Congressional Game of Chicken: Filibuster Reform Is Back

(4 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Once again Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is rumbling about reforming filibuster as the GOP minority continues to block confirmation of President Barack Obama’s nominees for key administration offices. On Thursday, Reid took to the floor of the senate slamming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for breaking his word on confirmations.

This latest confrontation is over seven pending nominees, including leaders for the Labor Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, a consumer protection agency and vacancies to a politically important labor law oversight board. While Republicans signaled a path to confirmation for the EPA and Labor nominees, the parties remained at loggerheads over Obama’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). McConnell objected to trying to confirm officials already on the board who were “unlawfully” appointed in a recess session. If the Senate fails to act on the nominees for the NLRB, it will cease to function at the end of August. The rules change that is being proposed would not effect judicial nominees which would still be subject to filibuster

McConnell shot back calling this stand off the “darkest days of the senate” and, on his campaign Facebook page posted an image of Reid’s tombstone with the words “Killed the Senate.” While Reid agreed to a closed door private conversation in the Old Senate Chambers with all the Senators, it was after a 75 minute private meeting with McConnell, that Reid emerged adamantly stating that he wanted the nominees approved, or the rules changed.

One of the proponents of reforming filibuster, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), circulated a memo to his Democratic colleagues on the history of filibuster, countering the Republican cries of that the rules change would be “unprecedented”:

“The notion that changing Senate procedure with a simple majority vote is ‘changing the rules by breaking the rules’ is an absolute falsehood,” reads the memo, which was provided to The Huffington Post. “Indeed, the Senate appears to have changed its procedures by simple majority … 18 times since 1977, an average of once every other year.”

Merkley Memo On Filibuster

Merkley is working with Reid, who appears to be more committed to reform this time. One anonymous aid advocating for reform said he believed that Reid had the 51 votes which could include Vice Pres. Joe Biden as the “51st” vote to break a tie.

Reid has called for a cloture vote on the nominees for next week. Being a skeptic about Reid’s leadership and his resolve in the past on reform, I’ll believe it when it happens.


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  1. TMC
  2. terryhallinan

    I have a personal reason for having a soft spot for the old Mormon boxer.  Unlike his bob and weave on filibuster reform, Reid was nearly a lone voice in the wilderness pushing geothermal power.  Oddly another was a wind energy entrepreneur in the House who pointed to geothermal’s baseload [always on] power putting it ahead of even coal in that category.  Pelosi looked for headlines and was a nominal supporter of the most potent energy source on earth but showed no energy herself that one could see.

    I wonder if the frustrating stop and go, praise of worthless “filibuster reform” and other shadow boxing was simply a matter of Reid not having the votes.

    Anyway I would love to think that and that Reid now has the votes.

    Would love to but don’t.

    Best, Terry

  3. TMC

    During his appearance on MTP this AM, he sounded determined to go “nuclear.”

    The change would only effect nominations for officials not judicial nominees. Although, I think that should be changed, too, because of the number of vacancies on the Federal bench and the obstruction of the GOP to fill the posts. It may well be next.

  4. TMC

    I don’t always quote from the Tiger Beat On The Potomac, as Charles Pierce likes to call Politico but this was a pretty accurate article about Reid being serious this time:

    One indication that Reid intends to make good on his threat: he will give a speech on Monday morning to the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress, blasting the “unprecedented level of obstruction by Senate Republicans has prevented the President from having the qualified team he needs to grow our economy,” as described by CAP. [..]

    While the Senate in recent weeks was busy passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill and confirming several non-controversial members of Obama’s cabinet, the dispute over whether to change the Senate rules was simmering. McConnell came to the floor nearly every day to prod Reid on whether he would “break his word” on not pursuing the nuclear option.

    Finally Reid broke weeks of silence on the issue and blasted McConnell for “broken” promises of cooperation on Thursday, sparking two long, nasty exchanges between the two leaders that included references to Reid’s tombstone by McConnell and biting sarcastic swipes from Reid. [..]

    Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) crafted a modest compromise just six months ago to avert the “nuclear option” – but Reid and his membership don’t believe it has made a difference.

    As, Merkley noted, going “nuclear” has been done before and the Senate didn’t die.

    But, like you, I’ll believe it when it happens.

  5. terryhallinan

    Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) crafted a modest compromise just six months ago to avert the “nuclear option”

    That had to be worth less than the Kellogg Cornflake boxtops we had to get years ago for discounts on a train ride to Portland from San Francisco.

    Reid has at least stepped it up a bit but surely one of Goldwater’s imaginary tactical nuclear weapons.

    Best,  Terry  

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