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Tue Oct 16, 2012, 08:05 PM

Our Democracy’s “F” Word - by Reed Richardson

I found this over on Eric Alterman's blog. This is a VERY good read(emphases my own):


As this election season nears its climax, campaigns of every stripe are staking out their positions on the host of challenges facing our country. But over the next few weeks, one of the most important structural problems facing our nation’s ability to govern itself will likely go unmentioned by the presidential candidates, unasked about in any of the debates, and all but ignored by the press. But make no mistake, the notion that anything will really change for the better in Washington next year is the very definition of crazy if we continue to allow our legislative process to be hijacked by the lazy tyranny of filibusters.

Honestly, it’s hard to imagine a concept more anti-democratic than the filibuster. Its history speaks of its capacity for evil and abuse—from its early etymological origins describing efforts to expand slavery to its later, more common definition as procedural ploy in the Senate used by segregation supporters to obstruct Civil Rights legislation. By allowing a single elected official to essentially flout the collective will of two branches of government barring a supermajority objection, filibusters are tailor made for obstructionism and preserving the status quo. Even more inexplicable, this odious tactic that haunts the hall of Congress appears nowhere in the Constitution—it is a creature born of bureaucratic banality.

Until recently, however, filibusters were considered but an occasional novelty, a kind of personality quirk of the Senate, because they were relatively rare. But the days of actually filibustering a bill—with cots in the Senate chambers and impassioned idealists nobly reading things like railroad schedules and the Holy Bible into the Congressional record—have been replaced with relaxed rules that allow for all-too-easy objections. And, as might be expected, some lobbyists now specialize in filibuster consultation.

As a result, the number of filibusters has skyrocketed. As demonstrated by this graph (and, to see the raw numbers, this table) of Senate cloture motions—which serve as a proxy measurement of filibuster activity—their popularity really began growing in the 92rdCongress of 1971–72. Since then, they jumped again in the 103rd and then the 110th Congresses (plateauing after each spike as their level of usage became institutionalized). In all three of these cases, I humbly point out, Republicans were in the minority in the House and the Senate.

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Response to Bill USA (Original post)

Wed Oct 17, 2012, 12:58 AM

1. When Democrats are in the majority, they have a chance to change the rules

with a simple majority vote at the beginning of each session and limit or abolish the filibuster.

They chose not to last time.

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Response to yurbud (Reply #1)

Wed Oct 17, 2012, 04:32 PM

2. many people feel it's not a good idea to get rid of the filibuster rule because it is meant to

enable the minority to keep the majority from 'riding roughshod' over the minority. Unfortunately, the way the Repubs are using it, it enables the minority to ride rough-shod over the majority! Difficult one to call. If only the Republicans would not abuse it and turn it into a totalitarian tool of the minority, there would not be a problem (as in article it points out for years the filibuster was used rarely or with moderation).

OF course, with the filibuster rule in place, any bill can be filibustered including a move to change or eliminate the filibuster rule. Thus, a simple majority would not suffice if the minority doesn't want you to do it. You need a super majority to change it.

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Response to Bill USA (Reply #2)

Wed Oct 17, 2012, 07:35 PM

3. they don't need a supermajority to change the rule at the start of the session

they did vote on it recently and conservative Democrats did not vote to change it because they like being able to blame Republicans for progressive bills that die.

Essentially, what is going on is Democrats are keeping the corpse of the GOP alive by not pulling the plug on the their procedural shenanigans.

I'm sick of it.

This is a pretty good summary of what the Democrats pretend the GOP is and what they really are:

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Response to yurbud (Reply #3)

Tue Nov 6, 2012, 09:09 PM

5. When Reid recently talked about changing the rule to 51 votes to pass. McConnell exploded..

and warned Reid that if the GOP took control of the Senate they could kill legislation passed by Obama administration (such as ObamaCares) and the Dems couldn't do anything to stop them.

The Democrats always have to consider if the GOP did get a majority in the Senate - what destruction the GOP could rain down on the Government with the Democrats not having the filibuster rule with 60 votes to protect needed responsible legislation. The Dems are not keeping the filibuster rule with 60 votes so they can blame Repubs for doing what Repubs do of their own volition - strangle rational legislation which solves problems and fosters progress. The Democrats always have to consider what if the GOPers achieved a majority in the Senate. Then, without the filibuster with 60 votes to break - the GOP would run wild and do enormous damage.

The problem is, with the filibuster the GOP can slow down to a crawl getting anything done. The Democrats are not forcing the GOP to be irresponsible corporate lobbyists. The GOP alone are responsible for their animus towards progress and democracy. The GOP's animosity toward government by THE PEOPLE and FOR THE PEOPLE is the problem. Their use of the filibuster to retard progress and undermine rational, democratic government is frustrating but it is also what makes getting rid of the filibuster risky. If the Corporate Lobbyist Party ever got a majority in the Senate, without the filibuster to enable the Democrats to protect it, they could lay waste to much valuable, sensible legislation.

(emphases my own)

Mitch McConnell attacked Harry Reid on the Senate floor over a threat to change Senate filibuster rules, warning that it could allow the GOP to kill Barack Obama’s health care law with a simple majority if Republicans win control of the Senate.

In a tense, 45-minute exchange Wednesday morning unusual even in today’s polarized Capitol climate, McConnell ambushed Reid, warning that any changes in filibuster rules would lead to a slippery slope that could kill major Democratic priorities if Republicans win control of the Senate.

“Let’s assume we have a new president, and I’m the majority leader next time and we’re operating at 51,” McConnell said, “I wonder how comforting that is to my friends on the other side. How does it make you feel about the security of Obamacare, for example?”

McConnell’s outrage comes as Reid has considered backpedaling on a promise from last year that he wouldn’t change the rules other than through regular order, which requires two-thirds support of the Senate. If Democrats keep the majority, Reid is signaling he’d use arcane procedures to change the rules by 51 votes so senators can no longer filibuster to prevent bills from coming up to the floor for debate. Under Reid’s plan, they‘d still be able to filibuster in any number of circumstances, including to block a final vote on legislation, though he suggested that senators should actually carry out their filibusters on the floor, rather than simply threaten them.

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Response to Bill USA (Reply #2)

Wed Oct 17, 2012, 11:12 PM

4. the Supreme Court has done a good job of protecting minorities from the tyranny of the majority

the only minority the filibuster is protecting is wealthy sociopaths.

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