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A screen capture of Jimmy Stewart's character holding a filibuster in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
Now that the Senate has come to the brink of ending the filibuster on executive nominations and Republicans blinked, it's a good time to keep pushing for a reform that would be a real reform, but could still preserve the filibuster that so many senators want to keep. So one of the key reformers in the body, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) believes, and he's still pushing for actual filibuster reform included in his package with Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Tom Harkin (D-IA).
Late Wednesday, Udall's office told National Journal the senator still believes the Senate needs a talking filibuster and he plans to work toward that and other changes at the start of the next Congress in January 2015. Why wait until then? The basic argument, and one that Udall subscribes to, is that on the first legislative day of a new session, the Senate's rules do not yet apply, so they can be changed by a simple majority. It's, in some ways, a more refined version of going nuclear. [...]

Asked what would trigger him to push for more reforms, Udall said, "We can't go back to endless filibustering of presidential appointments in which one side blocks an otherwise qualified nominee to prevent the agency itself from functioning." He also pointed to the ripple impact of nominees getting stuck in the Senate, saying, "it's not just the Senate that grinds to a halt, either, it's entire federal agencies or—in the case of some judicial appointments—federal courts, many of which are already shorthanded."

Udall, Merkley, and Harkin might have an unexpected ally: Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) who has been an avowed opponent of significant reforms and who worked with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to derail strong reforms at the beginning of this session. In an interview with Politico this week, Levin made a strong case for a talking filibuster:
“Why do we not force folks threatening to filibuster to filibuster? We can do it. Stand up and filibuster all night. Why wont we spend a day, a weekend, August, forcing folks threatening to filibuster? Go ahead, filibuster a judicial nominee who got unanimous approval in committee… You’re threatening to filibuster that nominee? Go ahead. You know how long it will last? About an hour.”
That's the argument for a talking filibuster in a nutshell. Tell your Democratic senators to strike while the iron is hot, and push the talking filibuster.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 08:03 AM PDT.

Also republished by New Mexico Kossaks and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (23+ / 0-)

    "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

    by Joan McCarter on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 08:03:27 AM PDT

  •  Just getting them to talk is not enough. Look (0+ / 0-)

    at Rand Paul's publicity stunt. People ate that up like candy

    •  Yeah...and when Bernie did it...crickets... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pollwatcher, PorridgeGun

      national PR is only for the Regressionists.

      Dollarocracy is not Democracy

      by leema on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 08:16:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The point is to make it something (6+ / 0-)

      they have to exert themselves to do.

      Right now, it's a cost free exercise.

      Before you win, you have to fight. Come fight along with us at Texas Kaos.

      by boadicea on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 08:20:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Wrong conclusion (6+ / 0-)

      Nobody ate Paul's schtick like candy. He embarrassed himself. His final line was about how bad he needed to go to the bathroom. But more importantly he failed to stop the nomination, unlike the threats of filibuster which have been WAY more successful at scuttling nominations than the filibusters which have actually been carried out. At least Wendy Davis generated a lot of political activism in her losing effort. Paul just ended up out on a limb looking like an idiot.

    •  It effectively kills the filibuster (8+ / 0-)

      There's no way the Republicans could do 400 filibusters like they've done so far in the Obama presidency.

      Any filibuster would get national attention.  It would draw in an apathetic public to at least get a faint idea of what's happening in the Senate.  The things the Republicans want to filibuster will not go over well with the general public, but the things the Democrats filibuster will be popular.

      •  They could still suggest absence of a quorum, (0+ / 0-)

        and go get a snack. If you want real reform, shift the burden

        •  That's what I want (0+ / 0-)

          a talking filibuster with automatic stop and check votes, at some predetermined interval, say every 4 hours, that require 60 votes to sustain the filibuster.

          Important minority rights to object will be maintained, and grandstanding filibustering will have to remain present to sustain the delay, and be recorded as wanting to sustain the delay.

          "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

          by LilithGardener on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 11:40:31 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  It made news due to its rarity. (0+ / 0-)

      If they started actively doing talking filibusters all the time, they'd disappear from the news pretty quickly.

      And after a week or two of spirited "principled filibustering" Senators would figure out that every hour reading grandma's recipes for peach cobbler or reading volumes A-C of the 1964 edition of Encyclopedia Brittanica on the Senate floor is an hour that they're not rubbing elbows with big donors or getting stroked by lobbyists, and you'd see those filibusters dry right up except for really, truly major issues.  Which is how it should be.

      •  Oh, and (0+ / 0-)

        I have no problem with the idiots making the news with filibusters, because then it might actually expose their ideas and tactics to the light of day with the American Public.

        A little more sunshine on what passes for current Republican ideology would just be another nail in their obstructionist coffin.

  •  I'm fine with the filibuster (8+ / 0-)

    to defend minority rights.

    Just make them talk.  

    Before you win, you have to fight. Come fight along with us at Texas Kaos.

    by boadicea on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 08:19:48 AM PDT

  •  And borrow a page from the Texans (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annan, Coss, TheLizardKing, Barton Funk

    You must stick to the topic.

    Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

    by blue aardvark on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 08:23:45 AM PDT

    •  Nah. Let them rant. (3+ / 0-)

      The C-Span footage will be comedy (and opposition campaign) gold!

      If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

      by CwV on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 08:49:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  And you must hold the floor continuously. (3+ / 0-)

      No leaving for breaks, bathroom or otherwise.

      No food. No hitching a hip up on your Senate desk. No water.

      Ice chips? Forget it. A bite of candy to keep you going? Not for you!

      The world saw what true courage and conviction was when Wendy Davis, under "special rules" that made the filibuster even harder than before, held the floor for almost eleven hours on a combination of conviction and sheer guts.

      I'd like to see McConnell try that. Hell, I'd like to see any of those fat cats in the Senate try that.

      Show them a catheter and they'd run screaming.

      A filibuster is supposed to be hard. Exhausting. To be undertaken only when the most cherished of our convictions is under threat. It's supposed to be the forum of last resort.

      Not a matter of filing some paperwork and then going out to lunch.

      Freedom has two enemies: Those who want to control everyone around them...and those who feel no need to control themselves.

      by Sirenus on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 09:05:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'll be generous (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Mr MadAsHell, blue aardvark

        and allow a couple of bathroom breaks of no more than 15 minutes (more than 15 minutes ... tough, filibuster is regarded as over)  ... one in the AM and one in the PM. I'll even allow for water, coffee even. Imagine these guys having drunk a lot of water (or coffee) and realizing they already took their bathroom break and the next one is not due for some hours.

        "Valerie, why am I getting all these emails calling me a classless boor?"

        by TLS66 on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 09:13:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Nay - we saw how easily "germaneness" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue aardvark

      can be abused.

      "They did not succeed in taking away our voice" - Angelique Kidjo - Opening the Lightning In a Bottle concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - 2003

      by LilithGardener on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 11:41:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  GOP won't stop until Obamacare is dead. (3+ / 0-)
  •  Good God This Shit Again (0+ / 0-)

    The filibuster HAS ALREADY BEEN REFORMED by the sitting Majority Leader. Harry Reid has presided over a situation where the threat of a filibuster is deemed sufficient to table legislation and withdraw nominees. There needs no action taken to somehow codify within the Senate rules (which each subsequent Congress can simply rewrite if they so choose) the terms under which a member may or may not be required to talk. The filibuster is a REALLY IMPORTANT TOOL for combatting the kind of organized collusion of monied interests that currently exists within the Senate across both parties. Every once in a while those monied interests will endanger the public good and it's important a minority of one can have the chance to slow the engines.

    Harry Reid isn't interested in any of that. In cooperation with the opposition party he's made a deal for the sake of political expediency to institute a radical, never-before-attempted version of the filibuster which is nothing like an actual filibuster. It's just organized obstruction with the blessing of the titular head of the Majority Party. It's just preposterous to think that the solution lies in rewriting rules which can then be rewritten by whichever Congress comes along next.

    •  Please. The filibuster, as done in the Senate, is (0+ / 0-)

      joke.

      The GOP changed the rules to make the filibuster, which should be a last ditch attempt to stop or change legislation, a matter of filing some paperwork and then heading home to a nice dinner and a long night's sleep.

      I'm for keeping the filibuster. But the real filibuster. As it was first conceived by the Founders. One human being, so dedicated to their cause, that they are willing to stand and speak for hours in the Senate chamber, without pause, without rest, to make their point.

      Wendy Davis had that kind of dedication. She argued her point for almost eleven hours, under parameters harder than the original rules--no leaning on her desk, no ice chips, no handfuls of candy to keep her going--and they only stopped her with technical "violations".

      Let's keep that filibuster. And ditch the fake ones that the GOP uses to stop any legislation they don't like. I can guarantee that those jackasses will never file intent to filibuster again. Their "deeply held" convictions will drain away like water the instant they're shown a catheter.

      And we can get back to what the Constitution intended. Bills passed in the Senate by a simple majority of 51 votes.

      Freedom has two enemies: Those who want to control everyone around them...and those who feel no need to control themselves.

      by Sirenus on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 09:18:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's just bunk (0+ / 0-)

        The GOP has no leverage to change the filibuster, unless the Majority Leader, who controls the legislative agenda, allows them to do so. If they threaten to filibuster, and in response the Majority Leader tables legislation and then rescinds nominations, then it's not really the GOP that's changing the rules is it? This is nowhere clearer than when Reid allowed the Lily Ledbetter act to go down in flames despite enjoying 57 votes in favor. Rather than force the GOP to come out in opposition to a hugely popular policy (equal pay for women) Harry Reid elected to maintain civility and efficacious time management.

        No matter which way you slice it, Harry Reid becomes the person who "reformed" the filibuster.

      •  The Founders had no such idea (0+ / 0-)

        From Wikipedia: Filibuster in the United States Senate

        The first Senate filibuster occurred in 1837. In 1841, a defining moment came during debate on a bill to charter the Second Bank of the United States. Senator Henry Clay tried to end debate via majority vote. Senator William R. King threatened a filibuster, saying that Clay "may make his arrangements at his boarding house for the winter". Other senators sided with King, and Clay backed down.

        Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

        by Mokurai on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 02:42:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  And when Harry Reid threatens to change (0+ / 0-)

      the rules, those filibusters are over. He said himself that most of what he had to do on the last night was to remind the Republicans every 45 minutes that he had scheduled a vote that could not be filibustered for 10 am the next day, and had the votes in his hip pocket.

      Carl Levin flipping is a super big deal. If we can get Feinstein, it's over. Apparently she is still stuck in 2003, when she voted to sustain 21 out of 22 filibusters against the Republicans.

      Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

      by Mokurai on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 02:37:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  101 People have veto power.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LilithGardener

    ... and the President's veto is the weakest.  There is an established procedure for overruling a Presidential veto.

  •  We may need the filibuster to save social security (0+ / 0-)

    Sen. Burr is kissing up to President Obama hoping to cut social security.

    http://www.nationaljournal.com/...

  •  Apropos nothing ... (0+ / 0-)

    that picture is from Jimmy Stewart's favorite bit of his own acting.

    Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

    by blue aardvark on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 08:59:01 AM PDT

  •  How nice of Carl Levin (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LilithGardener

    to finally, after several years of obstruction, to finally come around.
    And he's right, all that needs doing in re: reform, is to make them get up and talk. No pocket hold or threat of filibuster, a real live talk-til-you-drop filibuster.
    It doesn't even have to be as punitive as Texas' filibuster rules, let them take turns, touch the podium, prop each other up physically, whatever, just make them come out into the glare for their beliefs.
    What I look forward to is the C-Span footage that can be used later to hold them accountable to their constituents in their next election.
    Right now, I'd bet that a lot of GOP Senators' supporters don't know how much of a bas+ard their Congresscritters are and if they saw them actually in the act of being bas+ards, they'd vote differently. The anonymity of silent filibusters gives them cover.
    The best thing about making it a talking filibuster is that it doesn't do away with filibuster altogether, the tool is still there if needed, but it's only there for the righteous, the people who KNOW that what they argue for is worth doing so loud and proud. In that regard (and it pains me to say it) I have to respect Rand Paul's stunt. Yes it was a political ploy, but he at least had the decency and cojones to do it in public.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 09:02:47 AM PDT

  •  oooh - I know the answer!! (0+ / 0-)

    Senator Levin:

    “Why do we not force folks threatening to filibuster to filibuster?
    Gee, I don't know, maybe cause you all are a bunch of spineless, complicit fucks?

    An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

    by mightymouse on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 10:16:35 AM PDT

  •  Limiting debate (0+ / 0-)

    The more I think about it, the more I think the ultimate solution is a rule making the Motion to Proceed a preferential motion offerable only by the Majority Leader and subject to an hour's debate, equally divided, and followed by an up-or-down vote; passage by a majority of Senators present and voting.  Leave it up to the discretion of the Majority Leader when to offer it.

    "The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little. " --Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by jg6544 on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 12:13:30 PM PDT

  •  Talking filibuster not an answer (0+ / 0-)

    "You know how long it will last? About an hour.”

    Sure, forcing the Senator who won't allow the vote to proceed to actually hold the floor or he or she has to forego the filibuster, imposes a limit on the individual Senator.  The Senate had unlimited debate -- no cloture no many how many Senators wanted to proceed to a vote -- for over a century, and this limitation was sufficient to keep the Senate operational because it only had individual obstructionist Senators to deal with, and requiring these people to hold the floor imposed all the limits necessary to controlling the filibuster.

    But we don't have a problem in 2013 of individual obstructionist Senators.  We have a whole party of obstructionists.  They can tag-team their obstruction.  Even if you impose the talking filibuster limitation in a way that maintains a filibusater only as long as just one Senator can hold the floor, that still lets a team of them filibuster serially to the point that the Senate cannot get anything done.  

    The Senate schedule is the real reason the other side can get away with filibustering.  They don't filibuster everything because of the lack of personal hardship to the filibuster as currently practiced.  They filibuster because the threat to the schedule is such that the Senate leaderhisp cannot insist on imposing even the inconveniences already allowed under present rules.  Making it more inconvenient to filibuster with the talking filibuster won't help at all because that inconvenience to the filibusterers is bought at the expense of the Senate's time.

    The states must be abolished.

    by gtomkins on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 12:23:50 PM PDT

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