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A screen capture of Jimmy Stewart's character holding a filibuster in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
It's as if the country weren't in the middle of a hostage-taking crisis manufactured entirely by congressional Republicans, as if we hadn't had four solid years of obstruction from Senate Republicans who wanted nothing other than to prevent President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats from accomplishing anything. While the insanity of the fiscal cliff curb goes on, in the background a handful of Democrats are helping Republicans derail real filibuster reform.
The proposal by Levin and Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), doesn't propose a new rule requiring a talking filibuster, but a document they distributed explaining their proposal said the leaders of the two parties would require it.

"If a senator wants to block legislation, he or she should go to the floor of the Senate, and be there for that objection," said McCain.

"You must talk," said Levin, adding that no new rule is needed because the talking requirement has never actually been dropped. It's only been waived by senators as a courtesy, McCain and Levin said.

This is another "gentlemen's agreement," not a rule change, and would only apply to the upcoming congressional session. It still allows for a silent filibuster, allowing any senator to block any legislation with a minimum of effort, unless Mitch McConnell decides to honor the agreement. Beyond the fact that it does absolutely nothing to force a talking filibuster, the Levin-McCain proposal actually rewards Republicans by guaranteeing them votes on amendments of their choosing on each bill. If this proposal goes through, the Senate is going to be voting on anti-abortion and pro-gun amendments with every damn bill.

Fix the Senate Now, a coalition of which Daily Kos is a member, points out as well that the proposal also still allows multiple chances for the minority to filibuster any given bill. The proposal the coalition is supporting would allow just one filibuster, a talking filibuster on final passage.

The Levin-McCain proposal does little more than protect the status quo, and look where that's gotten us. Right now, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) says that he has the 51 votes among Democrats for the so-called "Constitutional" or "nuclear option," changing the Senate rules with a simple majority vote.

Ironically, the combination of filibuster reform and the fiscal fiasco puts the Senate GOP in a bind. If they filibuster and any single senator goes rogue on any deal, then they've just made the case for Reid going nuclear on real filibuster reform.

Tell your senator to vote to make the filibuster a real, talking filibuster that requires affirmative votes to continue.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 09:21 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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