Disclosure: I'm doing paid work as a Fellow for ProgressiveCongress.org in addressing the necessity of filibuster reform in the Senate. The Fellowship is being supported in part by CREDO Action and Blue America. You can help support this work by signing CREDO Action's petition and/or donating at Blue America's ActBlue page.
I said last time I took up the topic of filibuster reform that it was,"really something you could bring up every day, no matter what's in the Capitol Hill news, and never have to worry about being topical, because if you look closely enough, you'll always find signs of the long shadow that the filibuster casts over everything."
And I meant it, even if I haven't exactly brought it up every day.
Today's revisitation of the topic was perfectly set up yesterday by DarkSyde:
Let me see if I have this straight: in the last few days members of the GOP have savagely screwed the unemployed, protected the bankstas, trashed Thurgood Marshall, implied rape and incest is part of God's plan, defended BP, threatened to either end social security or screw over 20 million plus people who have paid into the system for at least 20 years by making them wait until age 70 to see their benefits, and screwed homeless veterans with children. That about it, or is there more?
Yeah, he's got it straight.
Here's the thing. Yes, the Republicans have done all of that and more, even as every shred of polling evidence and just plain common sense tells you that the overwhelming majority of normal people want the exact opposite of every single one of these items. But still, what do we see happening in Congress, and most specifically in the Senate? The largest Democratic majority in decades continuously folding to the demands of these kooks.
Well, I'll be you've already guessed. But part of my job is to state it for you as plainly as possible. It's the filibuster.
Exactly how did the Republicans savagely screw the unemployed?
Republicans blocked a similar effort to extend unemployment benefits last week...
And how do you block such an effort? With a filibuster. By denying cloture.
And how do you protect Wall Street and big banking, even in the wake of their greed and recklessness practically cratering the economy and taking money out of the pockets of nearly half of all Americans?
You do it by threatening to filibuster the carefully negotiated Wall Street reform bill conference report, that's how.
If both [Susan Collins (R-ME)] and [Scott] Brown [R-MA] oppose financial reform over bank fees, it could stall or even kill the legislation. Democrats would have to sweep the remaining swing votes--Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA)--to pass the legislation. They want to pass the bill this week, but the death of Sen. Robert Byrd has thrown into doubt whether they'll have the votes lined up before the fourth of July recess.
And what would even be the point of trashing Thurgood Marshall? There can't be any, except to try to drum up opposition to the nomination to the Supreme Court of his former clerk, Elena Kagan. The ultimate weapon in opposition to any nomination being, of course, the filibuster. The fear of which, in part, compels Democrats to hold their tongues even as Republicans insist on driving the herd off the crazy cliff. "Let them rant," you might expect Dem Senators to tell you. "If we don't, they'll get even more petulant, and be even more inclined to cause trouble and delay than they already are."
What about screwing homeless vets with kids? Does that count? Well, yes and no:
Those patriotic Republicans are at it again. This morning, Patty Murray spoke on the floor, requesting unanimous consent to pass the Homelss Women Veterans and Homeless Veterans with Children Act. Mitch McConnell, on behalf of Tom Coburn, objected to the bill.
No, objecting to unanimous consent requests is not the same thing as filibustering. But it's related. If you can't get unanimous consent to bring a bill to the floor, you have to make a motion to proceed to that bill instead. And though you need only the support of a simple majority to pass such a motion, the motion itself is subject to a filibuster, which as we've discussed before, can take up to a week to break through, even when there's overwhelming support for moving forward. The objection to a unanimous consent request to take up a bill is a proxy for a Senator's threat to filibuster the motion to proceed. Make the motion non-debatable and therefore remove the possibility of the filibuster, and I'll bet you'd see a lot less objection to unanimous consent requests. Because those objections would be largely pointless. And they'd be pointless because they'd be instantly testable. If you object, you're going to have to stand up and vote against the motion to proceed, and bring your friends. And if you can't get 50 of them together, you lose. But as things stand now, you don't even have to be able to get a single other vote. Hell, you don't even need to get your own vote! You just say you object, and the rest of the Senate has to decide whether they can afford to waste a week calling your bluff.
Just to dispense with some of these other tragi-comic points that DarkSyde brought up, the defense of BP to which he was referring was Rep. Joe Barton's (R-TX-06) ridiculous apology and "shakedown" episode. Related to the filibuster? Well, no. He's in the House. But you can be damn sure that anything that makes it to the Senate floor and which aims to take a properly-sized chunk out of BP's hide will have to be watered down or jettisoned entirely at the insistence of some Republican "moderate" who's able to leverage the change by threatening... yes, a filibuster.
And the loopy assertions on rape and incest from teabagger doyenne and Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R-Area 51)? Well, she's not a Senator and if God's plan comes together, she never will be. But how "reasonable" and "collegial" do you think someone like that is likely to be should God decide to nap on that election? This year's crop of Republican Senate candidates are, for the most part, each one of them individually reason to consider filibuster reform.
So think about that, won't you? We already know from painful experience that without filibuster reform, the Democratic agenda is constantly subject to being watered down, chipped away, or even sunken entirely by the minority veto that Republicans have carved out of the tradition that's technically supposed to do no more than hold open the door for additional debate. But not only does the modern filibuster never actually feature any of that debate, it essentially renders moot any debate we might otherwise have had, since the outcome is a foregone conclusion: that is, that the debate shall have no conclusion at all, and whatever's under consideration will die at the hands of the smallest minority in years.
How much worse is it that the demands for change heard from the American people are being sacrificed not just to the losers of the last election, but to losers who savagely screwed the unemployed, protected the bankstas, trashed Thurgood Marshall, implied rape and incest is part of God's plan, defended BP, threatened to either end social security or screw over 20 million plus people who have paid into the system for at least 20 years by making them wait until age 70 to see their benefits, and screwed homeless veterans with children?