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Filibuster Reform Rather Than Repeal?


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#1 LFC

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Posted 05 March 2021 - 03:50 PM

TPM is covering this. Manchin and Sinema have both expressed their disagreement with striking down the filibuster but what about reforming it? It's apparently being by Democrats behind the scenes and they could pass reform with 50 votes. A big part of reform is to put the pressure on on the minority party to do the heavy lifting rather than having a virtually silent, non-public veto. Here's Josh's take (paywalled).

Quote

Given that Republican opposition to dropping the filibuster constitutes an iron wall as long as Democrats are in power, and given that there appears to be at least one and quite possibly two Democrats who are absolutely opposed to abolishing the filibuster, it’s pretty easy to get pessimistic about the prospects of any more legislation for the next two years after the COVID relief bill passes. The one discordant fact is that the people who’ve worked this issue the longest – the diehard filibuster reformers who’ve made it a cause – are not that pessimistic. And these aren’t the kind of activists who keep their juices flowing by always imagining that victory is around the corner. And we should note that they talk about ‘reforming’ the filibuster rather than abolishing it.

What does that mean precisely? In general it seems to mean changes in the filibuster which would be fundamentally game-changing in terms of the function of the Senate and majority rule while still leaving a thing called the ‘filibuster’ which is a significant part of Senate function. Specifically, the possible reforms fall into two basic categories. But before we get to that we need to discuss what is so destructive about the current filibuster: It is an absolute veto on any legislation (aside from reconciliation budget bills) which can’t command 60 votes. Critically, it requires zero effort on the blocking party’s part. Usually it’s just a matter of a heads up to the Majority Leader – hey, we won’t let you hold this vote. And it’s basically invisible.

The whole reason the relief bill is going through the reconciliation process is because minority Republicans are filibustering it. But wait? No one has reported their filibustering it and we haven’t seen anyone do anything. Are you sure about this, Josh? Yes, absolutely. It’s a filibuster because McConnell let Schumer know (what at this point is a given) that the Republican caucus won’t let the bill come to a vote. It’s absolute, easy and invisible. Each of those components are part of the problem.

Now the two possible paths of reform I mentioned. One approach is to place some limit on the filibuster. Maybe you prevent a bill from coming to the floor but after a month the majority can end it with a majority vote. Or maybe three months. Or maybe it’s not a time limit precisely but a series of events that have to happen. The point is there’s a limit. It’s not just no and that’s the end.

There’s actually some value to such a process and a vestigial version of it persists in many legislatures that require multiple ‘readings’ of a bill. Indeed, there’s some utility in the creating a power for the majority to slow down the legislative process on some big game-changing bill. But slowing it down for a period isn’t the same as an unconstrained veto.. That’s one approach.

Another approach is to make the minority work for it. Under the current rules the minority literally doesn’t have to do anything. It’s the majority that needs to get 60 votes and bring them all to the floor for a vote. The minority party literally doesn’t even need to show up. People rhapsodize about bringing back the ‘talking filibuster’ – which is as much as anything a Hollywood creation. But simply shifting who has to do something would make a big difference.

For instance, what if instead of what I described above, the Majority Leader could bring a bill to a vote and to block it the minority would have to get forty votes on the floor to say no. You could mix that with some requirement to stay on the floor to keep it up. I guarantee you that would get old for the minority party really quick. That is not only hard to do – have everyone available at a moment’s notice – it’s visible. If Democrats were trying to get a vote on the minimum wage under this system you’d have repeated instances of the Democrats starting to hold a vote only to have 40 Republicans show up and say no we won’t let you hold a vote. That’s a bad look. And it’s central to the modern filibuster that it’s function doesn’t ‘look’ like anything. Because, as I said, it’s invisible.

How long would they keep it up?

We don’t entirely have to speculate.

This is what prompted me to discuss this today. The conciliation process actually has what amounts to a talking filibuster embedded within it – at least to a degree. And it just started this morning. It’s generally called the “vote-o-rama”. Basically there is an unlimited opportunity to offer amendments, all of which have to be voted on. It’s unlimited. So Republicans can basically just keep offering amendments indefinitely. But they don’t. That never, ever happens. Never. They get tired of it. They won’t to go to dinner. They want to go to the beach. They need to go to a fundraiser. They want to go home and go to sleep. No less important, after a certain number of days they would start to seem ridiculous.

One Senate veteran tells me that it’s not quite the same because at a certain point the chair can say the amendments have become ‘dilatory’, basically an obvious and excessive delaying tactic. It then goes to the parliamentarian for a ruling. But as we’ve just seen a majority can overrule the parliamentarian. At the end of the day, if 51 votes say it’s dilatory it’s dilatory and that’s the end. But there’s little question that the process could be delayed much, much longer than it normally is before that cudgel came into play.

This tells me pretty clearly – I mean, we have a clear test case – that if the filibuster required an on-going concrete action from the GOP it wouldn’t go on very long at all. As indeed, this vote-o-rama won’t go on for that long. Annoying, a spectacle, a time to make the majority wait. But it won’t go on that long.

I raise all this because if there’s a positive end game to all this battle for majority rule in Congress it’s ‘reform’ that allows folks like Manchin and Schumer to say they didn’t ‘abolish’ the filibuster. They saved the filibuster for future generations! By reforming it and taking away the incentives to get rid of it. But such reforms would likely make all the difference in the world for the reasons I note here.

" 'Individual conscience' means that women only get contraceptives if their employers, their physicians, their pharmacists, their husbands and/or fathers, pastors, and possibly their mayors, Governors, State Secretaries of Health, Congressmen, Senators, and President all agree that in that particular case they're justifiable." --D.C. Sessions

"That's the problem with being implacable foes - no one has any incentive to treat you as anything more than an obstacle to be overcome."

"The 'Road to Serfdom' is really all right turns." --Progressive Whisperer

""The GOP ... where every accusation is also a confession." --Progressive Whisperer

#2 LFC

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Posted 05 March 2021 - 03:51 PM

So what about Manchin and Sinema? The tea leaves might be showing support for reform (paywalled).

Quote

“Never!” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) exclaimed. “Jesus Christ, what don’t you understand about ‘never’?”

That was the senator’s angry reply to a reporter who asked if he’d consider killing the filibuster if Republicans hold up a tranche of Democratic legislation. Not a lot of room for optimistic interpretation, even for the rosiest filibuster abolitionists.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), the other public Democratic filibuster disciple, has been straightforward too: she is “against eliminating the filibuster, and she is not open to changing her mind,” a spokesperson said in late January.

For both of them, killing the filibuster seems totally off the table. But reforming it may not be.

Manchin perked ears in January by telling reporters variations of this quote: “We’re going to make Joe Biden successful.” If the filibuster stays in place, requiring 60 votes to pass everything Democrats can’t crowbar into a few reconciliation vehicles, President Joe Biden’s administration is going to run into trouble with nearly all of its legislative goals. Any hope that Republicans would give up their obstructionist ways this time has been well and truly dashed by their uniform opposition to the uber-popular COVID-19 relief package.

For Sinema, who tends to be less chatty with reporters, there are some interesting signals to be found in a letter about the filibuster she sent to a TPM reader, who passed it on to us.

In the one-page letter, Sinema references the “talking” or “standing” filibuster multiple times — the way it used to be done, where the filibustering senator had to hold the floor while holding up a bill.

“In the 1970s, the standing filibuster practice gave way to the virtual filibuster,” Sinema wrote. “This new tactic allowed any senator to filibuster without speaking on the floor by indicating to the Senate majority leader that there was enough opposition to thwart a cloture vote.”

In the penultimate paragraph about her personal support for maintaining the legislative filibuster, she mentions the importance of “debating” bills twice.

Sinema’s description is a far cry from how things work today. Right now, the party being filibustered has to do all the work to rally 60 votes or water down the legislation to woo obstinate lawmakers. All the filibusterer has to do is send an email.

Both Manchin and Sinema realize the scrutiny their words are under, and they may well be choosing them carefully. If they’re willing to play ball on reforming — but not eliminating — the filibuster, there are a whole host of options to essentially shift the onus of holding up a bill back onto the minority.

There are possible reforms in this vein that Adam Jentleson, a former Harry Reid staffer who wrote a book on the filibuster and has become a vocal opponent of it, told TPM about in a recent Inside Briefing.

“In the Senate, the minority should, if they oppose something, seize the floor, make their case, try to persuade people, maybe change minds,” he said. “That was the point, that debate used to be aimed at persuasion — fill the galleries and have people pay attention.”

A return of the talking filibuster would force the minority to put its money where its mouth is: if it opposes a bill the majority has the votes to pass, fine, but its members must actually take the floor and defend their positions. This reform, Jentleson added (though he advocates for nuking the filibuster wholesale), would have the happy side effect of forcing senators to spend more time on the floor, likely interacting and actually debating things. As it is now, a more common scene is a lone lawmaker flanked by some staff reading a speech into the record and leaving.

But, Jentleson added, the majority also has to have the power to move the country forward if the minority’s persuasion campaign fails.

“In a reasonable amount of time after the minority has had their say and been heard out, if they haven’t changed the minds of a majority of the Senate, the majority should be able to bring a close to that debate and bring it to an up or down vote so the business of the nation can proceed,” he said.

In this specific scenario, a limit would be placed on the amount of time a lawmaker can filibuster, and the number of votes needed to break the filibuster would be lowered from 60. New Republic staff writer Alex Pareene argued in a recent podcast discussion with Josh Marshall, David Taintor and me that Democrats could lower the majority needed to break a filibuster from 60 to 51, allowing moderates to claim that they “saved” the filibuster — allowing it to endure instead of being thrown out entirely.

Meanwhile, bringing the filibuster back to its former iteration as a persuasion exercise would indulge Sinema’s thirst for debate, and allow Manchin to square the circle of “never” killing the filibuster while also giving Biden a successful presidency.

As soon as Democrats finish doing what they can through reconciliation, the fight over every other piece of legislation will heat up in earnest — bringing back the talking filibuster could ultimately be the off-ramp the moderate Democrats take.

" 'Individual conscience' means that women only get contraceptives if their employers, their physicians, their pharmacists, their husbands and/or fathers, pastors, and possibly their mayors, Governors, State Secretaries of Health, Congressmen, Senators, and President all agree that in that particular case they're justifiable." --D.C. Sessions

"That's the problem with being implacable foes - no one has any incentive to treat you as anything more than an obstacle to be overcome."

"The 'Road to Serfdom' is really all right turns." --Progressive Whisperer

""The GOP ... where every accusation is also a confession." --Progressive Whisperer

#3 AnBr

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Posted 05 March 2021 - 06:45 PM

View PostLFC, on 05 March 2021 - 03:50 PM, said:

Manchin and Sinema have both expressed their disagreement with striking down the filibuster but what about reforming it?

In other words make it work as intended rather than the way that the Repugs have abused it. I was not 100% comfortable with its elimination myself. At least make the knuckle draggers work for it rather than announce it and go across the street to the bar.
“Trump’s a stupid man’s idea of a smart person, a poor man’s idea of a rich person & a weak man’s idea of a strong man.”

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“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It's simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

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Pray for Trump: Psalm 109:8

"Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time - when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers arc in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

— Carl Sagan
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
1995


“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

— H.L. Mencken
On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe


“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

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Second inaugural address January, 1937

#4 Probabilistic

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Posted 05 March 2021 - 11:28 PM

While they are reforming philly-buster rule, they should also reform the bill reading rule. Those who want to have a bill read on the chamber floor should have to do it themselves.

#5 AnBr

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Posted 06 March 2021 - 07:53 AM

View PostProbabilistic, on 05 March 2021 - 11:28 PM, said:

While they are reforming philly-buster rule, they should also reform the bill reading rule. Those who want to have a bill read on the chamber floor should have to do it themselves.

And require that it be relevant to the bill at hand.
“Trump’s a stupid man’s idea of a smart person, a poor man’s idea of a rich person & a weak man’s idea of a strong man.”

— Fran Lebowitz


“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It's simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

— Carl Sagan


Pray for Trump: Psalm 109:8

"Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time - when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers arc in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

— Carl Sagan
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
1995


“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

— H.L. Mencken
On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe


“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

— Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Second inaugural address January, 1937

#6 JackD

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Posted 06 March 2021 - 01:12 PM

The trouble with "reforming" the filibuster rule is that nothing the Democrats do while in power will limit the Republicans should they take over and Republicans have already demonstrated that they will eliminate the rule whenever they need to. Thus, Democrats worrying that they may need it when they are in the minority are being short sighted to say the least. It will never benefit them.

#7 AnBr

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Posted 06 March 2021 - 06:52 PM

I agree in principle, but if they cannot get there without the blue dogs your point is moot and Manchin has said no.
“Trump’s a stupid man’s idea of a smart person, a poor man’s idea of a rich person & a weak man’s idea of a strong man.”

— Fran Lebowitz


“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It's simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

— Carl Sagan


Pray for Trump: Psalm 109:8

"Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time - when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers arc in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

— Carl Sagan
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
1995


“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

— H.L. Mencken
On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe


“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

— Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Second inaugural address January, 1937

#8 JackD

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Posted 06 March 2021 - 07:51 PM

Shades of Joe Lieberman! And Max Baucus.

#9 Traveler

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Posted 08 March 2021 - 08:25 AM

Ben Nelson anyone? Total asshole, got his own earmark payoff, and then lost re-election anyway. Is this what Manchin wants to be remembered for?
"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened."-- Winston Churchill
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#10 LFC

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Posted 08 March 2021 - 10:18 AM

View PostTraveler, on 08 March 2021 - 08:25 AM, said:

Ben Nelson anyone?

Singularly responsible for great harm to the ACA. May he become one of Beelzebuddy's permanent guests.
" 'Individual conscience' means that women only get contraceptives if their employers, their physicians, their pharmacists, their husbands and/or fathers, pastors, and possibly their mayors, Governors, State Secretaries of Health, Congressmen, Senators, and President all agree that in that particular case they're justifiable." --D.C. Sessions

"That's the problem with being implacable foes - no one has any incentive to treat you as anything more than an obstacle to be overcome."

"The 'Road to Serfdom' is really all right turns." --Progressive Whisperer

""The GOP ... where every accusation is also a confession." --Progressive Whisperer

#11 LFC

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Posted 08 March 2021 - 11:40 AM

Rep. Clyburn is calling out Manchin and Sinema directly over the filibuster and the HR1. The heat is on.

Quote

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) warned Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) against the “catastrophic” move of letting the filibuster stand in the way of passing The For the People Act, known as HR1, that would expand voting access, especially in communities most affected by the voting restrictions being pushed by Republicans in many states.

“There’s no way under the sun that in 2021 that we are going to allow the filibuster to be used to deny voting rights. That just ain’t gonna happen. That would be catastrophic,” Clyburn said in an interview published in The Guardian on Sunday, days after the House passed HR1.

Clyburn went on to call out Manchin and Sinema. Both of the centrist Democratic senators have faced criticism from those in their party over their opposition to eliminating the filibuster.

“If Manchin and Sinema enjoy being in the majority, they had better figure out a way to get around the filibuster when it comes to voting and civil rights,” Clyburn said.

After stating that he is not necessarily advocating for the elimination of the filibuster, Clyburn added that the Democratic Party “would do well to develop a Manchin-Sinema rule” when it comes to getting around the filibuster regarding issues on race and civil rights.

HR1, which includes provisions such as making Election Day a federal holiday and requiring states to provide at least 15 days of early voting, was passed by the House last week. Along with other Republicans, former Vice President Mike Pence decried HR1 as “unconstitutional, reckless, and anti-democratic” while pushing the bogus election fraud claims that former President Trump continues to peddle.

" 'Individual conscience' means that women only get contraceptives if their employers, their physicians, their pharmacists, their husbands and/or fathers, pastors, and possibly their mayors, Governors, State Secretaries of Health, Congressmen, Senators, and President all agree that in that particular case they're justifiable." --D.C. Sessions

"That's the problem with being implacable foes - no one has any incentive to treat you as anything more than an obstacle to be overcome."

"The 'Road to Serfdom' is really all right turns." --Progressive Whisperer

""The GOP ... where every accusation is also a confession." --Progressive Whisperer

#12 LFC

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Posted 08 March 2021 - 11:44 AM

Watch Manchin (paywalled). He seems to be determined to be much more significant than Ben Nelson. He appears to actually WANT to get something done rather than just sit around as the lone holdout with his palm out.

Quote

As I mentioned Thursday, the sole thing that has given me any hope for passing legislation with 51 votes in the Senate is that the people really working this issue – the filibuster reform activists who’ve been at this for a long time – have been consistently more optimistic than I am. This morning on Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday, Joe Manchin (D-WV) opened the door as clearly as he has to date on game-changing ‘reforms’ to the Senate filibuster.

On Meet the Press Manchin said he was open to making the filibuster “a little bit more painful, make him stand there and talk. I’m willing to look at any way we can. But I’m not willing to take away the involvement of the minority.”

On Fox he said, “The filibuster should be painful … and we’ve made it more comfortable over the years … Maybe it has to be more painful, maybe you have to stand there.”

This is the same basic point: changing the dynamics of the filibuster so it puts the onus on the minority to do things that are hard to do for long periods of time and must be done in the open. He’s clearly hinting at some version of a ‘talking filibuster’, where in some fashion or another the minority has to hold the floor and talk and keep doing so indefinitely to block a vote. This may not seem like a huge game changer. But it is. And we’ll get to that in another post.

But there’s another point I want to highlight. The reformers make clear when you talk to them that the only way this is going to move is if the holdouts can portray the change not as ‘abolishing’ the filibuster but rather ‘saving’ it. And if you listen that’s precisely what Manchin described in his interview on Fox (I’ve only seen quotes from Meet the Press). Pressed by Chris Wallace on whether he was really saying he was open to getting rid of the de facto 60 vote rule for non-budgetary legislation he said this.

Quote

Josh Marshall
@joshtpm

Key from Manchin. Filibuster reformers have been saying consistently that change will only come if it can be packaged as "saving" the filibuster by "reforming" it. And as you can see here that's exactly where Manchin goes.

Don’t pop any corks yet. This is going to be a process that plays out over a good bit of time. But this is about the most optimistic I’ve been yet that we’re going to see real, game-changing change on this issue.

And when the Republicans complain, and you know they will, I'll simply repeat this from my signature line.

Quote

"That's the problem with being implacable foes - no one has any incentive to treat you as anything more than an obstacle to be overcome."

" 'Individual conscience' means that women only get contraceptives if their employers, their physicians, their pharmacists, their husbands and/or fathers, pastors, and possibly their mayors, Governors, State Secretaries of Health, Congressmen, Senators, and President all agree that in that particular case they're justifiable." --D.C. Sessions

"That's the problem with being implacable foes - no one has any incentive to treat you as anything more than an obstacle to be overcome."

"The 'Road to Serfdom' is really all right turns." --Progressive Whisperer

""The GOP ... where every accusation is also a confession." --Progressive Whisperer

#13 LFC

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Posted 08 March 2021 - 12:14 PM

Here's more on Manchin taking the stand that he's trying to save the filibuster, as compared to Republicans I guess. Smart messaging.

Quote

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on Sunday said that he stood by his opposition to eliminating the filibuster entirely — but he left the door open to reforming the procedural rule.

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Manchin maintained that he won’t change his mind when it comes to his opposition against getting rid of the filibuster — but expressed that he is open to making it “a little bit more painful” to use.

“Make him stand there and talk,” Manchin said. “I’m willing to look at any way we can. But I’m not willing to take away the involvement of the minority.”

Manchin seemed to be floating the idea of bringing back something like the “talking filibuster,” where a member of the minority would have to take the Senate floor and speak, Jimmy Stewart-style, in order to block a vote.

Some Democratic activists encouraging a change to how the filibuster works have argued that centrist Democrats could pitch reforms to the filibuster as necessary to “save” it, rather than eliminating it. Manchin appeared to lean into that framing Sunday during a separate interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace.

“I’d make it harder to get rid of the filibuster,” Manchin said when asked about his proposed changes by Wallace.

“I’m supporting the filibuster,” he continued. “I’m going to continue to support the filibuster. I think it defines who we are as a Senate. I’ll make it harder to get rid of it, but it should be painful if you want to use it.”

" 'Individual conscience' means that women only get contraceptives if their employers, their physicians, their pharmacists, their husbands and/or fathers, pastors, and possibly their mayors, Governors, State Secretaries of Health, Congressmen, Senators, and President all agree that in that particular case they're justifiable." --D.C. Sessions

"That's the problem with being implacable foes - no one has any incentive to treat you as anything more than an obstacle to be overcome."

"The 'Road to Serfdom' is really all right turns." --Progressive Whisperer

""The GOP ... where every accusation is also a confession." --Progressive Whisperer

#14 LFC

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Posted 08 March 2021 - 12:16 PM

Josh Marshall's paywalled follow-up on Manchin.

Quote

I feel sheepish admitting this. But after seeing Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) comments on the Sunday shows yesterday I felt pretty optimistic that this year might be significantly different than I’d anticipated and that the legislative possibilities are more expansive than I’d imagined. More than optimistic – I felt a hint of excitement. Yes, yes, there might as well be a bible verse that says ‘Put not your faith in Joe Manchin!’

But it’s not quite like that.

Part of this is that I don’t expect and have never expected the Senate to push through the whole Democratic party wish list on party line votes. As we saw with the $15 minimum wage the real problem wasn’t so much the filibuster as disagreements or at least hesitation within the Democratic caucus.

What makes this a big deal in my eyes is that this isn’t a flash in the pan comment. Manchin went on at least three Sunday shows yesterday to make this point. Very much by design and according to a considered plan. When you do a tour like this this isn’t just off-the-cuff in response to questions that happened to get asked. More importantly, as I wrote yesterday, this is the other piece of the puzzle placed into a framework articulated and advocated by the cadre of former staffers and politicos who’ve been pushing filibuster reform for years.

They weren’t surprised or terribly disheartened by Manchin’s embrace of the filibuster right out of the gate in January – or Sinema’s tag-along. They saw this as a process that would unfold over months, as the depth of Republican wrecking and intransigence played out.

I mentioned yesterday that far from being a tool to create bipartisanship, the current filibuster is actually a primary obstacle to it. To me, we don’t need more bipartisanship. We need majority rule in the Senate. That means allowing Democrats to pass the agenda they ran on when they win an election. (And it means the same for the GOP.) But to the extent that you actually want more bipartisanship, ditching or significantly weakening the filibuster creates more incentive for it, not less. Why negotiate when you can simply say no and you automatically win?

I suspect Manchin’s preferred outcome is to ramp back or simply threaten to ramp back the filibuster and in so doing shape versions of the big bills which shift bills a bit to the right and have a more centrist center of gravity. So maybe bills which lose some votes on the left of the caucus but pick up some Republican votes in the center. Once Republicans know they can’t block legislation they will have more incentive to get on board to shape it more to their liking. Whether it plays out that, I don’t know. I’m skeptical but I don’t think it’s impossible either. I’m pretty sure, though, that’s his ideal outcome. It fits both with the brand he plays to in West Virginia and his ideological comfort zone.

If we move toward some version of reform that changes the filibuster from an easy flat no to anything that can’t muster 60 votes to something more like a stopgap the minority can use to slow down and make a spectacle of legislation but is yet inherently limited I think we will marvel at how broken we let the national political process become before we made the change.

" 'Individual conscience' means that women only get contraceptives if their employers, their physicians, their pharmacists, their husbands and/or fathers, pastors, and possibly their mayors, Governors, State Secretaries of Health, Congressmen, Senators, and President all agree that in that particular case they're justifiable." --D.C. Sessions

"That's the problem with being implacable foes - no one has any incentive to treat you as anything more than an obstacle to be overcome."

"The 'Road to Serfdom' is really all right turns." --Progressive Whisperer

""The GOP ... where every accusation is also a confession." --Progressive Whisperer

#15 LFC

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Posted 09 March 2021 - 02:21 PM

Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) is hesitant to mess with the filibuster. Perhaps she should listen to her constituents.

Quote

Ask likely voters in Arizona — one of the states with a moderate Democratic senator opposed to ending the filibuster — and they’re more interested in passing major legislation than keeping Senate rules intact, according to a new poll.

In a February Data for Progress survey, 61 percent of likely voters in the state said they favor approving key bills, compared to 26 percent who think it’s more important to “preserve traditional Senate procedures and rules like the filibuster,” though the response differed notably across party lines. Seventy-six percent of Democrats thought approving major legislation was more important, as did 66 percent of independents, while just 42 percent of Republicans did.

Currently, because of the legislative filibuster, most bills require 60 votes to pass, giving Senate Republicans the ability to stymie major Democratic priorities, including voting rights legislation, gun control measures, and immigration reform. If Democrats were to eliminate the filibuster, a stance that the full caucus — including Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) — has yet to back, they’d be able to pass such bills with just a simple majority, or 51 votes. (Democrats hold 50 votes in the evenly divided chamber, but if the caucus sticks together, Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a tie-breaking vote in their favor.)

This data indicates that the majority of Arizona’s likely voters would back a procedural change in the Senate if it was needed to approve important legislation, an issue that Democratic lawmakers will likely have to confront later this term as they weigh what, if anything, to do about the filibuster.

Arizonans’ perspective on the issue is interesting given Sinema’s stated opposition to such changes thus far: At the start of this term, she was one of two Democrats who publicly reaffirmed her backing for preserving the filibuster, alongside Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). “She is not open to changing her mind about eliminating the filibuster,” a Sinema spokesperson told the Washington Post in January. And more recently, Sinema again emphasized that she believed the practice was important to help Senators in the minority maintain a voice.

“Regardless of the party in control of the Senate, respecting the opinions of senators from the minority party will result in better, common-sense legislation,” Sinema wrote in a letter to a constituent. “My position remains exactly the same now that I serve in the majority. While eliminating the filibuster may result in some short-term legislative gains, it would deepen partisan divisions and sacrifice the long-term health of our government.”

This poll suggests, however, that most of her constituents may feel differently.

Similarly, it finds that 62 percent of all likely Arizona voters support gradually increasing the minimum wage from the existing $11 in the state to a federal standard of $15. Recently, Sinema voted against overruling the Senate parliamentarian and including a minimum wage hike in the budget reconciliation process. A $15 minimum wage has the backing of 89 percent of Democrats, 54 percent of independents, and 42 percent of Republicans in the state.

" 'Individual conscience' means that women only get contraceptives if their employers, their physicians, their pharmacists, their husbands and/or fathers, pastors, and possibly their mayors, Governors, State Secretaries of Health, Congressmen, Senators, and President all agree that in that particular case they're justifiable." --D.C. Sessions

"That's the problem with being implacable foes - no one has any incentive to treat you as anything more than an obstacle to be overcome."

"The 'Road to Serfdom' is really all right turns." --Progressive Whisperer

""The GOP ... where every accusation is also a confession." --Progressive Whisperer

#16 LFC

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Posted 15 March 2021 - 04:54 PM

Salon has a compact history of the filibuster.

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It's hard to imagine literally talking for an entire day, but that is what happened during the longest filibuster in Senate history. The year was 1957 and Strom Thurmond, a South Carolina white supremacist best known for running as a third-party presidential candidate nine years earlier, talked for 24 hours and 18 minutes to stall a major civil rights bill. It was the first major civil rights legislation since the 19th century, so Thurmond droned on and on and on. Nothing he said was particularly memorable, but he was determined to stop even the modest voting reforms contained in the proposed legislation.

On two occasions, however, Thurmond hit a snag: He had to go to the bathroom.

Fortunately for Thurmond, an Arizona senator named Barry Goldwater stepped in on those occasions to talk about a military pay bill so the staunch segregationist could relieve himself. (Goldwater later transformed the Republican Party into the far-right organization it is today through his 1964 presidential campaign.) Fortunately for America, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 wound up passing despite Thurmond's obstructionism, laying the foundation for voting rights and creating both the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

Unfortunately for America, the filibuster still exists — and may still be used to strip people of their voting rights. In fact, the filibuster itself could be fairly described as the single worst feature of U.S. Senate procedure. It exists because of a thoughtless error and has only infrequently been used for positive ends.

It's not an exaggeration to say that our Senate's version of the filibuster was basically created by mistake. As Brookings Institution senior fellow Sarah A. Binder explained when testifying before the Senate in 2010, both the Senate and House of Representatives used rule books tracing back to 1789 that were virtually identical. These included a "previous question" motion that is today interpreted in the House as meaning a simple majority can cut off debate. The Senate no longer has that rule, however, because Vice President Aaron Burr suggested in 1805 that the Senate's rulebook needed to be streamlined. It had not occurred to either chamber of Congress at the time that the rule could be used to cut off debate, so the Senate followed through on Burr's suggestion in 1806. (All of this happened after Burr's 1805 indictment for murdering Alexander Hamilton.)

Even so, it didn't occur to senators to abuse this oversight by filibustering bills to death until 1837. After that, the filibuster was rarely used until the mid-19th century, when the Senate became more polarized and issues (often involving voting rights) heightened partisan passions. By the 1880s filibusters were common, frustrating presidents and politicians on both sides who found that a single senator could destroy legislation supported by overwhelming majorities if they were willing to be shamelessly voluble. In 1917, when a group of senators filibustered a bill to arm merchant ships during World War I, President Woodrow Wilson decided enough was enough. With his prodding, the Senate adopted Rule 22, which said that two-thirds of senators could forcibly end a filibuster and bring a bill to vote (a process known as cloture). That threshold was later reduced to three-fifths in 1975, meaning that today you need 60 senators to shut up a filibusterer.

Since the 1970s senators have been able to filibuster without even talking; all they have to do is say that they plan on launching a filibuster against a given bill or motion to grind the Senate to a screeching halt. While some senators still seize the opportunity to grandstand (Ted Cruz memorably did this when opposing the Affordable Care Act in 2013, speaking for more than 21 hours and at one point reciting Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham"), it isn't required or essential. This made it easier for Mitch McConnell to obstruct much of Barack Obama's agenda, even as minority leader in the Senate.

That brings us to the present.

" 'Individual conscience' means that women only get contraceptives if their employers, their physicians, their pharmacists, their husbands and/or fathers, pastors, and possibly their mayors, Governors, State Secretaries of Health, Congressmen, Senators, and President all agree that in that particular case they're justifiable." --D.C. Sessions

"That's the problem with being implacable foes - no one has any incentive to treat you as anything more than an obstacle to be overcome."

"The 'Road to Serfdom' is really all right turns." --Progressive Whisperer

""The GOP ... where every accusation is also a confession." --Progressive Whisperer

#17 LFC

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Posted 16 March 2021 - 02:48 PM

From TPM: McConnell Threatens To Grind Senate To Halt If Dems Don’t Let Him Keep Power To Grind Senate To Halt

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) came out with his strongest threat about abolishing the filibuster yet on Tuesday, warning that he will use procedural delays to turn the Senate into a “100-car pileup” if Democrats go nuclear.

“Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin, even begin to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like,” he said.

If Democrats torch the filibuster on legislation, or at least torch the 60-vote threshold part of it, McConnell said he’d use Senate rules to slow down and force votes on every single small piece of Senate operations. Much of Senate business runs on unanimous consent, a quick way to dispense with unobjectionable and housekeeping tasks.

“I want our colleagues to imagine a world where every single task, every one of them, requires a physical quorum, which, by the way, the Vice President does not count in determining a quorum,” he said.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) shrugged off the threat.

“He has already done that,” he told reporters of McConnell’s threat to grind the chamber to a halt. “He’s proven he can do it and they’ll do it again, I assume.”

" 'Individual conscience' means that women only get contraceptives if their employers, their physicians, their pharmacists, their husbands and/or fathers, pastors, and possibly their mayors, Governors, State Secretaries of Health, Congressmen, Senators, and President all agree that in that particular case they're justifiable." --D.C. Sessions

"That's the problem with being implacable foes - no one has any incentive to treat you as anything more than an obstacle to be overcome."

"The 'Road to Serfdom' is really all right turns." --Progressive Whisperer

""The GOP ... where every accusation is also a confession." --Progressive Whisperer

#18 golden_valley

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Posted 16 March 2021 - 04:00 PM

View PostLFC, on 16 March 2021 - 02:48 PM, said:


Sounds like Durbin just said "bring it on". I'm always shocked at how little time Senators spend on the floor anyway. They can do committee work by day, and floor work at night. McConnell and some of the old ones will just have to take naps during committee hearings like they probably do anyway.

#19 LFC

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Posted 16 March 2021 - 04:26 PM

View Postgolden_valley, on 16 March 2021 - 04:00 PM, said:

Sounds like Durbin just said "bring it on". I'm always shocked at how little time Senators spend on the floor anyway. They can do committee work by day, and floor work at night. McConnell and some of the old ones will just have to take naps during committee hearings like they probably do anyway.

I suspect that the Dems can make finding time to raise campaign funds difficult. If there's one thing the Republicans have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt it's that their time in Congress is all about how much money they can raise.
" 'Individual conscience' means that women only get contraceptives if their employers, their physicians, their pharmacists, their husbands and/or fathers, pastors, and possibly their mayors, Governors, State Secretaries of Health, Congressmen, Senators, and President all agree that in that particular case they're justifiable." --D.C. Sessions

"That's the problem with being implacable foes - no one has any incentive to treat you as anything more than an obstacle to be overcome."

"The 'Road to Serfdom' is really all right turns." --Progressive Whisperer

""The GOP ... where every accusation is also a confession." --Progressive Whisperer

#20 Probabilistic

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Posted 18 March 2021 - 08:05 AM

Paradoxically there would be more bipartisan cooperation once the filibuster has been rid. It would remove the incentive for the minority to stick together at all cost. Minority's overriding interest is becoming the majority in the next election. Stopping the majority from achieving legislative success is an important step in the process. Once that possibility has been removed the value of intractable obstruction is significantly reduced.

It is increasingly difficult to reach 60 votes in the Senate unless the majority has nearly 60 votes. It's more likely to get a few Senators in the minority to join with the majority if some of their interests are addressed. I see more bills, more sensible less lopsided bills, passing with ~55 votes than none at all after failing to reach a 60 vote threshold. The majority still has incentive to curb its excesses for attaining brownie points for the label of bipartisan legislation.

Also, this nonsense of talking filibuster should be discarded forthwith. It'll create heros and martyrs for the wrong reasons, not serve the purpose of passing legislation. It's silly to give the minority a veto over the majority, one they did not attain through elections.





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