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So it looks like Majority Leader Harry Reid is going to make some modest changes to the filibuster.  The Republicans have threatened retaliation and more obstruction.

So, for those skilled in parliamentary procedure I am wondering what all the Republicans can do?  I have some ideas.

Harry Reid will exercise the "Constitutional Option" at the start of the next session of Congress and change senate rules with a majority vote.  Basically he is proposing to make the Motion to Proceed and a few other procedural motions non-debatable.  He is also going to require continuous debate on a filibuster or what some call a "talking filibuster."

The Republicans are threatening retaliation and obstruction.  So the Democrats can be on guard and maybe begin to prepare, let's think of what tactics the Republicans might use.  

Reforming the filibuster to avoid delay is of no value if the delay just comes from other tactics.

Here are some of the things I see the Republicans can do or try:

1. Require all bills introduced to be read. Solution is to change the rules so that anything available for 72 or 48 or however many hours does not have to be read.

2. Require a quorum to be present to conduct business as required in the constitution.  This one seems the toughest.  Since the constitution requires a quorum to be present they may be able to force 51 senators to always be present.

3. As happened in the 1975 filibuster reform they could:
"...interrupt the proceedings with an extraordinary series of
parliamentary tactics, including live quorum calls, motions to recess,
roll calls on motions to recess, motions to reconsider previous roll
calls, points of order, and appeals of points of order." See Gold & Gupta article on the Constitutional Option.  So this one I am not sure what the Democrats could do.

So there looks like many ways even with filibuster reform to obstruct.  I am not interested in the politics or optics of them, but just what can be done in parliamentary procedure and what moves can be done to stop the Republicans.

Hopefully others knowledgeable about parliamentary procedure will discuss some of the possible tactics the Republicans might use and ways the Democrats can stop them.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wdrath, weck
  •  can't filibuster reform also include (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...limits on those other forms of obstructionism? By the way...thanks for asking this's been on my mind to. Perhaps they can put limits on how many motions to recess, etc. can be made within a certain timeframe.

    To me, the requirement that the Senate have an actual quorum of members doesn't seem so outrageous. Senators are paid to be working at the Senate, so when there are votes and debates, it doesn't seem unreasonable that a majority of Senators be available for such votes.

    •  It is impossible to reform all of the Senate rules (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and Harry Reid has ruled out doing so. Getting rid of the Motion to Proceed and the hold (thus requiring debate, or at least reading the phone book, on the floor) is quite enough for current and newly-elected Democratic Senators.

      The Senate is constructed so that most business has to be done by unanimously suspending the rules, a procedure that is in the rules. "I ask unanimous consent to suspend the rules and…" is one of the most common utterances in the Senate while doing regular business, uniformly followed by "Without objection…" from the Chair. Objection commonly leads to a vote, as with the cloture procedure, or abandoning the request. Any C-SPAN junkie can tell you about it. There are also many motions, such as quorum calls and points of order, that take precedence over normal business, and that can be multiplied endlessly. This means that anything can be obstructed at any time.

      A comparable tactic is that of a labor union that is not permitted by law to strike, but that can "work to rule", enforcing every jot and tittle (or comma and semicolon) in the contract as literally and as bloody-mindedly as possible, and making sure that the few persons authorized to do anything in particular are not available when and where the thing is to be done. Nothing happens.

      What we are talking about with the impending filibuster reform is not preventing obstruction entirely, which is impossible, but making it both onerous and visible on C-SPAN and the Internet, and if possible the nightly news. Where that takes us is a different discussion.

      America—We built that!

      by Mokurai on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 03:17:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I am concerned with secret "holds". (0+ / 0-)

    I would like to see them not secret and limited to a few weeks at most.  

    If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever. &

    by weck on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 02:48:37 PM PST

  •  The Goal (0+ / 0-)

    is not to eliminate the filibuster, it is to make it more painful and public.

    The filibuster 'protects' the voice of the minority, the whole point of the filibuster is to obstruct the proceedings when it is important enough to the minority to do so.  

    When every action Republicans didn't like became the subject of a filibuster, that stopped the action of government. Therefore it was more important to the minority to stop government.  It is the responsibility of the majority to continue to govern.  

    This is why Reid is modifying and not eliminating filibuster rules, so that he is protected when he finds himself in the minority.  Then the filibuster gives time for the minority to make their case and perhaps sway public opinion for the next election, if not for the bill being filibustered.

    Chicken or egg:

    Actually, the Rules of the Senate are the Rules and not parliamentary procedure.  Gen. John Roberts committed to writing the rules and customs of Congress to general form in the early 1800's, they have since become known as Robert's Rules of Order or Parliamentary procedure. Each house of Congress has their own rules that they abide by, they get to make them up at the first of each session of Congress, usually they just carry them over, but this time will be different in the Senate.  

    It's gonna be fun to watch Reid in action.

    ... the watchword of true patriotism: "Our country - when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right." - Carl Schurz; Oct. 17, 1899

    by NevDem on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 06:03:00 PM PST

  •  One response is to publicize the names of each (0+ / 0-)

    senator and what he or she did, each time he or she does it, so that their constituents and everyone else can see precisely what that senator is doing rather than doing the job he or she was elected to do.  Publicize it regularly in the same way we should be publicizing all of the bills for R constituents such as the dead in the water post office bill, the ag bill,  the disaster relief bill for ag which had expired, the violence against women bill and all the other stuff the Rs decided not to get done this year since they wished neither Obama to get any credit, nor themselves to get any blame.  If the work isn't getting done, the public now will want to know why and should be notified directly.

  •  Rules of the Senate and Parliamentary Procedure (0+ / 0-)

    Several posters have commented on what is or isn’t “parliamentary procedure.”  As author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Parliamentary Procedure Fast-Track and Notes and Comments on Robert’s Rules, Fourth Edition, I feel a little clarification may help.  The rules of meeting procedure for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House are parliamentary procedure.  So are those very different rules followed by most U.S. nonprofits, labor unions, political parties, HOA’s/condos, and volunteer groups that follow Robert’s Rules of Order.  “Parliamentary procedure” is a broad term that encompasses everything that goes into running a legal and effective meeting, including giving proper notice of the meeting to members, waiting until enough members show up before starting the meeting, discussing and voting on issues at the meeting, etc., etc.  All of these considerations and more fall under the general heading “parliamentary procedure.”

    Parliamentary procedure requirements can come from a variety of places depending on the specific organization, including federal or state statute, corporate articles (for nonprofit and for-profit corporations), governmental documents (such as a constitution or bylaws), or by adopting special rules of order for meetings.  Most legislative bodies tend to adopt lengthy rules each session.  On the other hand, nonprofit and volunteer organizations tend to adopt a parliamentary authority in their governing documents, such as “the latest edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised,” and that book is then binding on the organization except for higher governing document provisions.  The original Robert’s Rules of Order was begun by Henry Martyn Robert in 1863 following a bad presiding experience at church (he later wrote, “I plunged in, trusting to Providence that the assembly would behave itself . . . .  My embarrassment was supreme.”)  Robert’s has been greatly expanded and revised since then, and is currently in its eleventh edition.  There are other parliamentary authorities.  Some organizations of physicians and dentists use a book entitled The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure.  State legislatures often fall back on Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure.  Without question, though, Robert’s is the 800 pound gorilla of the parliamentary world, but it is rarely used in legislative bodies.

    If you want to find out more, there is an entire world of parliamentary procedure out there—two national parliamentary procedure organizations and a number of parliamentary books including several Idiot’s and Dummies guides.  Penguin’s online article Ten Myths About Parliamentary Proceduremay be of interest.   There are also many free charts, articles, and online resources at my parliamentary procedure website at

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