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A screen capture of Jimmy Stewart's character holding a filibuster in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
Thursday, the first day of the new Congress, is the only day Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can pass real filibuster reform with a simple majority vote, the so-called "nuclear" option, called so because the idea of simple majority rule in the Senate is akin to an apocalypse in their minds. Reid is currently drawing up the package of reforms he will forward, which could be some version of an "improved" Levin-McCain proposal or the much stronger proposal from Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Tom Udall (D-NM).

What should be at the top of Reid's mind as he develops this package is the last few days of fiscal cliff curb fiasco, when his relationship with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell soured further, and the upcoming fight that really threatens the nation's economy: the debt ceiling. McConnell has made no bones about his intent to take the debt ceiling hostage at every opportunity. The fact that he's facing reelection in 2014 only adds to his motivation to do so.

The Levin-McCain plan would do very little to prevent that kind of hostage taking, as Sen. Merkley explains in an interview with Greg Sargent. What's more, it actually rewards the hostage-takers.

He argues that unless Senators are forced to fully carry out the filibuster in the eye of the public and media, there will be no political price or disincentive for obstructionism.

“Currently, the powerful tool the minority holds is the secret silent filibuster, which can secretly kill bills,” Merkley says. “This does nothing to solve the heart of the problem.”

Merkley adds that under the current proposal the minority will have two additional amendments on every bill—a response to the demands of Republicans who are angry of being deprived of the right to offer them. The amendments, Merkley worries, will give the minority an easy way to insert poison pills into legislation, an added tool of obstructionism. “This gives even more power to the minority,” Merkley says.

There's nothing like rewarding Republicans for their past obstruction with new, guaranteed opportunities to gum up the works. The Levin-McCain plan wouldn't just do little to fix the problem; it could make it worse, all in the name of protecting the minority.

Real filibuster reform will require, at the least, forcing a genuine talking filibuster. That's creating real transparency and making the minority actually work for their obstruction. It also requires limiting the opportunities for the obstructionists to block legislation. The minority could still filibuster a final bill under the Merkley proposal, just not at every step of the way up to final passage.

Tell Sen. Reid that real filibuster reform has to happen. Call him at 202-224-3542.

You can also email your Democratic senators and tell them to support real filibuster reform.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Senator Merkley is my senator! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kevinpdx, S F Hippie

    He is up for re-election in 2014, and will be targeted by the usual RWNJs an their money.
    Senator Merkley is The Nation's Most Valuable Senator.

    The "talking filibuster" is not enough. But it's a start.


    "There is just one way to save yourself, and that's to get together and work and fight for everybody." ---Woody Guthrie (quoted by Jim Hightower in The Progressive Populist April 1, 2012, p3)

    by CitizenJoe on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 11:52:39 AM PST

    •  Likewise, Sen. Tom Udall is my senator (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and I believe he's up for re-election in 2014. I know he'll be targeted - not only for his stance on filibuster reform, but also he's got the oil & gas industries going after him.

      He definitely is worthy of being returned to the Senate. Listen up, fellow NM'icans - we have work to do!

      Season's Greetings from me: New Year's sale! 20%off everything at my Handmade Gallery on Zibbet

      by jan4insight on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 12:12:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't expect anything. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lcrp, josmndsn

    Because GOP will threaten WWIII and use every trick and tool in their chest to obstruct and too many Dems believe in the comity shit.  

    Also there was the big fiscal cliff bi-partisan vote yesterday - which I think will turn some on the fence reformers against any reforms afterall.  

    President Obama would have been a Republican in the 1980's.

    by Jacoby Jonze on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 11:53:22 AM PST

    •  JJ - I don't think there are 51 Dem votes (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in the Senate for real filibuster reform. I do think they will make some changes but nothing dramatic.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 01:17:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Result was probably presaged by a ancient (0+ / 0-)

        Roman author:
        A mountain was in labor, sending forth dreadful groans, and there was in the region the highest expectation. After all, it brought forth a mouse. ~ Phaedrus (Roman writer, first cent. AD)

        Delenda est filibuster!

        by TofG on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 01:18:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  NOTHING will be done since ... (0+ / 0-)

      sitting Senators of both parties like POWER.

      The election mandate of the people be damned!

      The Senate was created because the founding fathers didn't think the common man throught their Representatives were capable of doing the proper things.

      Senators were initially appointed as a control with more mature  party leaders to be able to correct all the lousy work of the House.

      Majority Rule was never a concept adopted by the Senate and it likely never will be in the future.

      If filibuster change is to be done, it must be by We the People through the federal courts to declare this Senate rule UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

      Recent bad news:

      Challenge to U.S. Senate's filibuster rule fails
      Atlanta Business Chronicle by Dave Williams, Staff Writer
      Date: Monday, December 31, 2012, 10:35am EST

      A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Senate’s filibuster rule argued by a prominent Atlanta attorney.

      In a decision dated Dec. 21, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that the government-accountability group Common Cause and seven individual plaintiffs lacked legal standing to bring the case.

      The plaintiffs – including U.S. Reps. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, and Hank Johnson, D-Stone Mountain ­– had claimed that the failure of immigration-reform legislation in the Senate because of the filibuster rule’s requirement of a super-majority of 60 votes to end debate on pending bills amounted to an “injury” legally sufficient for them to challenge the filibuster’s constitutionality in court.

      If US Congressmen don't have standing, why not find a sitting Senator willing to go to court to change a Senate rule.

      *Austerity is the opposite of Prosperity*

      by josmndsn on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 03:28:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think there will be a wink and a nod at reform, (0+ / 0-)

    but nothing worthwhile will come of this. I am beginning to really feel it's us against them, with them being politicians from both sides of the aisle.

    Fuck me! He made it. Will Scarlet

    by dagolfnut on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 11:59:46 AM PST

  •  I'm Guessing Nothing Happens. (4+ / 0-)

    Until the GOP gets the majority, uses the nuclear option and leaves Dems crying, "But, but, but, they promised!!"

    Abolish The Filibuster Now!

    by Ky DEM on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 12:03:55 PM PST

  •  "filibuster reform" is a tale told by an idiot. (0+ / 0-)

    Full of sound and fury, delivering nothing.

    Delenda est filibuster!

    by TofG on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 01:07:00 PM PST

  •  Reid talking delay... (0+ / 0-)

    i.e. kick the can down the road while he negotiates with Turtle.
    See Joan's diary here:

    "I'm totally pro-choice in the matter of abortion. But of course I'm also so radically pro-life that I think every person from birth onward must have full and affordable access to healthcare." - Gail Collins

    by gritsngumbo on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 07:28:20 PM PST

  •  The world is moving too fast for the hamstrung (0+ / 0-)

    form of government we have.  It is staring blankly into the near future and seeing but not recognizing its own obsolescence.  And like Cheney/Bush, the next GOP president will seize every power option he can identify, making the executive branch the only real functioning branch of government.  Those folks milling around on the Hill can start planning their toga parties now because that will be all that's left to them.

    Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

    by judyms9 on Thu Jan 03, 2013 at 02:09:28 PM PST

  •  subject line should name the bill to support (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bumbi, dharmafarmer


    The body is fine but there is a typo in Levin's name.

  •  Here's my addendum to the letter (0+ / 0-)


    No sense in beating around the bush.  Let 'em know that if they fail to act, it is going to hit 'em where it hurts.  

    There are plenty of Democrats with spines out there. Why can't we elect one President?

    by Deighved H Stern MD on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 12:18:01 PM PST

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