In many ways, the current GOP in Congress, both in the House and the Senate, are like a bunch of unruly children. They cry and scream when they don't get their way, they throw temper tantrums when insulted (only their temper tantrums have the possible consequences of causing economic catastrophes), they pout and say "No!" when told to do something they don't like and so on. And God help if you try to discipline them by taking their toys away, because if the Senate GOP is any indication, they really turn into whining brats when that happens.
Of course, I'm talking about the issue of filibuster reform, one of the pressing issues facing the new and markedly more liberal Senate of the 113th Congress. And Harry Reid is quite serious about pressing forward on reform. According to Politico today, Reid is focused on two reforms in particular: (1) banning filibusters used to prevent debate from even starting and House/Senate conference committees from ever meeting and (2) actually forcing filibusters to be, you know, filibusters, as in senators actually being forced to talk endlessly on the Senate floor (if it's good enough for Senator Jefferson Smith, it's good enough for actual senators). Both are sensible reforms that would go a long way to ending the constant filibustering that has paralyzed the body.
But, of course, the children in the GOP Senate caucus don't like having the idea of their toys being taken away. (Or they're all lazy and don't want to do the actual work of a genuine filibuster.) And as such, the whining and threats have begun in earnest:
"I think the backlash will be severe," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the conservative firebrand, said sternly. "If you take away minority rights, which is what you're doing because you're an ineffective leader, you'll destroy the place. And if you destroy the place, we'll do what we have to do to fight back."Right, you'll shut down the Senate after Reid takes away your ability to...shut down the Senate like you've been doing the past four years. So what's the difference? If I didn't know any better, I'd think Coburn and Cornyn were aping the classic "Blazing Saddles" scene where Cleavon Little escapes a racist mob by holding himself hostage.
"It will shut down the Senate," the incoming Senate GOP whip, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, told Politico. It's such an abuse of power."
Then, of course, there's the hypocrisy angle to consider. We all remember the "nuclear option" that Bill Frist contemplated using in 2005. I don't recall either Coburn or Cornyn opposing filibuster reform then. (Indeed, Coburn said back then that no presidential nominations should ever be filibustered, while Cornyn was all in for the nuclear option.) So forgive us if we don't exactly sympathize with you two.
Steve Benen has more to say about the ludicrous nature of the threats from Coburn and Cornyn:
But even putting hypocrisy aside, there's a certain oddity to the Republican threats. The GOP minority has abused Senate rules in ways unseen in American history, rendering the entire institution a dysfunctional mess, and creating mandatory supermajorities for the first time since the Senate was created over two centuries ago.And to further highlight the GOP's ridiculousness, Greg Sargent points out that Coburn's cries of "taking away minority rights" doesn't make sense:
And if Democrats take steps to make policymaking slightly more efficient, then Republicas will "shut down the Senate?" The GOP threat is that the future will abandon the bipartisan comity and constructive process the nation has enjoyed in recent years?
So let's be clear as possible: The package of reforms most likely to be adopted would no take away the ability of the minority to block legislation supported by a majority of the Senate.Exactly. Reid's proposed reforms would not get rid of the filibuster (which Frist's "nuclear option" would have done). The GOP will still be able to filibuster. It's just that now, they'll have to put some actual effort into it. You want to filibuster? Go on the damn floor of the Senate and talk your head off. But the mere threat of it to gum up everything? Too bad, that's gone, you'll have to actually work for a living, you slackers.
That's right: While the reforms currently being considered would force filibustering into the open and end the ability to filibuster before proceeding to debate and in other situations, they would not - repeat, not - mean an end to the filibuster on ending debate and having a final vote on any bill. In other words, these reforms would simply remove ways of using the filibuster explicity as a tactic to gum up the works by stalling legislation, without altering the underlying ability to block legislation with a minority of the Senate.
Back to Benen, who makes the purpose of the reforms very clear:
What reformers have in mind is not to break the Senate or introduce radical changes to the staid institution, but ultimately, are motivated by the opposite motivation - reforms would bring the Senate closer to the way it was designed to function, and used to function before Republicans abandoned institutional norms and abused Senate traditions.But of course, the GOP children don't want that. And their temper tantrum looks like it's just getting started. Buckle up, this is going to be a bumpy ride.
10:10 AM PT: This doesn't really have anything to do with filibuster reform, but I couldn't help but note this:
...the incoming Senate GOP whip, Texas Sen. John Cornyn...
Isn't it amazing that after presiding as NRSC chairman over an election cycle where the GOP not only blew a golden opportunity to win the Senate, but actually lost seats, John Cornyn is not only not punished for his failures, but instead promoted to take Gomer Kyl's old job as #2 in the GOP Senate caucus?
There really is no such thing as failure in GOP ranks. You can only fail up.