kicking this can down the road to 2013.
And of course, people are talking about reform again, now that we're right back in another endless cycle of filibusters. They never really stopped. And to be fair, some of the bigger names involved with No Labels actually did support at least some of the filibuster reform proposals. Though some of them, like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), were a little less vocal about it then than their group is now. And others, like former Sen. Evan Bayn (D-IN), were vocal, but were in the middle of retiring from public service (but transitioning into lobbying positions).
In an op-ed timed to coincide with a D.C. event launching their program, No Labels co-founder and former Representative Tom Davis (R-VA) argued that much of gridlock around presidential nominations could be easily cleared up:
There is a simple way to break up this unnecessary, and potentially costly, confirmation logjam: Give the Senate 90 days to vote on a nominee — to confirm or reject the president’s choice. If there is no vote by then, the nomination would be considered confirmed.
The problem, of course, is that this reform—and several others they propose—require changes to the Senate rules. And we all know what that means.
And so do the folks at No Labels, though they only hint obliquely at it:
These are simple, straightforward proposals to break gridlock, promote constructive discussion and reduce polarization in Congress. They can be adopted, almost all at once, when the next Congress convenes in January 2013.
Rules changes can be adopted at any time, provided there's a sufficient majority for them. Of course, what that means in the Senate isn't exactly clear. But if the Senate rules themselves are the proper guide, that means a rules change—if blocked by a filibuster—needs a 2/3 majority, or 67 in a full Senate, in order to invoke cloture and get to a direct vote on the new rule. Again, there's no reason in the world why a vote like that would have to wait for January 2013.
What would have to wait until then is an attempt to utilize the procedural window said to exist at the beginning of a new Congress, before the Senate acquiesces to the continuance of its old rules, during which time it is arguably less offensive to those old rules for new ones to be adopted under general parliamentary law, i.e., by simple majority vote.
But that's something that the so-called "Gentlemen's Agreement" from January of this year actually forbids. Which poses an interesting dilemma. And possibly explains why, while No Labels leadership does include elected Republicans, it can claim no Republican senators, past or present. In order for the No Labels call for Senate rules reform in January 2013 to make any particular sense, this group calling for bipartisan cooperation has to advocate breaking an existing bipartisan cooperation agreement.
Not that it's worth a damn, of course. The agreement, that is.
So, what's going on here? Is No Labels endorsing breaking one bipartisan agreement for the sake of greater bipartisan agreement in the future? (That'd be okay with me, I suppose.) Or are they saying they didn't really understand why January 2013 is supposed to be an important date, but thought it made their plan look more official?