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Senate panel with Joe Lieberman, Carl Levin and John McCain
Sens. Lieberman, Levin and McCain in an Armed Services Committee hearing.
The Hill reports this morning that some of the old bulls of the Senate (and one new one) are having a hard time wrapping their head around the idea that the Senate is completely broken and there's just one way to fix it. Majority Leader Harry Reid is having a hard time convincing 10 of these senators that filibuster reform must happen, though three are leaning his way.
“What this tells me is that we’re very close to 51,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), who has been a leading advocate of using the constitutional option to limit the powers of the minority to use dilatory tactics. [...]

The three most reluctant Democrats are Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), and Carl Levin (Mich.). [...]

Levin said he does not want to use the constitutional option, which Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) calls “breaking the rules to change the rules.”

“I am very leery about changes to rules, except by the use of the rules,” Levin told The New York Times, “and the rules require two-thirds of votes to change the rules. I prefer not to use a mechanism which I believe is dubious.”

Proponents have a month to convince their colleagues, and they're close. As for these three, they shouldn't stand in the way of reform if the majority of the caucus wants it. Pryor is Pryor and scared of doing anything anyone might think was slightly controversial. With Levin and Feinstein, it could be that because they chair committees that actually do have a bit of bipartisanship—Armed Services and Intelligence—they haven't quite felt the full brunt of the past six years of Republican obstruction, even though they've lived through it.

And what Levin seems to be forgetting as he agrees with Mitch McConnell is that this is the very proposal McConnell and Sen. Jon Kyl came up with in 2005 to try to break Democrats' filibuster of Bush judicial nominees. And, back then, McConnell didn't think it was so extraordinary.

“…I don’t want to get too technical here, but the point is, what Senator Frist is considering doing is not unprecedented. It was done by Senator Byrd when he was majority leader. What is unprecedented is the fact that the Senate, for the first time in 200 years, last Congress chose to filibuster judges for the purpose of defeating them. That had never been done before in the history of the Senate. That’s what’s new…What Senate Republicans are contemplating doing and what I think they should do is to get us back to the precedents that were established prior to the last Congress, in which judicial appointments were given an up-or-down – that is, a majority – vote.”
Compared to the precedent the Republicans have set for filibusters in the past six years, not just on judicial nominations but on everything big or small, Reid's relatively modest proposed reforms are nothing. Levin's selective amnesia shouldn't stand in the way of trying to make the Senate function again.

Help make the filibuster a real, talking filibuster. Sign our petition.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 08:13 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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