December 29, 2012
There is a chance to reform the filibuster in January, with a proposal to “make them talk.” Will the Charlie Browns in the Senate let Lucy pull away the football yet again? As George W. Bush said, “Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”
In recent years Senate Republicans have used the filibuster to block over 380 bills and nominations. There has been a terrible cost to the country as Republicans blocked bill after bill, solution after solution, nomination after nomination. (They even blocked the Disclose Act which would have let the public know just who is paying them to obstruct.)
Two years ago there was an attempt to reform the filibuster, using “the constitutional option” which involves changing the rules at the start of a new Congress, which happens the January after an election. According to The Brennan Center for Justice article, A Short History of the Constitutional Option:
The Senate’s authority to change its rules by a majority vote stems directly from the Constitution, which authorizes the chamber to “determine the Rules for its Proceedings.” And unlike other legislative actions, such as expelling members or ratifying treaties, the Constitution does not require a supermajority to approve rules changes.
The 2011 effort to change Senate rules and make it more difficult for an obstructionist minority to block the will of We, the People was stymied by Senate leadership, with an agreement between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell that “Republicans would make an effort to filibuster less.”
Lucy pulled away the football Republicans went back on that agreement and filibustered … everything.
Make Them Talk
Now another new Congress will convene in January, 2013, and another effort is underway to reform the filibuster. This new proposal in front of the Senate to reform the filibuster returns to the form of filibuster that the public understands, namely talking all night.
But now there is a “bipartisan” proposal to head this off,
offering to really, really hold the football still this time, offering an agreement to not filibuster as much. TPM has the story, Dueling Filibuster Proposals Leave Reformers Scrambling,
The McCain-Levin proposal, unveiled Friday after bipartisan negotiations, would make it easier for the majority leader to bypass motions to proceed and guarantee the minority two amendments on legislation regardless of relevancy, Steven S. Smith, an expert on Congress at Washington University in St. Louis, told TPM. It would also remove obstacles on motions to go to conference and approve minor presidential nominations.
Levin told reporters in the Capitol that the plan “will hopefully overcome the gridlock that has so permeated the U.S. Senate.” He added: “It is a bipartisan proposal.”
Will Senate Democrats once again whiff on doing something about Republican obstruction? Will they fall for yet another “agreement” that will be negated a few minutes after Democrats think an agreement with Republicans has fixed the problem? Will Charlie Brown fall for it again?
Fix the Senate Now, a coalition of over 50 national organizations, explains why Democrats should hold to the reform plan that “makes them talk” in, “Thanks, But No Thanks” – Reid & Senate Democrats Should Reject Weak Senate Rules Offering,
A handful of Senators today unveiled a U.S. Senate rules proposal that falls well short of the meaningful change needed to overcome the unprecedented Senate obstruction of recent years. Instead of a serious reform effort, today’s offering is little more than a status quo, business as usual, recipe for continued Senate gridlock.
They should make them talk. This is a pro-democracy move. First, it stops the obstruction. Second, it allows senators with serious and honest problems with a bill to bring this to the attention of the public by holding a real, honest-to-goodness talkathon. Third, this would engage the public and give We, the People a chance to weigh in and agree or disagree with the objection.
What You Can Do
Contact your senators and let them know how you feel about making them talk. This is so important.