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Senate Leaders Agree To Weak Filibuster Reforms

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Senate Leaders Agree To Weak Filibuster Reforms


The good news is that the Senate could not be more dysfunctional than it has been in the last four years, when the Republican minority used the rules of the body to wage an unprecedented campaign of obstruction. The bad news is that it appears that the Senate will only improve slightly in the near future, if at all.

Senators seeking to block a bill will not be required to perform “talking” filibusters or gather the 41 votes needed to filibuster a bill, according the outline of the deal reached between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

However, the number of filibusters and cloture votes to break those filibusters may be reduced by a few key procedural changes. In exchange for allowing the minority to offer three amendments, Republicans have agreed not to filibuster bills during the motion to proceed. The deal also shortens the debate time on nominations and reduces the wait time between cloture votes on candidate and nomination votes from 30 to two hours.

Basically, both sides agreed to a few parliamentary tweaks that may break through the backlog of federal judicial nominees, which has reached “emergency” status in some districts.

Reid had threatened to go “nuclear” and pass more significant reforms with only 51 votes. He backed off this option for the same reason Republicans refused to use what has also been called the “Constitutional” option in the mid-2000s, for fear that Democrats could experience retaliation if they ever ended up in the minority.

A top Democratic aide conjured liberal nightmares when he told the Huffington Post, “Everybody was so focused on the filibuster, but as you know, there were a lot of Dems who really felt uncomfortable going there. Let’s face it, if not for 60, then Roe v. Wade might be dead and Social Security would be private accounts.”

However, Bush’s Social Security privatization plan never even got a vote in a Republican House and overturning Roe would likely require a Constitutional amendment, thus a two-thirds majority of the Senate.

Senate aides offered conflicted assessments of the deal, with those supporting wider reforms expressing pessimism and those close to Reid saying the leader got nearly everything he wanted.

The reform group Fix the Senate called the deal a “missed opportunity,” while praising the work of senators Jeff Merkley (D-IA), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Tom Udall (D-NM), who helped force Reid to push for the marginal reforms that have been achieved.

 Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com




  1. Lynda January 24, 2013

    They shook hands again and we are suppose to believe something meaningful will come of it. Memories seem in short supply in that institution. McConnell broke the last handshake deal in matter of days, if not weeks. Well we are suppose to be getting some minor reforms that will speed up some details of the day to day workings of the institution. We will see soon enough if we’ve been sold a three leged duck.

    1. old_blu January 25, 2013

      Just sounds like business as usual obstruct all they can and hold America and Americans hostage. I think we should hold their pay until they get it done. (whatever it is)

  2. sigrid28 January 24, 2013

    The hopes of Americans who looked to a change in the rules of the Senate to bring about change have been BETRAYED.

    The best we can hope for out of this failure to act is a re-confirmation of the obstructionist motives of Republicans in the Senate. Perhaps the media will be a little more inclined to find out who and what has obstructed progress in the Senate. While we can no longer hope to get needed legislation passed, enough Independents and centrist Republican voters may become as enraged as Democrats now are and bring about a super majority for Democrats in the House and Senate. Failure to remove the silent filibuster is a decision to allow the Republican party to self-destruct, so Democrats can be elected.

    Here is the problem: Harry Reid and his colleagues in the Senate are playing a long game, without having to give up anything right now, while the American public must cope with the consequences of inaction in the Senate day-in and day-out. We needed changes to do better. We needed a chance to do better, and we wanted a chance to do better.

    How much better WE would be if two million more jobs had been created to improve our infrastructure? Not as well off as Harry Reid and his colleagues in the Senate.

    How much safer would we be if hundreds of thousands of teachers, police officers, and fire fighters could be put back to work? Not as well off as Harry Reid and his colleagues in the Senate.

    How much better would we all be doing financially if the logjam in Congress opened up enough to make minimum wage a living wage? Not as well off as Harry Reid and his colleagues in the Senate.

    How much more money would be in our 401k accounts and other savings instruments, which support retirement for many American, is investors and the Stock Market could see a Congress poised to make necessary changes? Not as well off as Harry Reid and his colleagues in the Senate, all members of the 2%.

    1. nobsartist January 25, 2013

      That seems to me the M.O. with this administration. Fuck the voters that supported them in favor of bankers and corporatists.

      1. sigrid28 January 25, 2013

        I’m not so sure Harry Reid’s plan (actually created by eight Senators, 4 Republican and 4 Democratic) is just an effort to please campaign backers. He sees himself as the GATEKEEPER, blocking all the crazy stuff the Republican House passes and sends on to the Senate (like 33 separate bills to repeal Obamacare or Ryan’s budgets that annihilate Medicare). The current “solution” gives Republicans a greater opportunity to amend legislation they do not block by abuse of the filibuster, but assures that their crazy amendments can never become law, because they do not have a 60-vote majority in the Senate. Listening to the debate on the floor before the vote, I have conclude along with Rachel Maddow that they still will get very little done in the Senate, but they will do it faster.

        1. nobsartist January 25, 2013

          the longer the time ticks on with no legislation to control the banks and corporations, the more money they make. this is just a scam and both party’s are in on it.

  3. Dorothy January 24, 2013

    Soooo, clearly it’s politics as usual in DC – we no longer have even the semblence of a congress that works. They’re all so afraid of each other and not getting re-elected. Whatever happened to public service and giving a damn about the people. The founding fathers did NOT see political office as a career. TERM LIMITS and quit making public office something of which to make a career, quit making it something with which to get rich, and quit making it something that provides a cushy retirement at the expense of those who have none. OOOH – and lets not forget the fine health care they all get at the expense of those who have NONE!!! WHATEVER HAPPENED TO TRUE LEADERSHIP??

  4. Sand_Cat January 24, 2013

    Another Democratic failure; they were handed an opportunity to make meaningful changes and they threw it away (AGAIN).

  5. nobsartist January 25, 2013

    The best “half assed” government money can buy.

  6. Budjob January 25, 2013

    Harry Reid is a weak kneed coward.It’s getting to the point that I am ashamed to be a Democrat!

    1. sigrid28 January 25, 2013

      But imagine how you would feel if you were a Republican.

    2. Magus January 30, 2013

      Reid is a Republican infiltrator of the party.

  7. charleo1 January 25, 2013

    Well, it could have been worse! And even though that’s the gospel truth, it’s a disheartening situation,
    when a Party can win by the margins Democrats did across the Country, and the best we can
    say about the election, is we probably prevented many of the worst things from happening, if the
    election had gone the other way. We know there will be no new gun regulation. No reinstating the
    assault weapons ban, limiting of clip size, or outlawing armor piercing ammunition. So we know
    more Police will die in the line of duty. We know, climate change will not be addressed. And public investment, infrastructure, and research, will suffer. There will be no campaign finance reform. So, the prospect of anonymous donors injecting unlimited cash into the political system, deforming
    the process, will continue. And, we know extremist in the government will continue their by any means necessary tactics, to threaten, obstruct, and erode the confidence of investors, and consumers alike. But there will be important battles we must win. Battles which we would have had no chance of winning with a President Romney, or a Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.
    Healthcare reform, which is already helping millions of Americans, finally freed from some
    of the most egregious practices of the insurance cartels. will continue. And, at least 30 million
    more Americans will for the first time, have access to basic healthcare. We will not be
    privatizing Social Security, block granting Medicaid, or vouchering Medicare. And the
    budgets designed to cut our public debt will not be balanced entirely on the backs of the Middle
    Class, and Seniors. While the wealthy will pay more, Wall Street will not go back to making
    it’s own rules. And Barack Obama, and not Mitt Romney, will be nominating, and seating,
    the next one, and perhaps two, Supreme Court Justices. So, we should count our blessings.
    And resolve ourselves to not become cynical. Cynical is what the Right has become. They
    encourage it. They are manipulated by it. It drives their politics, and produces the gridlock
    that prevents positive change. And, it has stolen their faith. Their faith in government, their faith
    in their fellow citizens, and their faith in believing all but the worst of even the most altruistic
    efforts. And maybe worst of all, they seem to have lost faith in the belief, that we’re all in this together.
    We know that’s wrong. And we know we have a President that knows from his own life
    experiences, that’s not who we are. We need, the Country needs, and the Conservatives need,
    most of all, for us to remind them of the time, not really all that long ago, they believed that too.

  8. bchrista January 26, 2013

    People It’s taken me a while to see for myself that Harry Reid is a Republican wan-a-be in hiding I have been believing his tough talk about standing up to Republicans and Tea Baggers for years and was proud that he was a Democrat and now that the Senate is Democraticly controlled I thought maybe we had a chance to get some things done I find that he has backed down to old turtle face and once again allowed McConnell to get his way. He had him by the throat and released the hold allowing McConnell to get away to pull his sneaky shit. McConnell is a slimey, sneaky snake crawling, rat bastard, that is anti anything that helps the American public and against the Republican-Tea Bagger, he is one of the reasons we are having trouble getting out of the hole he helped put us in, McConnell, Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, and John Bolton helped push through the bull shit lie about WMD and build momentum to start two wars so they could steal millions from the billions it cost to finance those two wars and they did it with the help of Haiburton who wrote bills for billions of dollars and are still collecting on those bills today, $100 dollars for a gallon of fuel, 35 dollars for a toliet seat, apart that you could buy for $25 dollars went for as high as $1000 dollars and we the tax payer paid for it so Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfald could have their war, which the cost was passed on to Obama’s Presidency nice bunch of guys. AS for McConnell I would love to wipe that smile off his turtle looking face. Talk about a heartless, cruel, and evil bunch of bastards, you know the name that Bush used on North Korea applies to them “axis of evil” to a Tee.


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