Last night, during the debate to confirm racist Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions to be US Attorney General, the good Democratic senator from Massachusetts and former Harvard law professor, Elizabeth Warren was silenced when she started reading the late Coretta Scott King letter that opposed Sessions nomination to the federal court. Senate Majority Leader Mitch …
Tag: Mitch McConnell
The Senate Republicans appear to be once again on the road to self destruction. GOPers Commit to the ‘Three Nos’, Josh Marshal, Talking Points Memo There’s nothing really different today than what Mitch McConnell committed Republicans to only hours after Justice Scalia’s death. But we now have a formal embrace of the ‘Three Nos’: No …
No sooner had the news of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death been announced when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) let it be known that the Senate would not even consider hearings on his successor. In a swift statement designed to warn Barack Obama against even nominating a replacement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pledged …
Harry and the Democrats have once again backed off fixing the unconstitutional filibuster rule in the Senate that has allowed the minority party to stall everything from nominees to offices, the bench and passing legislation this session.
A tentative agreement to avert reforming filibuster on presidential nominees to administrative positions was reached during the night on an unusual private session between the two caucuses.
The deal, which was negotiated primarily between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), was described by a Senate Democratic aide as one in which the Republican Party will allow votes to confirm the seven executive nominees, provided that Obama replaces his two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board with two other names. Those nominees would have a commitment “in writing” from GOP leadership to get a vote, the Democratic aide said. [..]
Getting replacements for the NLRB nominees is, more or less, a face-saving measure for the GOP leadership. Republicans had argued that the nominees, Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, were irrevocably tainted because Obama elevated them as recess appointments, which were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Democrats countered that such taint would have been wiped away had Block and Griffin received a clean vote by the Senate. [..]
Under the proposed deal between the two parties, which the Democratic aide cautioned was “not final yet” as of 11:00 a.m., Reid would also retain the right to consider rules reform in the future. There are “no conditions or restrictions on future action whatsoever,” the aide said. Another aide confirmed that position.
According news reports from aids, Reid had stopped talking to minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, choosing instead to broker a deal through McCain.
The cloture vote on Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was taken late this morning, passing 79 – 29 thus ending the filibuster on his nomination. Final confirmation will take place later today.
There are some Democrats not satisfied with the tentative deal over Block and Gross:
Republicans have balked as the question to whether their recess appointments are constitutional awaits a Supreme Court decision this fall. Instead, Republicans are hoping to slot in two new Democratic-chosen NLRB members in place of Block and Griffin, a move sure to rile up the liberal wing of the party.
Democrats tried to come up with some potential replacement for Block and Griffin over the weekend, but have been unsuccessful up to this point. [..]
Some veteran Democrats, however, are standing by Block and Griffin, and are urging Reid and the White House not to cave to GOP pressure, as are labor leaders.
“If it’s a deal that somehow carves out Sharon Block and Richard Griffin from going on the NLRB, then I am going to be standing up. Because I think it would be grossly unfair to throw them out simply to make a deal,” declared Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). “Until the Supreme Court decides it, they have every right to be where they are.”
The Democratic leadership is concerned with threats made by Republicans that if they win the Senate in 2014, they would change the Senate rules in such a way as to completely block any presidential nominees and enable them to push though their agenda. The question is what is to stop them from doing this anyway? Does anyone really believe that a Republican led senate would tolerate a Democratic minority obstructing their agenda? Republicans have already threatened random acts of obstruction should Democrats exercise the option. But, truthfully, how much more obstructive can they get?
If the Democrats expect to get anything done or anyone confirmed to the bench before they lose their majority, they needed to do it now.
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 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.
It would seem by now that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) realized that the filibuster “gentleman’s agreement” with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is as much of a farce as “bipartisanship.” Since Last January’s deal, the Republicans have filibuster two cabinet nominees, unprecedented in the past, blocked numerous judges and other nominees. Now a group led by Sen. Rand Paul, Mitch’s compatriot from the Blue Grass State, have threatened to filibuster a bill that hasn’t even been written.
Once again, Harry has tossed out another idle threat to fix the filibuster, this tilw by invoking the dreaded “nuclear option.” In an interview with Nevada Public Radio, Harry said that “he has not ruled out altering Senate rules to speed up Senate judicial nominations.”
“All within the sound of my voice, including my Democratic senators and the Republican senators who I serve with, should understand that we as a body have the power on any given day to change the rules with a simple majority, and I will do that if necessary,” Reid says. [..]
“I’m a very patient man. Last Congress and this Congress, we had the opportunity to make some big changes. We made changes, but the time will tell whether they’re big enough. I’m going to wait and build a case,” Reid says. “If the Republicans in the Senate don’t start approving some judges and don’t start helping get some of these nominations done, then we’re going to have to take more action.”
E.J. Dionne makes some very salient points in his Washington Post op-ed, where he asks is this the end of majority rule? He points out three facts first that universal background checks are overwhelming supported by Americans; second, “the Morning Joe/Marist poll last week showing 64 percent of Americans saying that job creation should be the top priority for elected officials.” Third, “only 33 percent said their focus should be on reducing the deficit.” Yet, congress has completely ignored these facts allowing the NRA and the minority deficit hawks of the far right to control what is debated in the House.
Dionne goes on to say:
In a well-functioning democracy, the vast majority of politicians – conservative, moderate and liberal – would dismiss such views as just plain kooky. But here is the problem: A substantial portion of the Republican Party’s core electorate is now influenced both by hatred of Obama and by the views of the ultra-right. Strange conspiracy theories are admitted to the mainstream conversation through the GOP’s back door – and amplified by another fight for market share among talk radio hosts and Fox News commentators.
That’s because the Republican Party is no longer a broad and diverse alliance but a creature of the right.[..]
And our Constitution combines with the way we draw congressional districts to over-represent conservatives in both houses. The 100-member Senate is based on two senators per state regardless of size. This gives rural states far more power than population-based representation would. The filibuster makes matters worse. It’s theoretically possible for 41 senators representing less than 11 percent of the population to block pretty much anything.
The American people deserve better than this. There should be at least on functioning segment of the government that represents the people, that needs to be the Senate.
Harry, drop the bomb. Go for the nuclear option. Let Mitch squeal how his party has been wronged and how the Democrats will pay. Take the soap box away from the likes of radical loons like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Then pass approve some judges and nominees, pass bills the right wingers will hate but Americans will love. Tell President Obama that there will be no Social Security or Medicare cuts in the budget passed by the Senate. Tell the president that there will be a stimulus package to create jobs, an end to subsidies for oil companies and banks, as well as, tax reform and revenue increases.
Stand up to the right wing so-called Democrats, like Max Baucus, Harry. End your destructive “love affair” with Mitch. End filibuster.
I have a dream. Harry Reid could make it a reality.
Unbeknownst to most of the legislators and public, tucked very neatly in section 632 (pdf) of the “fiscal cliff” bill, was provision that gave the world’s largest biotechnology firm, Amgen, a drug maker that sells a variety of medications, a half billion dollar gift that allows the company to evade Medicare cost-cutting controls by delaying price restraints on a class of drugs used by kidney dialysis patients for two years. Meanwhile in December, Amgen had been fined $762 million in civil and criminal penalties for illegal marketing of one of its other drugs. This pricing break would wipe out two thirds of those fines.
This undercover handout of taxpayer’s dollars during a so-called “fiscal crisis” was reported in depth by The New York Times investigative reporters, Eric Lipton and Kevin Sack, who also revealed the “architects” of this giveaway, Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic Senator Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and that committee’s ranking Republican, Orrin Hatch.
Amgen has deep financial and political ties to lawmakers like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, and Senators Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, and Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, who hold heavy sway over Medicare payment policy as the leaders of the Finance Committee.
It also has worked hard to build close ties with the Obama administration, with its lobbyists showing up more than a dozen times since 2009 on logs of visits to the White House, although a company official said Saturday that it had not appealed to the administration during the debate over the fiscal legislation.
The measure flies in the face of attempts to curb the enormous expense of dialysis for the Medicare program by reversing incentives to over-prescribe medication. But that didn’t deter the “three amigos” from sneaking in the provision to their generous benefactor:
Amgen’s employees and political action committee have distributed nearly $5 million in contributions to political candidates and committees since 2007, including $67,750 to Mr. Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman, and $59,000 to Mr. Hatch, the committee’s ranking Republican. They gave an additional $73,000 to Mr. McConnell, some of it at a fund-raising event for him that it helped sponsor in December while the debate over the fiscal legislation was under way. More than $141,000 has also gone from Amgen employees to President Obama’s campaigns.
What distinguishes the company’s efforts in Washington is the diversity and intensity of its public policy campaigns. Amgen and its foundation have directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable contributions to influential groups like the Congressional Black Caucus and to lesser-known groups like the Utah Families Foundation, which was founded by Mr. Hatch and brings the senator positive coverage in his state’s news media.
Not surprisingly when the news of this giveaway hit the paper, it enraged a bipartisan group of legislators to repeal this section.
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) filed legislation this week to eliminate the exemption for a class of drugs, including Amgen’s Sensipar, that are used by kidney dialysis patients. [..]
“Amgen managed to get a $500-million paragraph in the fiscal-cliff bill and virtually no one in Congress was aware of it,” Welch said. “It’s a taxpayer ripoff and comes at a really bad time when we’re trying to control healthcare costs. Amgen should not be allowed to turn Medicare into a profit center.” [..]
Other co-sponsors of the bill seeking repeal include House Republican Richard Hanna of New York and two House Democrats, Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Bruce Braley of Iowa.
Rep. Welch sat down with Bill Moyers on Moyers & Company to discuss Amgen’s “sweetheart deal”
The transcript can be read here
“When there is this back room dealing that comes at enormous expense to taxpayers and enormous benefit to a private, well-connected, for-profit company, we’ve got to call it out,” Welch tells Bill. “Those members of Congress who are concerned about the institution, about our lack of credibility, about the necessity of us doing things that are in the public good as opposed to private gain, we’ve got to call it out.”
The sequel to the the Bush/Obama tax debacle is the unconstitutional debt ceiling. According to the 14th Amendment, the US has to pay its bills, even if the government has to borrow the money through bond sales. So the debt ceiling is another manufactured “cliff” that was created to curb spending which it didn’t, obviously, or we wounded be having another media side show staring the White House and the Congressional leadership. So get comfy and grab you favorite munchies as we watch the 99% get raked over the coals.
“While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they have already racked up,” Obama said in remarks in the White House.
McConnell: Spending fight coming whether Obama ‘wants it or not’
by Alicia M. Cohn, The Hill
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):
President Obama will get a fight over government spending with a hike to the debt limit “whether he wants it or not,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wrote Thursday.
In an op-ed for Yahoo, McConnell wrote that Republicans would focus on reducing spending in the next Congress, and in conjunction with the debate over raising the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling. Congress will likely need to take action on the debt limit within the next two months.
“The president may not want to have a fight about government spending over the next few months, but it’s the fight he is going to have, because it’s a debate the country needs,” McConnell warned.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)
Boehner tells GOP he’s through negotiating one-on-one with Obama
by Russel Berman, The Hill
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is signaling that at least one thing will change about his leadership during the 113th Congress: he’s telling Republicans he is done with private, one-on-one negotiations with President Obama.
and just to prove that the 113th Congress will bear little difference to the 112th
At noon today, I introduced the first bill of the 113th Congress to repeal Obamacare in its entirety.
— Michele Bachmann (@MicheleBachmann) January 3, 2013
Let the games begin: Thunderdome
Ready or not, here it comes, filibuster reform. Or so says Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
WASHINGTON — Keeping with his post-election pledge to reform the filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday proffered that changes to the rules of the upper chamber will be made, leaving it up to Republicans if they would like to participate. [..]
“There are discussions going on now [over filibuster reform], but I want to tell everybody here. I’m happy I’ve had a number of Republicans come to me, a few Democrats,” Reid told reporters Tuesday at his weekly press availability. “We’re going to change the rules. We cannot continue in this way. I hope we can get something that the Republicans will work with us on.”
“But it won’t be a handshake,” he added. “We tried that last time. It didn’t work.” [..]
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has repeatedly slammed Democratic efforts to reform the filibuster, was unmoved by Reid’s statement.
“Well, there is growing Democratic unease with breaking the rules to change the rules,” McConnell said later Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “I think it will be very difficult for that to come about. I think it will be bad for the Senate.”
McConnell added that in accordance with Senate rules, such an effort would require a 67-vote majority, and that Reid’s approach to make the changes with a simple 51-vote majority — a procedure that has been labeled a “nuclear option” by its opponents — would be “bad for the institution, bad for the country.”
It’s only breaking the rules if the other side does it. Otherwise it is perfectly within the rules on the first day of the new congress.
If President Obama wants to get anything done in his second term, Democrats in the Senate will have to overcome one major obstacle: the filibuster.
In the last four years, Republicans have used the filibuster to prevent landmark pieces of legislation-such as the DREAM Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act and additional measures to stimulate the economy-from even reaching the floor for debate, let alone a vote. Republicans have shattered previous records for filibuster use, and the share of bills introduced in the Senate that have been passed has reached an all-time low. [..]
The filibuster has mutated over the years from a quirk of the Senate rules and an obscure procedural instrument-known mostly for so-called “lone wolf” filibusters like the one from the iconic film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – to a routine impediment to legislative progress, a bludgeon used by the Republican minority to quash virtually any attempt by Democrats to govern. [..]
The proposed changes, which have the strong backing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and nearly 51 Democratic senators, are also broadly endorsed by a wide range of Constitutional scholars and the public at large. A new Huffington Post/YouGov poll released Friday found that 65% of Americans favor tweaking the rules to require senators to debate a bill on the floor if they wish to block it from proceeding.
Even the man responsible for enforcing and administering the rules of the Senate endorsed some of the changes. In an interview on Up w/ Chris Hayes Saturday, Alan Frumin, who served as the parliamentarian of the Senate for nearly two decades until he retired last year, said he supported changes that would forbid senators from filibustering bills before they reach the floor for debate. Frumin also said he favored changes that would bar senators from blocking bills once those bills have passed the Senate and are ready to move to a conference committee with the House. [..]
The filibuster is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution, and many of the Founders argued forcefully against proposals that would have required more than 51 votes to pass legislation in the Senate. In 1788, for example, James Madison, known as the ‘Father of the Constitution,” wrote in Federalist No. 58 that requiring a supermajority in the Senate would “reverse” the “fundamental principle of free government.” Such a policy would empower special interests and make government “oligarchic,” Madison said.
“An interested minority might take advantage of it to screen themselves from equitable sacrifices,” Madison wrote, rather prophetically. “Or, in particular emergencies, to extort unreasonable indulgences.“
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., a leading advocate of filibuster reform, joined Up host, Chris Hayes for a discussion on the prospects of filibuster reform in the Senate. Adding the views are panel guests Alan Frumin, former Senate Parliamentarian and author of “Riddicks Senate Procedure;” Akhil Amar, Yale Law School professor and author of “America’s Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By;” Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, MSNBC contributor, senior analyst at Latino Decisions and fellow at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin; and Richard Arenberg, co-author of “Defending the Filibuster: The Soul of the Senate.”
One response would be to eliminate the filibuster altogether. As a Senate rule, it can be changed by the majority party, and Democrats could eliminate it (though, of course, Republicans would almost certainly filibuster such a move). That, however, would also do away with the filibuster’s legitimate and historic place. Rather than eliminating the rule, the better approach would be to amend it in such a way as to preserve the ability for minorities to fight against one-party steamrolling while scaling back the filibuster’s capacity for obstructing everything.
Yikes! This is not only stupid, as Jon said, but it is wrong about how the Senate rules can be changed. Rules changes can’t be filibustered. While making such a rule change in the Senate would normally require a 67-vote majority, but when the Senate comes back into session in January, Democrats could use a set of procedural rules often called the “nuclear option” and pass the changes with a simple 51-vote majority. That scares the pants off the Republicans and had Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blustering and making:
The Kentucky Republican said changing the filibuster – which was designed to protect the minority but has become a tool for constant gridlock in the modern Senate – would fundamentally alter how the Senate operates.
McConnell accused Democrats of trying to employ a “naked power grab.”
“In the name of efficiency, their plan is to use a heavy-handed tactic that would poison party relations even more,” McConnell said in a lengthy floor speech Monday. “In the name of efficiency, they would prevent the very possibility of compromise and threaten to make the disputes of the past few years look like mere pillow fights.”
Sen. McConnell was exaggerating since no one, not even Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said he “favors” filibuster, has suggested eliminating it entirely. But who would expect anything less than hyperbole from a man whose party has set a record for filibusters with over 360 since the Democrats came into the majority. But not to be outdone by their fearless leader other Republican senators voiced their objections in strongly worded terms:
Republicans are threatening even greater retaliation if Reid uses a move rarely used by Senate majorities: changing the chamber’s precedent by 51 votes, rather than the usual 67 votes it takes to overhaul the rules.
“I think the backlash will be severe,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the conservative firebrand, said sternly. “If you take away minority rights, which is what you’re doing because you’re an ineffective leader, you’ll destroy the place. And if you destroy the place, we’ll do what we have to do to fight back.”
“It will shut down the Senate,” the incoming Senate GOP whip, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, told POLITICO. “It’s such an abuse of power.”
I’m not exactly sure how they would accomplish a “shut down” if the tool they’ve been using to shut down the senate is taken away from them or changed so that they can no longer obstruct the business that the majority was elected to do. After all for six years the Republicans, with
Dick Cheney George W. Bush in the Oval Office, used the threat of the “nuclear option” to end any Democratic attempt at filibuster. Now the shoe is on the other foot and suddenly ending filibuster will destroy democracy.
We’ve been down this road before:
With the obstruction of a very united minority, there has been a great deal of debate about the filibuster and the reform of Senate Rule 22. In a New York Times op-ed, Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, recalls how in 1975 when he was a Senator, the Senate voted to reduce the number of votes required to end filibuster from 67 votes, a super majority, to the current 60 votes. Clearly, he states this was not enough. Filibuster threats and cloture votes blocked legislation nearly 100 times in the 111th Congress.
Mr. Mondale argues that essentially, these rules abrogate the Constitution which only requires a 67 vote majority for the approval of treaties, “in all other instances it must be assumed that the Constitution requires only a majority vote”. In other words, many of the Senate rules are unconstitutional and could be done away with on a simple majority procedural vote under Parliamentary rules. That was the “[nuclear option ” that was used as a threat by the Republicans to force the Democrats to capitulate when they were in the minority.
One more time from me:
I have said this a number of times, the filibuster as it is currently being used to obstruct the Senate is unconstitutional. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and cannot be abrogated by the Senate merely making a rule. The Vice President presides over the Senate and has a duty to make rulings on order and procedure when the Senate is in session. The Constitution provides for “one-person-one-vote” and “majority rules”, there is no mention of “filibuster”.
1. During debate, a Republican Senator engages in a standard obstruction tactic, such as a hold, actual filibuster, or proposing numerous, non-germane Amendments.
2. The Vice President, as Presiding Officer, rules that Senator’s hold, filibuster or spurious amendments out of order.
3. The Senator who holds the floor, and had attempted the hold (filibuster, or amendments), could then appeal the decision of the Presiding Officer to the Senate as a whole.
4. A simple majority (51) can then vote to uphold the ruling of the Presiding Officer that the hold (filibuster or amendments) were out of order.
This mechanism is not without precedent:
In 1975 the filibuster issue was revived by post-Watergate Democrats frustrated in their efforts to enact popular reform legislation like campaign finance laws. Senator James Allen of Alabama, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate and a skillful parliamentary player, blocked them with a series of filibusters. Liberals were fed up with his delaying tactics. Senator Walter Mondale pushed a campaign to reduce the threshold from sixty-seven votes to a simple majority of fifty-one. In a parliamentary sleight of hand, the liberals broke Allen’s filibuster by a majority vote, thus evading the sixty-seven-vote rule. (Senate rules say you can’t change the rules without a cloture vote, but the Constitution says the Senate sets its own rules. As a practical matter, that means the majority can prevail whenever it decides to force the issue.) In 1975 the presiding officer during the debate, Vice President Rockefeller, first ruled with the liberals on a motion to declare Senator Allen out of order. When Allen appealed the “ruling of the chair” to the full Senate, the majority voted him down. Nervous Senate leaders, aware they were losing the precedent, offered a compromise. Henceforth, the cloture rule would require only sixty votes to stop a filibuster.
And what Jon said:
There is no legitimate reason for allowing the minority, the party which lost the recent election, to have a veto in the Senate. The founders never intended a Senate minority to have such awesome power over basic legislation. The Constitutions clear stated the few very important issues that should require a super majority in the chamber, everything else was intended to be a simple majority vote.
The idea that without a filibuster a majority in the Senate is going to steamroll are system is laughable. A senate majority is already checked and balanced by the House, the President and the judiciary. If a party does manage to dominates multiple elections allowing them to full control, they should be able to enact the agenda they run on. That is how democracy are suppose to work.
The US Senate has always been the slow deliberative body, it was not the intent of the Founders that it become bogged down to a halt by the minority misusing a rule that is probably not even constitutional in the first place. Sen. Reid was far too trusting of the duplicitous Republican leadership at the start of the 112th congress when he accepted their “gentlemen’s agreement”, shutting down the reform proposed by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). The Republicans are not to be trusted.
I’m with Jon. It’s time the Senate ended the obstruction and put an end to Rule 22 altogether. Neither the Senate or the world will end and our elected officials will get back to governing.
On the PBS News Hour, Nobel Prize winning economist, Paul Krugman and Martin Feldstein, a professor of economy at Harvard University and former chair of Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers, discussed the failure of the Deficit Super Committee (click here for the transcript) :
What stands out is what was not mentioned by either Krugman or Feldstein, the Bush tax cuts, which the Republicans insisted be made permanent in exchange for any tax revenues no matter how meager. In the light of the Republican objection to an extension of the 2% payroll tax cut because of the $250 billion dollar per year cost, it is laughable in the face of the fact that just extending the tax cuts another 10 years would cost $5.4 trillion in revenue losses., four times as much as the payroll tax cuts. But not a peep from either man or the interviewer.
Krugman was correct in stating that the Democrats were far too generous and, as John Aravosis has pointed out in the past, they are lousy negotiators, always starting from their bottom line. However, Dana Milbank in his the Washington Post opinion makes clear that this committee was doomed from the start by the mere presence of one man, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), an immovable object when it comes to tax increases, “doing Norquist’s bidding in killing any notion of higher taxes”:
The sabotage began on the very first day the supercommittee met. While other members from both parties spoke optimistically about the need to put everything on the table, Kyl gave a gloomy opening statement. “I think a dose of realism is called for here,” he said. That same day, he went to a luncheon organized by conservative think tanks and threatened to walk (“I’m off the committee”) if there were further defense cuts.
When Democrats floated their proposal combining tax increases and spending cuts, Kyl rejected it out of hand, citing Republicans’ pledge to activist Grover Norquist not to raise taxes. Kyl’s constant invocation of the Norquist pledge provoked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to snap at Kyl during a private meeting: “What is this, high school?” [..]
Norquist, who worked to defeat a compromise, brags about his control over Kyl. When Kyl made remarks in May that appeared to leave open the possibility of tax increases, Norquist called Kyl and adopted “the tone of a teacher scolding a second grader as he recalled the conversation,” Politico reported. Norquist boasted to the publication that, after he upbraided Kyl, the senator “went down on the floor and he gave a colloquy about how we’re against any tax increases of any sort. Boom!”
It is fairly obvious that the Senate Republicans under the leadership of Sen. Mitch McConnell and Norqist’s Svengali-like control, are willing to risk the stabilization of the economy and kill any job creation bills to defeat President Obama and gain control of both houses. As Aravosis points out in his article today the best that Feldstein could do was blame both parties equally. Perhaps over the next year, the Democrats and President Obama should continue to put forth really bold bills, bolder than the President’s last job proposal, to further demonstrate the intransigence of the Republicans. It might go a long way to shed the image that Democrats are the party of capitulation.
It sounded like Senate Majority Leader did just that last week in getting a vote that overrule the Senate parliamentarian’s decision. And while it didn’t end filibuster, it did leave the door open for its eventual demise. This is what took place this evening as initially reported by The Hill:
Reid and 50 members of his caucus voted to change Senate rules unilaterally to prevent Republicans from forcing votes on uncomfortable amendments after the chamber has voted to move to final passage of a bill.
Reid’s coup passed by a vote of 51-48, leaving Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fuming.
The surprise move stunned Republicans, who did not expect Reid to bring heavy artillery to what had been a humdrum knife fight over amendments to China currency legislation.
As Ryan Grim and Michael McAuliff at Huffington Post point out, Harry Reid Busts Up Senate Precedent
McConnell moved to suspend the rules and shift debate over to the American Jobs Act. Reid argued that doing so amounted to another filibuster, because it required 60 votes to move back to the original bill, and so therefore was out of order. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who happened to be the presiding officer at the time, asked the Senate parliamentarian what he thought. The parliamentarian advised Begich that McConnell’s motion was in order.
Reid then appealed the ruling, following a script that advocates of ending the filibuster wrote long ago. What some senators call the “constitutional option,” and what others call the “nuclear option,” involves as a first step appealing a ruling that a filibuster is in order. The second step is to defeat a motion to table that appeal, which is exactly what happened next, with all but one Democrat sticking with Reid.
With the chair overruled, McConnell’s motion was declared out of order, setting a narrow precedent that motions to suspend the rules are out of order during a post-cloture period.
But it also set a more important precedent. The advice of the parliamentarian is considered sacrosanct in the Senate. Reid’s decision to overrule him opens a gate to similar efforts that could also be done by majority vote.
Reid’s move Thursday, in that context, is less abusive of Senate precedent than it first appears. The current rules create a situation in which two 60-vote thresholds must be met before a bill can pass, the first to end debate and the second to move to final passage. McConnell’s move to suspend the rules could have created additional 60-vote hurdles, clearly in violation of the spirit of the post-cloture period, which is intended to be a short stretch until moving to final passage.
David Waldman st Daily Kos came to this conclusion:
(T)he discussion on the floor has in fact wandered into rules reform territory, which is not altogether unfitting. If this really were the nuclear option, that would of course mean that the infamous “Gentleman’s agreement” was now inoperative, since part of that deal was that neither party would use the “constitutional option” (which would under most definitions encompass the slightly different “nuclear option” as well) in this Congress or the next. Do Republicans really want that door open? We can do that, I guess. But we might as well go all the way, then.
We’ll just have to see how much more frustrated Reid gets with the Republicans blocking everything. This may have some two years too late.
Up Date: The jobs bill failed to get enough votes to pass cloture. Looks like Harry still hasn’t found his last nerve with Republican obstruction.