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A screen capture of Jimmy Stewart's character holding a filibuster in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
One of the arguments against real filibuster reform, using the constitutional option of changing the rules by simple majority vote, is that the "old bulls" in the Senate—the senators who've been in office for decades—are opposed. A handful of those Democrats who are balking at the constitutional option could be considered old bulls, among them Carl Levin, Max Baucus, and Pat Leahy.

These, the convention wisdom would go, are the experienced members, measured in their actions and taking seriously their position in this most august body. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to reinforce this idea by talking about the reformers—Sens. Jeff Merkley and Tom Udall—as a "cohort of short-sighted Senate sophomores." Young barbarians at the gates!

That would be a convenient argument against changing the rules, if it were wholly true. There are actually some long-serving current and retired senators who think a rule change is absolutely in order, as Jonathan Backer from the Brennan Center for Justice, writes.

Senator Tom Harkin, first elected in 1984, has crusaded against the filibuster for years. Unlike his more junior allies, who wish to preserve the filibuster while limiting its abuse, Harkin’s preferred course is to ensure that all legislation eventually receives an up-or-down vote. In 1995, when Republicans controlled 52 seats, Harkin, a Democrat, first offered a resolution that would gradually reduce the number of votes required for cloture — the mechanism to end a filibuster — to 50 votes. [...] Senator Barbara Mikulski, the longest-serving woman in Senate history (first elected in 1986), has repeatedly co-sponsored Harkin’s proposal.

Senator Frank Lautenberg, who has served since 1982 with a brief two year hiatus, is also a major proponent of filibuster reform. Like Merkley, Lautenberg believes that filibustering senators should hold the floor and actually debate so that the public can see who is preventing a vote. [...]

And respected former Senators Jack Danforth, a Republican, and Dan Boren, a Democrat, both recognize that the modern filibuster is not in line with the Senate’s tradition as a deliberative body.

These long-time members and former members of the Senate are no less serious about their commitment to public service than any reform opponent. They have no less reverence for the Senate as an institution than their colleagues. You could easily make the argument that they take these things far more seriously than the whole of the Republican senate caucus which has used the current rules to blow the place to smithereens.

The filibuster reformers are the real protectors of the legacy of the institution. It's supposed to be a functioning arm of government, the "cooling saucer" of legislation. Instead, Republicans have made it the deep freeze.

Join with CREDO and Daily Kos by signing our petition rejecting the McCain/Levin proposal, and supporting real reform.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 10:45 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I think this will happen (6+ / 0-)

    It really shouldn't be as easy as it is to "pull the emergency brake" on Senate deliberations as it has become. I'm heartened that Danforth and Boren see this as well.

    When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 10:54:53 AM PST

  •  The Senate, not just where good bills go to die, (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HappyinNM, schuylkill, Aspe4, Sarenth, Matt Z

    but where all bills, appointments and life, hope, dreams and rational thought go to die.

  •  Today's filibuster rules mean permanently blocking (7+ / 0-)

    action on almost anything with almost no effort at all.

    It makes the Senate the most pathetic deliberative body in the world, an embarrassment to American democracy.

    It's a crime against democracy.

    The filibuster is a crime against democracy.

    by schuylkill on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 12:18:52 PM PST

  •  There's not a lot of 'old bulls' left (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aspe4, No Exit, verso2

    Since Obama's election in Nov 2008, there have been 43 new senators, and only 29 remain from 2000.

    Despite the reduction of 'old bulls', there still plenty of bullshit.

    Filibuster reform now. No more Gentleman's agreements.

    by bear83 on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 12:23:54 PM PST

  •  Why is this taking so long? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, bear83, Matt Z

    We have 54 Senators.  We only need 51 votes, correct?  What is the hold up?

    •  We actually have 55, and the other Independent, (5+ / 0-)

      Angus King is firmly on board.
         It may turn out to be a squeaker, but the sponsors are fairly confident they've got 51 votes.
        There are fence-sitters on this one like Levin, Leahy, Baucus, Cardin, Feinstein, Reed (RI), Schumer, perhaps even Boxer, so we need to call, write, tweet, etc. to make our wishes known.
         It's looking good, but this is too big a deal to take anything for granted.

      "We the People of the United States...." -U.S. Constitution

      by elwior on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 06:04:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is how the Senate works (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cocinero, winkk, Matt Z

      and old bulls get listened to. Reid's style, like that of other leaders before him, is to get all his people on board. If some of his most senior members have concerns then he'll do his best to meet those concerns. This is just how it works... and this part is part of the design... unlike the modern day filibuster which has no part in a properly working Senate.

      "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

      by Andrew C White on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 06:21:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The rhetoric from those pushing to retain the (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eyesbright, bear83, indie17, Sarenth, Matt Z

    filibuster as currently implemented is that it "retains a long tradition of encouraging public debate making this the most deliberative body in the world".  The reality though is that as currently structured, any debate that actually happens is anything but public.  Progress on anything is completely subject to backroom deals and closed caucus actions. The current proposals to reform the filibuster actually restore public debate.  Any Senator will be able to publicly debate any measure as long as he wants to (and can persuade others to support him) - and it will all be in public.  That is what Turtleboy and others are actually afraid of - that the public will see how absolutely lacking reason or facts their arguments are and they won't have the ability to gum up the works unless they get their way anymore.

    Good Sense is Seldom Common

  •  Abolish the filibuster completely. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, Bailey2001, verso2, Matt Z

    There is no doubt whatsoever the GOP will do so if and when they ever take control of the Senate again, so the Dems are idiots if they don't do it first.

  •  The House of Lords, err I mean the Senate (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    can either change, our they can keep working to bring down the Republic , my bet is on the later.

    If You thought the Honey Badger didn't give a shit, it has nothing on todays congress critter.

    "We can not Forget, Nor can We relent on Gun control". Bill Moyers

    by vzfk3s on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 06:02:38 PM PST

  •  Some of those "old bulls" put out a lot (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of old bullshit.

    "We the People of the United States...." -U.S. Constitution

    by elwior on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 06:09:57 PM PST

  •  What's Leahy had to say about it? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    While I respect Levin... I think very highly of Pat Leahy. I want filibuster reform but he is one old bull that deserves at listening to.

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 06:18:12 PM PST

  •  If those Senators that spent so much time (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    indie17, Sarenth

    using the current "filibuster" had to actually get up and talk to support their filibustering action, you can believe that things would get done.  Most of those asshats are happy to obstruct as long as it "costs" them nothing, in terms of making a personal investment in opposing legislation or appointments.  

    There's no limit to the number of things they won't obstruct if it costs them nothing, and they prove it every day they come to work for their huge salaries (and even if they don't think $174,000 per annum is enough to live on I suspect that there are millions of Americans who would gladly take half of that to "work" as "hard" as they do).  

    I, for one, am sick of seeing these overpaid children hold up the nation's business on a whim, bringing to a standstill any meaningful progress at all, just because they can.  If they don't want to pass meaningful reform, how about we dock their pay for everyday they have a "silent filibuster" until they give up and allow a vote to be taken...after all, they're not doing what we're paying them to do, right?  Which would be acting like adults and working for all of us.  

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

    by jo fish on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 06:19:16 PM PST

  •  Harkin's the best (6+ / 0-)

    I worked on Harkin's campaign a decade ago, just as an organizer, but meeting him and getting the vibe from his whole office gave me hope that there are good guys in politics.

    It's nice to be important, it's more important to be nice. - Tip O'Neill

    by toeknee1980 on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 06:32:16 PM PST

  •  As it is now the Senate is dysfunctional (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    David PA

    Why would any reasonable Senator welcome more paralysis?

    Electing people who don't believe in government to Congress, is like installing an atheist as pastor of a church. If they don't believe in the institution or its goals, they won't care if it does a good job for its members.

    by Lefty Coaster on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 06:32:46 PM PST

  •  When Ds in minority, never thwarted w/ 40 senators (0+ / 0-)

    What's the fear? Ds should recognize that unless they have 50 or 51 votes, they never have the courage to stop a bad bill.

    So ... pass filibuster reform and stop worrying about what happens when and if Ds are in the minority. If that happens, we're screwed unless we have the House or presidency.

  •  Wrong Boren... (0+ / 0-)

    It was DAVID Boren who was the faux centrist Democratic US Senator from Oklahoma from 1979 to 1994.

    It was his son DAN Boren who was the faux centrist Democratic Congressman from Oklahoma from 2005 to 2013.

  •  Poor little Mitch is worried (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Mitch is all shook up because the Dems will vote for filibuster reform.
    Mitch sees this as a threat to his obnoxious obstructionism.
    Mitch is an arrogant dangerous power hungry jerk.

    Let's STOP MITCH and get 51 votes for filibuster reform.  

  •  No, Republicans have not made it the deep freeze (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    they've made it a freaking graveyard.

    "There's no ideology [t]here [on the right]. It's just about being a dick." Bill Maher, June 22, 2012.

    by caseynm on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 07:46:32 PM PST

  •  call your senator if he's one of these old bulls (0+ / 0-)

    A bunch of my friends and family called Leahy today, both in Burlington and in Washington asking him to get off his dime. He's been a vocal complainer about the GOP misuse of the filibuster, and he's always slow to act, but the more calls he receives the better the odds that he will act accordingly.
    Call your senator and enlist others to do the same

  •  If the GOP gets a majority in a future election (0+ / 0-)

    I suspect they'll change their tune, and suddenly be eager to reform the filibuster to take advantage of their majority, claiming it was all the Democrats idea.

    Just do it.  It will make things so much easier for Obama, maybe the President we elected will actually get to implement some of the policies we voted for.

    Don't forget that our 55 seat majority could soon change, depending on the outcome of the special election to replace Kerry (Brown could be back).  Best to take advantage before 2014, when the makeup of Congress could change again (there are more Democrats than Republicans up for election in 2014).  As we seen, we've been able to roll the House, canceling out the Hastert rule and getting the fiscal cliff package passed in the House once the Senate approved.

    I still feel better about our prospects for the Senate than the House, since the Senate is immune to all the Republican gerrymandering that allowed them to hold the House despite getting fewer total votes (totaling all the House races together).

  •  That's the 21st Century for You (0+ / 0-)

    Senators can't even be bothered to talk.

  •  To Senators Feinstein and Boxer: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If you find the thought having to filibuster a bill when you find yourself in the minority a bit too tiresome, then maybe you should retire and let someone younger and more passionate get elected.

    I'm a blue drop in a red bucket.

    by blue drop on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 11:30:31 PM PST

    •  Exactly... (0+ / 0-)

      of course some of the lifer "old bulls" don't want reform. If the filibuster was done as originally intended, they'd have to actually go to the senate and do some work-- whereas now, they spend what? ten percent of their time there?


      "A civilization which does not provide young people with a way to earn a living is pretty poor". Eleanor Roosevelt

      by Superpole on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 03:51:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Down with the senate (0+ / 0-)

    The senate has no democratic legitimacy.

    It only exists because the smaller states held the new constitution hostage at Philadelphia.

    Making up reasons why it's a good thing is like a woman making up reasons why it's her fault her rotten husband beats her.

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