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If meaningful filibuster reform is not enacted on Tuesday, when the Senate officially goes into its first 113th Congress session, President Obama will be entirely frustrated (again) from doing anything during his second term, including naming anyone to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court.  

The chief reason Mitch McConnell is so upset by filibuster reform is that if Senate rules stay essentially the same after January 22 Republicans will have the same free hand they’ve exercised so brutally over the last four years to block the only pre-assured achievement of President Obama’s second term, that of naming sensible jurists to the Supreme Court to curb the excesses of its über-conservatives, particularly those without an operating human brain (Clarence Thomas, anyone?)  There will be at least one vacancy over the next four years, and perhaps more, and as the rules of the Senate stand now there is no reason to prevent any single kook senator (Rand Paul, anyone?) from blocking the Senate from confirming any nomination Obama might make to fill the seat(s).  There is nothing in the Constitution that says the Supreme Court can’t or won’t operate with fewer than nine members, in fact it has done so many times.  And as Senate rules stand now any single senator can completely block (and secretly, too) any item of Senate business from ever going forward.

The arguments against reform can seem plausible—if real reform is enacted, then it can be used against the Democrats if they ever find themselves in the minority again.  But the filibuster isn’t being taken away; it is simply being retailored to the shape it held until 1975, namely a blocking mechanism useful to a Senate minority that involves speaking continuously on the floor.  And as to the “secret holds” that reform would do away with, only Republicans have ever used these to scurrilous effect.  Anyway the “secret hold” is also a creature of 1975, and if both the Senate and the nation survived perfectly happily under a real filibuster and a lack of “secret holds” for 200 years there’s no reason to suppose it can’t again.

Of course the GOP, as currently constituted, will continue to act in the most despicable, selfish, unpatriotic, and bowing-and-scraping-to-the-one-percent fashion no matter what the rules of the Senate are.  Might as well make them useful, at least for the present.  Just remember that the future of the Supreme Court and the rights of human beings as opposed to corporations depends on immediate real reform of the filibuster.  Right now the GOP is fawning and groveling before the leaders of the Senate, making the same promises of bonhomie and bipartisanship they did four years ago.  I sincerely hope Harry Reid, and everyone else at risk of falling for their hogwash, will wake up before it is too late.  Don’t fall into the same pit again, folks.  The same snake is making the same promises, that everyone under the sun knows they won’t keep.  This time there is too much at stake.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I don't believe it is true (8+ / 0-)

    The Senate confirmed two members of the SCOTUS during President Obama's first term. I don't think there will be any issues having an up or down vote on any nominee in his second term, regardless of any changes in the filibuster rule.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 02:04:28 PM PST

  •  I don't think that's accurate. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pistolSO, johnny wurster, sponson
    And as Senate rules stand now any single senator can completely block (and secretly, too) any item of Senate business from ever going forward.
    From what I understand, under current Senate rules the "hold" is a matter of courtesy and custom, not an actual rule within the Senate—and can be overruled by 60 Senators like any other filibuster.

    Otherwise, if the current rule permitted any one Senator to completely, secretly, and unilaterally block any item of Senate business from going forward, with no chance of being overruled by a vote, why wouldn't the Republicans have done that with the ACA?

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

    by JamesGG on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 02:10:41 PM PST

    •  Filibusters and "holds" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ItsSimpleSimon, CA wildwoman

      are used to block things from even being considered.  The power to do this goes away once legislation is actually moving. Once an ACA bill had been introduced into the Senate the process was no longer susceptible to a hold but it still could be hamstrung by a filibuster, unless it was passed via "reconciliation", which it was.

      The link below provides the skinny on how the "hold" works.  As can be seen, it can be used to completely scuttle anything.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/...

      I'm not sixty-two—I'm fifty-twelve!

      by Pragmatus on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 02:21:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  A case could be made... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pragmatus

        That holds and filibusters violate "Advice and Consent". Is the Senate really providing advice and consent when they won't even consider a candidate?

        He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

        The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

        by A Citizen on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 04:41:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, that's been the argument for a while. (0+ / 0-)

          But since the Constitution stipulates that the Houses of Congress alone can make their own rules, a conflict arises that has no solution.

          Kinda like the Supreme Court making a stupid decision--tough toenails for everybody, because the buck stops there.

          I'm not sixty-two—I'm fifty-twelve!

          by Pragmatus on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 06:02:48 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  you're probably right...and just like Charlie (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pragmatus, RainyDay

    Brown, who found himself letting Lucie pull the football out from under him at the last minute, again and again and again...the Democrats will probably let the Republicans pull the same old filth politics and obstructionism.

  •  I don't think it's SCOTUS nominations that would (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pragmatus

    be filibustered.   It's the less known appointments...

    There were a record number of federal court nominees that did not get a vote in this Senate ...

    The Supreme Court nominees get a lot of press ...these others do not ... People would see how the Republicans would be blocking the system in a Supreme Court hearing..but the voters don't see the obstructive ways of the Senate in these other issues...

    I think the filibuster as now practiced is a violation of the Spirit of the Constitution if not the actual letter of it as well.    At the minumum, it must be changed to 41 NO votes in a public count ...not 60 Yes ones   plus no filibustering or holding of nominees ...(maybe a hold for one week to produce evidence, but that is all)

    Give your heart a real workout! Love your enemies!

    by moonbatlulu on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 07:20:51 PM PST

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