Skip to main content

A screen capture of Jimmy Stewart's character holding a filibuster in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
Mr. Smith won't be going to Washington.
The Senate just agreed, by a 78-16 vote, to the filibuster tinkering plan Harry Reid negotiated with Mitch McConnell. The bottom line is what Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) declared: It preserves the filibuster, and from the reformers' standpoint, doesn't make it much harder or much more painful. In an interview with Ezra Klein, Sen. Harry Reid explains why this is the route he took. Bottom line:
“I’m not personally, at this stage, ready to get rid of the 60-vote threshold,” Reid (D-Nev.) told me this morning, referring to the number of votes needed to halt a filibuster. “With the history of the Senate, we have to understand the Senate isn’t and shouldn’t be like the House.” [...]

“The only way we’ll get rid of the filibuster is if it continues to be abused,” he said. “Hopefully, what we’ll do here will stop some of the abuse, but what will happenif the minority continues to abuse the rules is we won’t get rid of the filibuster, but we’ll go to something like what [Sen. Tom] Harkin has pushed, where one vote is at 57, and then another vote is at 55.”

There's little question now that it could have been much stronger, if you can believe Democratic senators who can count. Reid wasn't prepared to pull the trigger. David Waldman has the best explanation of what we got instead:

The standing rules will adopt a new short cut on the motion to proceed, bringing it to an immediate vote if a cloture petition garners the signatures of the Majority and Minority Leaders, plus those of 7 Senators not affiliated with the majority and 7 more not affiliated with the minority, and cloture is then invoked. What does that save? Well, not much. Thirty hours of post-cloture debate, potentially. Though in reality that time is often waived under the current rules. In addition, the rules will now reflect that the three motions necessary to go to conference with the House to settle differences in bill text will be collapsed into one non-divisible motion. That cuts out two opportunities to filibuster right there.

The standing order will, for the next two years, limit debate on motions to proceed to four hours, meaning they can't be filibustered. But in exchange for that, each side is guaranteed the right to offer two amendments apiece, rotating in order and beginning with the minority. In practice, this will likely mean that those amendments will frequently come to the floor under unanimous consent agreements requiring 60 votes to pass. That's the old "painless filibuster," and in that respect, not much will have changed from current practice, except that the chief complaint of Republicans will have been removed.

And there's the informal agreement that requires senators who want to filibuster come to the floor and say so. That's the kind of handshake agreement that has been so futile in the past, but at least exists now for Reid to point to when, as is inevitable, he needs to justify another rules reform push. Because that will happen, and we'll still be here to fight for it, as will Sens. Jeff Merkley and Tom Udall.

5:48 PM PT (Hunter): Second vote on filibuster changes (second part of the same package) passes 86-9.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 05:19 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site