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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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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (27+ / 0-)

    "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning." —Warren Buffett

    by Joan McCarter on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 09:21:47 AM PST

  •  You know Dems are going to get rolled... (12+ / 0-)

    because in reality the Conservadems like using the evil GOP to pull legislation to the right rather than having to do it themselves.  Conservadems HATED having 60 seats because then it was Lieberman, Pryor, Conrad, Baucus and the like who had to pull the legislation to the center/right.  

    Senate Dems will dangle a progressive social issue change and innoculate themselves.  

    Both sides use social issues as distractions why they basically agree to sell out to corporations.  

    The NRA is the Gun Manufacturer Lobby. Nothing more. Their pontification about the second amendment is nothing more than their ad jingle. They're the domestic version of the Military Industrial Complex.

    by Jacoby Jonze on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 09:35:41 AM PST

    •  Two Heads, Same Coin. (5+ / 0-)

      We're just desperately voting for the lesser evil over and over and over again.

      The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

      by teacherjon on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 04:06:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Which is why (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      divineorder, Patango, Tfill

      it makes no sense for Cardin to be in on this.  He has one of the most progressive voting records in the Senate.  I've written to ask what in the heck he was thinking, but haven't received a response yet.

    •  Once again, Dems are allowing themselves (5+ / 0-)

      To be rolled by using the Republican frame.  The PROBLEM is the unreasonable and excessive use of the filibuster by Republicans, enabling the MINORITY PARTY to run the entire senate agenda.  So the Dem position OUGHT to be to get rid of the filibuster.  But no, Dems have to weaken their position at the outset by accepting the Republican frame that it's not the filibuster that's the problem, but simply the ease of over use.  So we get a watered down position in the first place, and the only negotiation to be done is to water it down even further?!  
      But hey, it's the best deal we can get, right?  Well, it's the best deal we can get if you start from the position of the Republicans.

  •  A gentleman's agreement would require testing... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...and they'll never agree on criteria for a test for who's a gentleman and it will take forever to decide if women are included....then someone will propose an amendment to establish a quorum of gentlemen knowing full well such numbers won't exist. Nope, sounds like more stalling. ;)

  •  Proposed name: the "I'll Be Good" rule. (12+ / 0-)

    Republicans represent both sides: the insanely rich and vice versa.

    by Crashing Vor on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 09:50:48 AM PST

  •  Delenda est filibuster! These "reforms", on a (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Randomfactor, ferg, 3goldens, divineorder

    scale of 0 to 100, might rate as high as a 1.

    "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere ". C. S. Lewis

    by TofG on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 12:22:53 PM PST

  •  Why would McConnell honor any agreement (11+ / 0-)

    when there are no consequences for failing to honor it?

    This is not a case of people of good will honestly disagreeing on what is best for the country.

    The filibuster is a crime against democracy.

    by schuylkill on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 02:21:48 PM PST

    •  The entire agreement puts McConnell (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Van Buren, schuylkill

      In the power seat.  But the filibuster reform is SUPPOSED to dislodge McConnell from the power seat.
      Head scratch.

      •  there's the rub (0+ / 0-)

        I just wrote my complicit Senator (Schumer) to ask him if he thought that all the filibusters of the last few years were done over McConnell's strenuous objections (!??!).  Y'know, I'm starting to think that prolonged proximity to "K" Street makes your "D's" look like "R's"!

        By the way, I have always loved the word "conniption(s)."

        When the people are being beaten with a stick, they are not much happier if it is called "the People's Stick." ~ Mikhail Bakunin

        by Sick Semper on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 06:28:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Not even (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...if they get 60 votes for it.

    America, we can do better than this...

    by Randomfactor on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 04:01:06 PM PST

  •  Charlie Brown, Lucy, Football, Ouch nt (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ferg, 3goldens, Kentucky DeanDemocrat

    As the Elites Come Together to Rise Above to Find a Third Way to do Rude things to the 99%

    by JML9999 on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 04:04:54 PM PST

  •  Failure to do filibuster reform guarantes at least (12+ / 0-)

    2 more years of stalemate and gridlock...

    Something we do NOT need!!

  •  Sorry, Off Topic, But (12+ / 0-)

    Right now, Senator Deb Stabenow (D-Mich) is speaking out against what the "deal" does to the Farm subsidies portion of the deal.  She is very upset and sounds ready to vote no on a deal.  Also, she is being joined by Senator Merkley.

    They are both very upset.  Instead of fracturing the Republican Caucus, it looks like leadership's desire for a deal, any deal however crappy, is fracturing our caucus.

    I hope the whole thing falls apart!

    "Some men see things as they are and ask, 'Why?' I dream of things that never were and ask, 'Why not?"

    by Doctor Who on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 04:11:21 PM PST

  •  Oh Chuck... (7+ / 0-)

    I knew before I read the diary that your crazy ass would be involved.   Can't have Elizabeth coming in and beating up on your Wall Street buddies, can we?  Too many Democrats actually want the status quo.

    "The only hope is to keep the Republicans from shredding the safety net one hostage crisis at a time." - Kentucy DeanDemocrat

    by Senor Frog on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 04:14:26 PM PST

  •  Are these people legislating while drunk?! (11+ / 0-)

    I can hardly believe the absolute nonsense that is streaming out of both the Democratic and Republican caucuses.  What do these people think they're doing?  They seem to be either drunk on their asses OR acting in the firm belief that this is all some kind of game to them.  Either way, they should be thoroughly repudiated.  They've largely been failures for the last two years and they're not improving their record by what's been happening in the last couple of days.  Good grief.  This crap is shameful.

    "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." - from the prophet Jeremiah

    by 3goldens on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 04:22:15 PM PST

  •  Question . . . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

       Can the Constitutional option only be exercised during the small window at the beginning of each Congressional session. In other words, can Reid use it later in 113th session if the promised behavior isn't forthcoming? If so why didn't he use it in the 112th?

    •  I Believe... (4+ / 0-)

      The rules are set forth at the beginning of the session.  So, if they say you need only need to whisper that you're going to filibuster, , it stays that way until the end.  If you put in rules that you actually have to get off your old, tired, lazy ass and go to the floor, that stays until the next session.

      IMHO, this is a move to try and handicap the incoming Freshman.  I hope the Freshman see through it and don't vote for it.  

      "The only hope is to keep the Republicans from shredding the safety net one hostage crisis at a time." - Kentucy DeanDemocrat

      by Senor Frog on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 04:27:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If they really wanted... (0+ / 0-)

        They could make a single change at the beginning of the session, making it clear that they can change the rules later with a simple majority.

        Then they can stick with a gentleman's agreement, with the stick being "we'll make the changes the second you break the agreement, as well as move your offices to the worst parts of DC."

        Scorched Earth!

    •  "constitutional option" vs "nuclear option" (6+ / 0-)

      That's the difference between the constitutional option and the nuclear option.

      At the term's beginning there are no rules and since the senate makes its own rules it only needs 51 votes.

      But the rules they usually use add a new 60 vote requirement for any further rule changes.

      The nuclear option tries to circumvent the Senate's own agreed rules to reduce to 50 votes.

      In the end, what matters is getting the 50 votes. The trick is, there probably aren't 50 votes to change the rules mid-session unless there are 60 votes.

  •  Time to embarrass McCain/Levin (6+ / 0-)

    The 2012 Senate record of each and every filibuster should be read aloud on the Senate floor. Just as a stark reminder of how many took place, on what topic, and who the culprits were for each of them. This should be a long boring read with mandatory attendance for all Senators.

    Every time McCain or Levin open their mouths to offer some compromise a person should start reciting the litany over them. Just to point out that we HAD A GENTLEMEN's AGREEMENT in 2012 and look at how many filibusters we got.

    They should be embarrassed to even attempt to water down the talking filibuster now being proposed. We suffered a full year of doing nothing. McConnell should be taken out back and given a good old fashioned thrashing for wasting the time and energy of a full year of legislation.

    My God! I just think back at all the critical pieces of legislation that could have helped us out in our time of need. And where was McConnell? Frigging acting the part of a political terrorist in our Senate. Makes my blood boil just thinking that this guy was voted in and draws a salary for doing this crap.

    "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately." -- George Carlin, Satirical Comic,(1937-2008)

    by Wynter on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 04:31:43 PM PST

  •  Isn't the word "ineffective" baked into anything (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ferg, chuckvw, Matt Z, mightymouse

    these clowns are doing these days?

    "They come, they come To build a wall between us We know they won't win."--Crowded House, "Don't Dream It's Over."

    by Wildthumb on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 04:35:55 PM PST

  •  What is a moderate Democrat? (5+ / 0-)

    One who works with Republicans to obstruct progress.

  •  Excuse me, but (10+ / 0-)

    if the Founders had wanted any vote to be decided by a super-majority, why would they have made the Vice-President the tie-breaker in the Senate?  

  •  Protect the financial capitalists at all cost (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli, akmk, divineorder, qofdisks

    How does one get more transparent than transparent?

    They no longer even try to conceal the fact that they are bamboozling us...

    Those who do not move, do not notice their chains. Rosa Luxemburg

    by chuckvw on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 04:43:53 PM PST

  •  Go FULL NUCLEAR: END the filibuster completely (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frameshift, divineorder, Anorish

    There is no doubt whatsoever the GOP will do so the very instant they ever get control of the Senate, so the Dems are absolute suckers if they do not beat them to it.

  •  New Year's Eve legislating is ugly. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    divineorder, qofdisks, mightymouse
  •  Levin et. al. live in such an insular world (5+ / 0-)

    that they don't understand that the other 370,000,000 Americans want some sort of progress and that their "gentleman's agreements" are something that the other 370MM people would just as soon wipe their collective asses with as let ride in the Senate.

    Seriously, how can Levin and the rest of these fools with a "D" after their name think that any republican can ever be trusted to keep their word on anything?  There is legislation that needs attention, judges who need to be confirmed and business that needs attending to in the Congress.  Do they think they get paid to sit on their asses and do the Governor LePetomaine "harrumph" all day long?

    Apparently it's not become obvious to them that they need to get the fuck to work and earn that fat salary they're getting.  How do we make them see it?  There are certainly a lot of Americans who would work twice as hard for half (or less) than what they're making and get shit done every day before they went home.  

    Filibuster reform now!  If they're going to block legislation, then they need to stand there and talk.  If they're physically incapable of doing the job, maybe they need to find alternate work and let someone else get the Nation's business done one bill, one day at a time with a focus on the Republic, not their re-election.  

    A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism. -Carl Sagan

    by jo fish on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 04:58:11 PM PST

  •  The filibuster on principal makes sense - and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Van Buren

    a lot of the Democratic outrage is due to how effective the GOP is at exploiting the rules.

    But a talking filibuster is a good reform idea.  So is a timed one - so that any bill blocked might progressively have fewer votes needed to break it.

    Suppose you start a filibuster with a 2/3 majority required to break it ... but after 5 days it drops to 60 votes and by 2 weeks (or whatever) 55 votes and then 3 weeks a simple majority.  At some point the filibustering senator has to find votes to keep his protest going.

  •  Undoing the work of the Founders (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Van Buren, ferg

    One of the reasons for needing a new constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation was that (from The Federalist No. 22):

    Its operation contradicts the fundamental maxim of republican government, which requires that the sense of the majority should prevail.
    The Founders would be appalled at the Senate's dysfunction today—just as most Americans today are appalled at it—and the main reason it's dysfuntional is the set of rules that allow a minority to block the majority on normal business.

    But what the Founders would think is not really the main issue. We have the last several years of experience of its dysfunction as proof that the Senate, with these rules, cannot perform its constitutional duty: conducting the nation's business.

    Technically, it does not require any change to the Constitution to revise or eliminate the rules that allow minorities to block action. They're just Senate rules. The House has the same power and yet has managed to reform its rules to eliminate filibustering, which used to take place there, as well.  

    I'm not optimistic they will make significant changes. Those damn Senators just love themselves too much.

    The filibuster is a crime against democracy.

    by schuylkill on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 05:49:07 PM PST

  •  Love that photo (0+ / 0-)

    It's from my favorite scene in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and one of my all time favorites.  I've been surprised to learn that many people have not seen Smith.  That's a shame, because it's an important cultural landmark.

  •  Someone needs to remind the Democrats (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    in the Senate of all the great legislation that fell victim to the silent Filibuster

    Getting rid of the tax break for companies moving production overseas...
    blocking the jobs bill for veterans ... (yeah, McCain looking out for his fellow vets..nasty words)

    and all the judicial nominations that were blocked
    those are just a few ..

    but just one of them is enough to get rid of the filibuster rules as they now stand
    okay, you want a silent fili  its good for only two days..then we vote again and 55 votes gets us a chance to debate and move forward ..or something else that doesn't mean the filibuster can silently kill democracy

    How can the Democrats trust these rethugs who voted against the Treaty on Disabled people?  or their fellow senators who have behaved like hoodlums in regard to Susan Rice?  and are now attacking Chuck Hagel ?  are these people with whom you can have 'gentlepersons agreements"

    more like kowtowing to the mafia

    Give your heart a real workout! Love your enemies!

    by moonbatlulu on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 06:50:37 PM PST

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