)

        Maybe a hybrid system where we keep 535 single-member districts with the 100 seats from the former Senate assigned proportionally.

        Seeing as it would probably take a radical upheaval for such a change to be possible, I won't hold my breath. Sort of like when Pope Paschal II proposed that the Catholic Church renounce all temporal authority and focus solely on spiritual matters.

        Two things are universal--hydrogen and stupidity. --Frank Zappa

        by AustinCynic on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 06:59:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Just get rid of the fillibuster (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cartwrightdale, Big Tex, Scott Wood

    It's stupid. Just make it a majority.

    •  In a Citizens United world ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... I don't like that option going forward.

      At least, not for a few more decades (when the core rank-and-file of the tea party will have gone to that great right-wing propaganda outlet in the sky).


  •  I like no 8 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    very much.

    Additionally, I think Democrats and Republicans should be paired off and have their legs tied together every Friday. So they are forced to get to know each other.

    That sounds like snark, and it is. It would be very amusing to watch on C-Span though.

    must not spam thread.must not spam thread.must not spam thread.must not spam thread.

    by Krush on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 01:45:19 PM PST

    •  A right leg to a left leg (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      They will have to talk to each other just to walk.

      must not spam thread.must not spam thread.must not spam thread.must not spam thread.

      by Krush on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 01:48:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Heh (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Major Tom, eaglecries

      When I saw #8, it immediately reminded me of grade school. When the class got too out of hand, the teacher would threaten to seat us "boy-girl-boy-girl." A fate worse than death! We'd calm down pronto.

      Kinda fuckin' pathetic, though, that the U.S. SENATE requires similar adult supervision.

      "We followed the most radical voices in the party... and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat." - David Frum, Republican columnist [now apostate]

      by Blank Frank on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 02:24:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I also like #8, and I'm not snarking (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Perhaps pages could be required to sign confidentiality agreements, stating they will not disclose confidential information from a member of one party to a member of another, with strict penalties (including dismissal) if they break the agreement. Seating could be done by seniority; those in the Senate longer getting the prime spots in front where they'll get on TV the most (or in the case of Senator McCain, the prime spot near the men's room for his elderly prostate/bladder).

      Shop Liberally this holiday season at Kos Katalog

      by Cali Scribe on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 04:51:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Just drop the big one. (0+ / 0-)

    Why screw around?

    It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness - Eleanor Roosevelt

    by Fish in Illinois on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 01:47:25 PM PST

  •  I like a lot of it (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ljb, Major Tom, dzog, talismanlangley, BusyinCA

    Especially 5 and 6; to make a fillibuster mean more of what a fillibuster is presumed to mean. Shutting down the government's business (or threatening to) and then going home to dinner is the sort of thing that the public doesn't understand, and that leads to the kind of indiscriminate anger at "all politicians" that many feel.

    On the last one, desegregating, I'm kind of "hmmmmmm.." I get his point. Maybe seat them in pairs by state, and the order being drawn from a hat at the beginning of each session? (so that Alaska doesn't always get the front row and Wyoming always the back)

    •  When I read Merkley's suggestion ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe

      ... that senators sit "wherever they want," I immediately flashed on the Republicans all staying to one side of the chamber, and the Dems to the other.

      Kinda like the scene from West Side Story where the dance organizer tries to get the Jets and the Sharks to mingle with one another as friends.

      Hey, there's an idea! Forget the Senate rules. Maybe we could get the senators to settle legislative battles through competitive mambo dancing!


  •  great ideas, but of course we already know (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Tom, eaglecries, Palafox

    that the ball-less dems will cave in on every single one of them.  

  •  The senate is a FUCKING JOKE! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Palafox, BusyinCA

    Why are we paying those fuckholes to do nothing? This fucking country needs a revolution. I'm sick of all this shit.

  •  See if you can send Merkley your (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ganymeade, dzog


    "I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong." Richard Feynman

    by leema on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 01:53:22 PM PST

  •  This seems really well thought out (6+ / 0-)

    I especially appreciate that Jeff has made a proposal that actually increases the right of the minority.  I always felt uncomfortable with rules that prevent the minority from being able to present anything.

    One thought on seating: I know it seems trivial, but I think you tend to work better with people you sit next to.  I'd like to see the Senate look like a map of the US.  But Oregon next to Idaho, Washington, and Calif.  Those are the states we share lots of interests with; we ought to understand each other better.

    Frankly, I blame everything on Nixon.

    by J Orygun on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 01:56:14 PM PST

  •  What do I think? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lawrence, Krush, dzog

    Get on the damn phone to your Senators and MAKE them vote for this package.

    And even call Republicans and point out the benefits to them if they ever take power again.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 01:59:26 PM PST

  •  I love this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dzog, barkingcat

    I believe that there should be some protection from a "tyranny of the majority", but it should require effort and commitment from both sides to limit it's abuse.

    To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

    by sneakers563 on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 02:03:38 PM PST

  •  sarah palin at least saved the senate (0+ / 0-)

    for democrats.   We can use filibuster reform and use it to speed up the confirmations of judges.

  •  The filibuster is fundamentally flawed (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Tom, Scott Wood

    and fundamentally  undemocratic (small d).  It's a political anachronism that has done a great deal to impede progress and subvert the will of the majority. It can't be "fixed," because it's working exactly as it was intended to, the fact that the Republicans have chosen to overuse it notwithstanding. It should be done away with altogether, not tinkered with. But, of course, the Democrats won't do this, because they're perpetually wedded to the idea of being in the minority.

    It's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it. -- George Carlin

    by Big Tex on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 02:13:13 PM PST

  •  If DEMS don't change SEN rules of order in Jan.. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Tom, ManhattanMan, eaglecries

    then I am done with the DEMOCRATIC party. All they need is 51 votes to change rules of order. I suspect Harry Reid finally gets it. I hope.

  •  Joe? (0+ / 0-)
    "End the segregation of senators in committee meetings. One committee, Homeland Security, has already done this." If Joe Lieberman did this in HSC, it may have been for self-serving reasons, but it's the right thing to do.

    That which is to give light must endure burning -Viktor Frankl

    by paz3 on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 02:32:22 PM PST

  •  Make it 40 For, not 60 Against (6+ / 0-)

    Right now the Republicans don't really need 40 votes (2/5) to stop cloture; instead, the Democrats have to come up with 60.

    Turn it around so that debate will be limited UNLESS 2/5 of the senators duly sworn want to continue the debate.

    It is not within the powers of the government to help its citizens get into heaven, nor to save them from hell.

    by DanK Is Back on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 02:40:20 PM PST

  •  I think... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Tom, eaglecries, dzog

    you did a great job explaining a complex issue. Thank you!

    "Democracy is like chicken soup. You have to stir it up often or a scummy oily film forms at the top."

    by StratCat on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 02:41:30 PM PST

  •  I'm all for options five and six. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I don't necessarily want to ban the filibuster, as tempting as that sounds at times - there are times when it could be a handy thing indeed.  

    However, if someone wants to filibuster, then they should have to work for it.  It should not be easy or convenient.

    Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. -- Jesus, who was not referring to the wealthiest 2% of Americans

    by Mehitabel9 on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 02:50:39 PM PST

  •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cartwrightdale, eaglecries

    I have a simple, 1-step solution to this entire inane exercise in procrastination and desire to mitigate the power of Democracy.

    1. All cloture and final bill passage requires a majority of Senators present in favor. No more, no less. (The VP breaks any ties).

    Gee - how simple and clean and efficient.

    Perhaps the fundamental power of majority rule has broken down because they are not permitted to rule - and therefore the benefits (or losses) or having to pay the price for having elected one party over the other into a majority are lost.

    There should be a price to pay for ones vote - and if majority does not rule, then one can never gain a clear picture of whether one has made a good or bad voting decision.

    The entire concept of a minority (or even a single Senator) being in a position to block legislation that the majority desire is ridiculous. And should be abolished.

    The Democratic Party. Never has so much been squandered so quickly for so little.

    by GayIthacan on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 02:51:41 PM PST

  •  I'm for all of them (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This strikes me as sane, reasonable, and not giving away the potential for the minority party to work its will -- when and if it has a leg to stand on (as so few Republicans do today)  and is willing to work for it.

  •  So what do I think? (0+ / 0-)

    I think it's much too rational.  People in Congress want screaming and shouting -- the more irrational the better.  And if you can just make things up -- well, that's a sure way to get attention and consideration.

    A proposal as banal as this one where it actually makes sense doesn't rise to the level of consideration.

  •  Segregation by Party... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Tom

    ...should be reduced.

    Seating should be by seniority. When seniority is equal, the Senator who got the biggest percentage of the popular vote in the last election should prevail.

  •  Whew! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Tom

    That was some kind of quick review...

    Good work, though.

  •  Too convoluted. Just kill the filibuster. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Merkley's intent is good but good politics requires clear messages to the public and the murky filibuster and Merkley's complex "if, then" solution is incomprehensible to the public.

    Filibuster is not in US Constitution. Filibuster has made US government dysfunctional. Destroyed Obama presidency and US hopes for health care reform, Wall St. reform, mortgage help, climate reform, fully funded Social Security and Medicare/caid.

    Just kill it.  Say it's not in Constitution. It's destructive.

  •  I have an even simpler proposal which I had sent (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eaglecries, dotcommodity

    to several senators, including Udall and Reid months ago. The real problem is the number of filibusters, so put a ceiling on it.  So for example, if the balance in the senate is 53 Dems and 47 Repubs then the Repubs, in total, can have a maximum of 53 filibusters and the Dems 47.  The minority party should have more than the majority. The 'silent holds' and any other action that stops a vote should also count towards the total.

    This will not only preserve the ability of the Dems to filibuster if they are in the minority but will force the Repubs to start negotiating in good faith.
    I'm sure there are more that 53 bills waiting for a vote in the senate, so the Dems could start requesting votes on a number of bills while keeping in reserve some of those the Repubs hate the most. These would serve as a silent threat that if they filibuster perfectly reasonable bills, then after they've reached their cap then bills like 'single payer health care', EFCA etc. will be forced through.  

    I'm going to send this to Senator Merkley and a few others.

  •  Yeah Oregon! We produce the truly mavericky, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Tom, eaglecries, supercereal

    common sense politicians.  We have a whole history of progressive, reasonable and independent senators. I am so glad I walked and walked door to door for this guy.  It was close a very close election too.

    Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice won't get fooled again. George Bush

    by ganymeade on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 04:49:17 PM PST

  •  I want to see an end (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to "anonymous holds" -- let whoever wants to hold up the process of a vote or confirmation stand up and admit it, and explain WHY. If there's a good enough reason to hold up confirmation, they should admit it, and the committee in charge of forwarding the nominee or bill should vote as to whether it's a good enough reason to hold up the vote for further study.

    Shop Liberally this holiday season at Kos Katalog

    by Cali Scribe on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 04:59:15 PM PST

  •  Whatever rules they come up with, Dems (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Tom

    better be ready to use them next year because they will be facing a lot of Repug legislation from the House. With Blue Dog and Lieberman defectors working with Repugs, Dems could find themselves in the minority more often than not.

  •  The whole point (0+ / 0-)

    I've never been a fan of filibuster reform. This article made clear just why that is.

    Indeed, the public perceives the filibuster as an act of principled public courage and sacrifice. Let’s make it so.

    So instead of giving the Republicans the ability to obstruct any progress, we're going to give them the ability to obstruct any progress while showing principled public courage and sacrifice.  Yay.

    Seriously, every time I've heard someone clamor (which happens often) that Harry Reid should "make them filibuster on television", I've wondered why it never seems to occur to them that there is absolutely nothing the Republicans would like more. Harry Reid has, I'm quite sure, spent most of the last four years figuring out how to let the Republicans obstruct (because he can't stop them) without ever giving them the opportunity for a 'real' filibuster. I've never been sure why anyone thinks Republicans would look bad if this happened; if that were true, they'd have never gotten elected to begin with.

    ...if Barack Obama were somehow able to cure hunger in the world, the Professional Left would say he is promoting obesity

    by the tmax on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 06:14:49 PM PST

  •  David, I always learn something when you write (0+ / 0-)

    thank you for all your efforts and insight.

    "I agree with you now make me do it!" FDR

    by JC Dufresne on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 07:12:01 PM PST

  •  Certainly Progress (0+ / 0-)

    I guess the one issue that I'd think they could address more directly is amendments. Perhaps on each bill Senators should send a list of amendments they would like debated to their party leader and have that list presented at the start of debate. Then, each such amendment would simply be put to a majority vote with no debate as to whether the Senate would hear debate on that issue. If it failed that vote, it would be taken off the list; if not, it would be added to the list of amendments that would be debated.

    Probably each party should be allocated a limited number of slots for amendments to propose, say 50 of them. But if that list were even 100 potential amendments, it could be brought up and voted on efficiently since there would be no debate. This would also mean that the minority party would have to get everyone there at the beginning of the debate because otherwise their amendments would not be considered at all.

    This does mean that the majority could shut out debate on all minority amendments, but only at the cost of going on record as opposing each of them. I suppose that to make this totally accountable, they'd need a roll-call vote on each amendment. If they wanted to facilitate this, they could batch them, so that the lists would go to the Senators, who would check off which they were willing to hear, and all of them could be tallied simultaneously.

    As for the other changes, I would say that the one thing I'd like to see in the final rules is that the filibuster can only be used on the final debate of the amended bill before it goes to a final vote, and that should be in a way that the opposing party must keep continuous debate going in opposition. No more holds, no more delays to get to debate, just debate. If someone wants to then stand there before the American people, the universe and everyone and hold forth on why this bill is a bad idea, then let's hear them out.

    And, I would also agree that nominations should never be filibustered. Let's get to an up or down vote on the person so that the executive is not unduly impaired from doing its duty.

  •  Merk vs. Flib (0+ / 0-)

    This is either David versus Goliath or Kraken vs Godzilla.

    Merk's  proposals gets the central and salient proceedural items on the agenda, in the public mind, and in dealing with the realities of Senate Rules.

    There are reasons why Merk does not suppose outright prohibition of a filibuster; namely, that its not a "thing" in "law" but an elaborate, convoluted system of stalls and siderail tracks of infinite variety. It is the viral downside to representative procedure, and disallowing it outright would prevent ANY proceedure without depotism of the chair. Still, this points in the right direction, and shows the lay legislator in us all how the filibuster 'attitude' can be curtailed and amputated.

    Merk is a first rate parlimentarian, having been the Senate Leader in the Oregon Legislature, scrupulus as to proceedure, with fine and subtle legal mind,  so we would do well to listen to how this can be done.

    Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

    by OregonOak on Sun Dec 05, 2010 at 07:09:28 AM PST

  •  all good ideas, i think, but... (0+ / 0-)

    ...seriously, I would be shocked if they implemented any of them.

  •  Odds of this or similar actually happening? (0+ / 0-)

    OK, suppose on day 1 of the new Congress Sen. Merkley moves that the rules be amended per this proposal, or something similar.

    Harry Reid says, "great, let's vote."

    A GOP Senator stands up and says, "you can't vote to change the rules without either unanimous consent or 60 votes for cloture, and there's no way in hell you'll get either."

    Will Reid back down?

    Will Reid insist that the rules can be changed by simple majority, and proceed to a vote? And if he does, will any Blue Dogs defect--either on just this issue, or actually switch parties--and deprive us of a majority?

    Will Reid ask for a ruling from the parliamentarian? And if he does, what will the parliamentarian say?

    I presume your previous diaries have covered these questions in detail. How about linking to the answers? Or even better, a one-paragraph summary here?

    Thanks very much for all your good work on this issue.

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Sun Dec 05, 2010 at 02:06:10 PM PST

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site