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Well, as most of us cynics expected, the Senate didn't fix the filibuster/cloture mess. Thus the Obama presidency will continue to be stifled by McConnell and his crew. More good bills will die or be watered down on account of the extra-constitutional requirement for 60 votes. More judicial seats and executive branch positions will remain vacant.

The American people will suffer. Even though Democrats "control" the upper chamber.

But not to worry, my fellow cynics! Over at TPM, an anonymous Senate staffer writes to say everything is rosy. The only problem is we progressives don't get it:

All Senate Democrats agree that rules reform is essential. Now we appear to be on the brink of that, and the “fix the Senate crowd” is dismayed. Unlike last time Reid isn’t proposing just a “gentleman’s agreement,” these are real changes to Rule 22. And these appear to have minority support. This is a big deal.
Yay! A big deal! Real rule changes! Only problem is they don't accomplish anything significant. Per Tom Harkin:
"It's a baby step. Really, it's a baby baby step," Harkin told reporters Thursday before heading into a caucus meeting on the filibuster plan. ... "I said to President Obama back in August ... and I said to him the night before the election, I said to him, 'Look, if you get reelected, if we don't do something significant about filibuster reform, you might as well take a four-year vacation,'" Harkin said. "This is not significant."

But what does Tom Harkin know, anyway? Sheesh.

An examination of the arguments by our anonymous staffer as quoted on TPM against real reform is educational. So I'd like to walk through a few of them here.

First up: Dems may one day be in the minority, and the filibuster will protect us:

I have not see anyone show how these rules will help advance the progressive cause and just as troubling is the lack of reflection about how rules reforms under the constitutional option could be used to hurt us someday when President Rubio teams up with Speaker Cantor and Leader McConnell.
Right. We'll need that filibuster one day ... My biggest problem with this argument is it's for losers. Because we're gonna lose one day, we should cut off the possibility of doing something good today.

I'd say if Democrats do good things today those future defeats will happen less often.

Our TPM mystery correspondent carries on with another popular trope among filibuster apologists, the "protection of minority rights":

Is the progressive community oblivious about what happens when the minority has no tools to prevent majority excess? What happened this week in Virginia much less Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin the past several years should make progressives more circumspect about the value of mechanisms, like the filibuster, that preserve minority rights.
This statement contains so much BS it would take a long time to deal with it all. Let's focus on three points.

Yes, it's true that when Republicans take over the state government things will suck. But this happened on the national level 2001-2006 even though we had the vaunted filibuster to protect us. We still went to war for no reason, we cut taxes, we let Wall Street run wild. We passed special rules to de-regulate hydrofracking. Roberts & Alito still got to the Supreme Court. The real check to such excess is voting out Republicans, not the filibuster.

And what happened in Virginia this week? The GOP legislature voted on redistricting. I think we are smart enough to see that the mechanisms of how people get into office (districting, voting rules, etc.) should be carried out differently from regular legislation. The recent Virginia episode is not a convincing argument that every Senate action should require 60 votes.

Finally, the "minority rights" argument gets really tired. Legislatures should protect their members rights to participate in debate, to serve on committee, to make amendments, to do all the parliamentary stuff, whether they are in a majority or not. That is fair. But what the filibuster-lovers really mean by this little phrase is that a legislative minority can block everything. It means an intransigent minority caucus has equal power to the majority. It means electoral victories - the people's choices - don't matter. To claim that we must accept stalemate in order to protect "minority rights" is perverse.

Our correspondent then amplifies his argument for minority rule:

The talking filibuster and Sen. Franken’s proposal are not the same as what we have now and that isnt good. Senate Rules shouldn’t be based upon a movie and the filibuster should not be changed to shift the burden on the minority — that is the opposite of its purpose. The filibuster is to force the majority to work with the minority. Waiting out the minority is not the same thing.
Heh heh ... again, so much misinformation in so few words! Some people have the knack ...

First, the movie reference. Requiring a talking filibuster is merely requiring what was Senate SOP years ago. The famous anti-civil-rights filibusters (gotta protect those minority rights, ya know) of the 1950s featured actual talking. Apparently the only Senate history our staffer knows is from movies.

Second, the "purpose of the filibuster" ... what IS the purpose of the filibuster, anyway? As we know, it appeared in the Senate rulebook by accident, not on purpose. This rulebook quirk was not exploited for another 30 years. The very name "filibuster" comes from the Dutch word for "piracy," indicating that people saw its purpose as allowing a minority to steal a vote they could not win fairly.

There is no honest purpose to the filibuster. It's true purpose is to subvert democratic governance.

If indeed our staffer, along with his or her DC fellows, really thinks we need Senate rules that "force the minority to work with the majority," we're in trouble. What that means in today's world is that the disciplined, unified, intransigent, highly conservative GOP Senate caucus will ALWAYS have the last word. Even though the voters chose Democrats.

The GOP doesn't care whether the government works of not. They don't care what the majority wants. Yet our staffer, and the Levins and Schumers and Feinsteins, think it essential that our Democratic majority "work with" these people, despite the fact that there is nothing forcing the GOP minority to work with them.

They say, "screw the voters, let's give McConnell, Inhofe, and Sessions  power they couldn't honestly win at the polls."

Real progressives want government that works. The filibuster is more sand in the gears.


Majority rule is a good thing.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's all history now for the next two years. We (5+ / 0-)

    need no other proof than this to reveal to us that we really don't have a two-party system of government in this country.  We have a one-party plutocratic system that has a conservative and liberal wing but do the bidding of the plutocracy all the same.  They each come with their special interest groups, TV and radio stations, pundits and blog sites but all this is merely designed to entertain rather than represent a real choice for the people. That is why we all know Wall Street crooks will never go to jail, war criminals will never be prosecuted and power will continue its process of consolidation into the hands of a shrinking elite who operate above scrutiny and the law.  We will have to think beyond politics to correct our course.  

    If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

    by John Crapper on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 09:17:30 AM PST

  •  great analysis mm, thanks! (5+ / 0-)

    I especially liked this:

    Right. We'll need that filibuster one day ... My biggest problem with this argument is it's for losers. Because we're gonna lose one day, we should cut off the possibility of doing something good today.

    I'd say if Democrats do good things today those future defeats will happen less often.

    very well said.  Nice.

    When we continually let the "pirates" steer the ship,

    and the Democratic Agenda end up crashed on the rocks, somewhere near Timbuktu,

    -- Who do you think the Public will blame?

    The mischievous pirates, or those "in charge" who let them, direct the American Go-Nowhere journey?

    Here's how the game is really Rigged.

    by jamess on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 09:23:45 AM PST

    •  losers or realists? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Words In Action, mightymouse

      Because we will lose one day, sooner or later...and given history, odds are sooner.

      There is also the fact that one side overreaches far more than the other, and I'd like to have a somewhat strong version of the filibuster available.

      Now I was on board with the 41 requirement versus the 60 requirement and disappointed that didn't go through. But I think the idea that we will need the filibuster one day is more about realism than being a loser.

      •  Well... (7+ / 0-)

        If you're playing not to lose, you're not playing to win.

        The Dems had their opportunities to use the filibuster during Bush the Lesser's dictatorship. And they didn't use it. This idea of needing it around to eventually use it when they're in the minority is wrong on every level. They basically gave the Pachyderms everything they wanted (and allowed them to water down everything...with the help of Corporatist Dems), while coming up with pathetic excuses along the way.

        The Dems had a chance to fix the Senate. Yet they deliberately allowed that chance to be squandered. And the Senate is still broken.

        Nothing of significance to normal people will pass. If the Dems ever show up on television complaining about nothing being able to be passed, or complaining about the ridiculously ludicrous undemocratic 60 vote threshold, you should just say, "Shut the fuck up. This is your clusterfuck. Own it, motherfucker." And then change the channel.

        The Grand Bargain must be stopped at all costs to protect the 99%.

        by cybrestrike on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 09:42:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  but when we DID lose they didn't use it (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jamess, wu ming

        to stop Roberts or Alito, or to stop the Iraq war, or the destructive Bush tax cuts, etc.

        when the GOP controlled to govt, we still got hit bad - the filibuster didn't protect us.

        An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

        by mightymouse on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 10:16:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  thanks for the kind words (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that is exactly the problem - when nothing is happening w/Dems in the majority, the public doesn't know who to blame.

      An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

      by mightymouse on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 10:03:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Is it the right of hte minority (4+ / 0-)

    to simply STOP everything government tries to do?

    If so, then tell me again why I should care if the next Senator from Massachusetts is Ed Markey or Scott Brown?

    Either way, there will be at least 41 Republicans and 41 Democrats to effectively do nothing, right?

    Sure, the 60th vote matters, I guess, but neither side will ever maintain such a 60th vote, so please, please, please, DO NOT ask me to donate.

    There, I just saved the DCCC, the DLCC, the DNC, the Markey/Leach/whomever Senate campaign a nickel for the call and ten minutes of a staffer's time.

  •  Just a thought (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

       Perhaps Sen. Reid figured that filibuster reform wasn't really going to accomplish much as long as the House was controlled by the batshit crazies. With the current situation, there's really no chance to pass any meaningful legislation anyway. The nomination process  would be helped by changing the rules but not legislation. If the Dems had retaken the house, the reformers might have had more support. Why change the rules if you can't take advantage of those changes? Reid did reserve the right to change the rules with 51 votes, so we need to retake the House first. Just my 2 cents.

    •  There's always the question of some Dems jumping (0+ / 0-)

      ship on a particular bill, so it would be the Dems who would be needing the filibuster to prevent a gop/conservadem vote.

      However, I was for reform.
      The only other rationale I can see is that the Dems just see the gop continuing to knock themselves out with their own obstructionism so just let them keep doing it until 2014 when we can get the House back and make progress.

      You can't make this stuff up.

      by David54 on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 12:18:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Senate approves judges & nominations (0+ / 0-)

      to executive branch positions.

      that has nothing to do with the House.

      Also - re legislation - Senate can pass a bill and put pressure on the House to follow suit. this will highlight where the problem lies.

      An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

      by mightymouse on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 03:24:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Maybe Tom Harkin has had enough (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and that's why he isn't running again. I, for one, wouldn't want to serve in that shithole they call the Senate.

    Feinstein is proudly touting her gun control legislation of Facebook, and I always comment that it's never going to pass because of the filibuster.

    "Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth." — Chris Hedges

    by Crider on Sat Jan 26, 2013 at 12:26:12 PM PST

  •  Filibuster reform (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mightymouse, getlost

    Next time the R's take control of the Senate, don't you think that Grover and the Kochs will order that new Republican majority to end the filibuster rule? Im certain of it.

    The real problem is the fact that pretend-progressive Dem Senators (and there are quite a few of them) find the filibuster to be an oh-so-convenient curtain to hide their obedience to big ticket donor lobbyists from voters. After all, if you never have to actually vote on something hard, it's way easier to keep your job. Democracy, the country, the people be damned.

  •  I understand that our fine (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Dem Senators could be playing not to lose. Afterall, that's what many of these Dem Senators have been doing for their entire Senatorial career. Why give the Rep Senators any leverage if they win the Senate one day, right? You self righteous Dem senators, and you know who you are, seem to be forgetting that if the Reps win the senate one day...

    they could give the power to themselves and you wouldn't have anything to say about it!

    And this thing about minority rights...

    We give two Senators to Rhode Island and two Senators to California. How's that for minority representation!

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