A group of younger, progressive senators led by Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Udall of New Mexico has been pushing a package that, among other changes, would require the minority to conduct a “talking filibuster” (think Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), rather than being able to silently object. The overall effect would be to make it harder, both practically and politically, for the GOP to filibuster as a routine means of blocking Democratic legislation. [...]The editors at The Register-Guard:
Reid appeared last fall to embrace the Merkley-Udall approach, which is also backed by Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and a coalition of powerful progressive groups including the Sierra Club, the NAACP, and SEIU. But recent reports suggest Reid is mulling a more modest package of changes which wouldn’t require the talking filibuster, though it would still scrap the filibuster on motions to proceed—that is, to begin debate on a bill—and make it harder in other situations. His possible change of heart comes after lobbying from a group of older senators, who fear the loss of prerogatives for individual senators.
There’s little question that the Senate needs to be fixed. [...] Were it not for the filibuster, Democrats could likely have passed a climate-change bill and a healthcare law with a public option during Obama’s first term.
The world’s greatest deliberative body is running like a lawnmower that’s been left out all winter: It’s hard to get started, and when it finally comes to life it sputters and kills on even the lowest clumps of grass.For more on what the pundits are saying about filibuster reform, jump below the fold.
It’s time to reform the U.S. Senate’s filibuster rule, which in recent years has fallen prey to rapacious partisanship and cheap tricks by obstructionists who have used the process to block legislation and nominations by requiring a supermajority to proceed.
The filibuster, a tactic by which a minority party can thwart the Senate majority by endlessly dragging out debate, lately has become all too routine a roadblock in the legislative process. As Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell negotiate over possible reforms, they least they can do is require minority parties to carry out a filibuster threat by speaking on the Senate floor.Newsday:
Historically filibusters were rare. They should be again. Congress needs fewer obstacles to getting things done.David Weigel at Slate:
Democrats now say that the reform vote will happen “soon”—probably Jan. 23, but let’s not get carried away. The sticking point is a possible compromise, the brainchild of a “Group of Eight” led by Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. John McCain that could attract Republican votes. It wouldn’t give the Democrats everything they want—it wouldn’t force senators to filibuster by actually standing up and talking until their voices or bladders give out. But it would keep Democrats from using the “nuclear option” of a majority vote, and Republicans have sworn holy, unending warfare if the Democrats go there. (Hence the “nuclear” branding. Reformers call this the “constitutional” option, which is not wrong, but opponents say it’ll bring on mutually assured destruction.)Jonathan Krohn at Mother Jones lays out the latest:
It’s the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body engaging in pretty simple game theory. If Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell can’t agree on a reform package, Reid would “move forward” and go nuclear. The diehards, led by Udall and Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, keep claiming they have the 51 votes for reform. The most compromise-friendly members of the conference are with them.
Although there is no final proposal in sight, Reid has hinted at the direction he might take by throwing his support behind an idea pushed by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) that would put the burden on the minority to continue a filibuster. Franken's plan would force the group of senators who start a filibuster to rally 41 votes to continue filibustering. This is a heavy burden for the minority; unlike the Udall/Merkley/Harkin "talking filibuster" proposal, it would require all of the filibustering members to be on the floor of the Senate, not just one.Meanwhile, over at The Washington Monthly, Sarah Binder looks at reforming the discharge rule in the House:
Franken's is far from a full filibuster reform proposal. But the majority party’s reformers seem likely to back Franken's idea if it comes up for a vote. Merkley "is supportive of a number of the individual provisions Reid is reportedly considering, particularly" Franken's plan, a Merkley aide told Mother Jones. Merkley is "going to keep pushing for a talking filibuster," the aide says, but if that doesn't come up for a vote, and a compromise package does, Merkley's likely to back Reid.
The McCain/Levin plan and the Udall/Merkley/Harkin proposal have three key elements in common: the elimination of the filibuster on motions to proceed, the combination of the three motions related to sending a bill to House-Senate negotiators, and new limits on debate time after the majority wins 60 votes on a bill or nomination. If a compromise does take shape, it's likely to be along those lines.
First, why does the House even have a discharge rule? The rule dates from the 1910 revolt against Speaker Joe Cannon. (That’s Uncle Joe above, in a 1908 Clifford Berryman cartoon drawn from the minority party’s point of view: Cannon is addressing a whole chamber of Cannon look-alikes, Republicans unwilling to challenge their autocratic leader.) After breaking the Speaker’s hold on power in 1910, a cross-party coalition of insurgents crafted a discharge rule to allow a simple majority to pull a bill from committee and to secure a vote on the House floor. Altered a few times along the way, the discharge rule was last changed in 1993, after Ross Perot’s successful campaign to make public the names of discharge petition signers. (Uncle Joe, Ross Perot … Ain’t House procedural history fun?!) In short, the discharge rule emerged from an old battle against the Speaker and provides a tool for launching new ones.Switching tracks, this diary of Gun Appreciation Day by Christopher Evans at The Cleveland Plain-Dealer is depressing and terrifying:
Outside the entrance, a guy chewed on a cigar stub. His arms cradled a Bushmaster .223 caliber semi-automatic rifle -- the same weapon Adam Lanza used to slaughter 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.If you missed this post by our own David Waldman on Gun Appreciation Day from earlier this week, make sure to click through. It's a must-share.
"How much you want for that?" I asked.
"Twenty-one [hundred dollars]. Got a laser sight, optical scope and a flare launcher."
"My buddy here," I said, pointing at Westbrook. "He can go $2,000. But he remains anonymous. No ID."
The guy smiled. "Two thousand dollars is enough ID for me," he said.
He was what licensed dealers call a "door whore" -- an unlicensed seller who is not required to do a background check or record the sale. He is supposed to demand identification to ensure the buyer is an Ohio resident and 21 years old, but, hey, who's paying attention?