Filibuster Reform

A Crucial Month For Joe Biden And America!

The month of September is an extremely crucial month for the Joe Biden Presidency.

The issue of expansion of the national debt ceiling is essential.

So is how to bring about the two Infrastructure bills the administration has been promoting, one bipartisan and one by “reconciliation”.

Also, the need to deal with voting rights legislation; abortion rights guarantees to continue; the climate change crisis; the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to spread; and working to reform the Supreme Court and the filibuster.

Realistically, not all of these can be resolved that quickly, but progress is essential, as accomplishing change will not be easier in an election year, with the midterm elections of 2022!

The Fear If One Democrat In The Senate Is Lost Through Health Issues, Republicans Control The Senate!

Joe Biden and the Democratic Party hold power in Congress by a “hair”, with an evenly split Senate, and only a few votes margin in the House of Representatives!

So if one Democratic Senator was to be incapacitated or pass away, the Senate would become Republican controlled for the rest of the 117th Congress!

With the Senate being generally older age than ever before, the danger of such a tragedy is multiplied.

So it is essential for Joe Biden to stop trying to deal with the Republicans, who are recalcitrant, and move ahead on his ambitious agenda.

And with Republicans being very unwilling to cooperate or compromise, hopefully Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona might be willing to agree to change the filibuster rule so that action on the Biden agenda can move forward!

HUGE Victory For Obama And Democrats In Reform Of Filibuster Use!

Finally, after almost five years as President, Barack Obama can savor victory, knowing he will be able to get his nominees for all federal executive branch positions and federal judiciary, except for the Supreme Court, confirmed by the Democratic Senate. Majority rule will govern, as it should, and as it does, in the House of Representatives!

And because the Republicans shot themselves in the foot, not allowing the approval of three nominees for the DC Circuit Courts, they will now see the federal courts tip dramatically toward Democratic and more liberal judges!

At the moment, there are exactly 390 federal judges appointed by Republican Presidents, and an equal number of 390 federal judges appointed by Democratic Presidents.

If Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, had allowed the confirmation of those three judges that were just voted down by the use of the filibuster, requiring 60 votes to move a nomination, then the balance would have remained on the federal courts between Democratic and Republican appointments.

But now, that is not so, and the Democrats and Barack Obama will gain a potential total of 93 appointments for vacancies on the courts, making for a one sided Democratic control of the judiciary, which will last for years, as the judiciary are on the court for life, not limited terms.

So as the Republicans lick their wounds, and realize their abuse of the filibuster in the past five years, and their arrogance, have led to this moment, the Democrats have a lot to celebrate about, as nothing is more important than affecting the future of constitutional law, and the Republicans have given the Democrats a huge victory, which will reverberate for decades, and give those who believe in progressive reform and change, a sense of hope that there IS a future in America, for others than rich, white people!

The “Nuclear Option” On The Filibuster: Necessary Action!

The Republican Party in the Senate has abused the filibuster in a way never seen even in the civil rights era, when Southern Democrats worked to block civil rights legislation.

They have now stopped a vote on three nominees to the DC Court of Appeals, arguably the most important court outside the Supreme Court.

So the indications are that Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, will invoke the threatened “nuclear option”, which would change Senate rules and allow a vote on a nominee as long as 51 Senators, a majority, rather than the present 60, support such a vote.

Moving in this direction could hurt the Democrats someday when the Republicans control the chamber, but the total paralysis on appointments, not only to the courts, but to executive appointments as well, leaves Reid and the Democrats no alternative.

It is a regrettable action, but something that needs to be done!

The Imploding Of The Republican Party, As Factions Develop Around John Boehner And Mitch McConnell!

The nation is witnessing the implosion of the Republican Party, as their leaders in Congress, Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, are being ripped apart by factional division in both houses!

When the Republican leadership in both houses of Congress is being torn apart by ideological and personal rivalries, that is a sign of the GOP falling apart, and indicates there could be an internal rebellion that forces both out of leadership roles in the present Congress, an unheard of idea historically!

In the House, the key battle has been over immigration reform, and in the Senate, it has been over filibuster reform.

In the House, the key opposition has been the Tea Party loonies, but in the Senate, it is the mainstream conservatives, who are “comparative moderates”, as somewhat rational and reasonable on the issue of avoiding changes in filibuster rules, by allowing President Obama his choice as the administrators of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Secretary of Labor. So it is John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Bob Corker, and Susan Collins who saw the virtues of some compromise arranged to avoid a permanent change in the filibuster rules.

There is no respect, no diplomacy, no tact any more in the Republican caucus in either house, and it is a danger sign that the party may be unable to overcome their internal divisions and operate as a responsible political party for the long term future!

A Deal Is Reached To Avoid Filibuster Reform, But Gain Approval Of Obama Executive Nominees!

As the Senate went to the brink on the possibility of changing the filibuster, the leading weapon of a minority in the chamber, an agreement was reached to allow a vote on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director, Richard Cordrey, and six other executive branch nominees, through an understanding arranged by Senator John McCain with Senator Chuck Schumer and others, taking away the weapon of holding off votes on these nominees, without changing the outline of the filibuster tactic!

It was an amazing example of ability for cooperation across the aisle, as the Republicans admitted that they should not stand in the way of confirmation of nominees to executive agencies they do not like, as it prevents proper functioning of such government agencies.

It was a defeat for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and a victory for Senator McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham, and Senator Susan Collins, all seen as rational and reasonable, but able, with the adept handling by Senator Schumer, and the willingness of Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, to push through Senate Filibuster reform IF the Republicans would not bend on the nominees.

Whether this surprising agreement at the last moment will bring about more comity and willingness to cooperate long term is yet to be seen, but President Obama succeeded in gaining a successful confirmation of Cordray, and the likelihood of other important confirmations being moved forward, so it was a good day for progressivism.

The Disappointing Filibuster “Reform”: Basically More Of The Same!

After so much discussion of changing the filibuster rules of the US Senate—including the idea of a 51 vote majority, instead of 60, being enough to move forward on legislation, and the requirement to the return of the “talking filibuster”—ultimately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has made a deal with Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to make only slight, minor changes in the filibuster rules, with senior members of the Senate reluctant to push for major reforms, because both parties realize either could be in the minority in the future, and would want the power of the filibuster to promote their agenda, or prevent actions harmful to their interests.

The reform plans of Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and New Mexico Senator Tom Udall, therefore, fall by the wayside, and instead the veterans, including Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin and Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, won on the issue of keeping minority rights to bottle up legislation.

This is a massive blow to the Obama Administration, and makes the likelihood of much of his program and agenda to have a real chance to pass into law far less likely.

So the Senate, as great a body as it has been historically, remains the center of gridlock and stalemate, and adds to the low rating that the Congress has in public opinion polls.

This is a very disturbing development for those who were hoping for real change!

The Need For Filibuster Reform In The US Senate

The Senate is in a crisis situation, unable to accomplish much, due to the ridiculous filibuster issue, which has totally derailed action or voting on so many matters in the past few years.

The Republican minority has been able, just by threatening a filibuster, to block approval of judicial and executive nominations, and prevent serious discussion and voting on crucial matters. The filibuster, however, does not presently require that any Senator or Senators take the floor and talk for hours and hours, as Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina did in 1957, when he set a record of 25 hours for a personal filibuster, or having an 83 day group filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, before finally cloture was voted, and the filibuster was overcome.

So there have been proposals to modify the present requirement that 60 votes are needed to allow movement forward on any Senate issue.

Some want a simple 51 vote majority, similar to the 218 simple vote majority needed in the House of Representatives, while others want a 55 vote majority needed to move forward.

And others suggest something even less of a controversy: Bills for debate could not be filibustered, and filibusters could not be used to prevent formal negotiations with the House on Senate passed legislation, what is called the formation of a conference committee, which used to be common, and now is very rare.

Also, a Senator would have to be on the floor to mount a filibuster, or else, a vote on the bill would proceed. So the old filibuster rule, best represented by the Thurmond example, would require a commitment by one or a group of Senators to give the effort by personal sacrifices, speaking constantly on the floor of the Senate, to stop the bill from moving forward.

Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico have proposed these reasonable changes, and Joe Biden, as presiding officer, could move such changes forward, but there are seven Democrats, out of the 55 in the new Senate, who seem to be opposed.

These are Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California, Carl Levin of Michigan, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Max Baucus of Montana, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Notice that these Senators are all senior and older, longer serving members, with the shortest amount of service being Pryor, in the Senate since 2003.

This failure to understand how important reform is makes one watching this legislative mess feel very frustrated, and leaves one with the feeling that Senate reform will likely fail, and further undermine respect for our Congress and its ability to get things done!

Former Vice President Walter Mondale Calls For Filibuster Reform In Same Vein As The Progressive Professor! :)

A few days ago, the author called for filibuster reform in the Senate, a move which is to be introduced by Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico on opening day of the Senate on January 5.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale, in an op-ed in the New York Times, has now called for the same reforms that the author suggested: 55 Senators instead of 60 to stop a filibuster; a filibuster must be conducted by Senators staying on the floor of the Senate, not just by threat; and no more “secret holds” by one Senator to prevent action on a nomination or a bill.

Action by the full Senate this Wednesday could change the course of history of the next two years of the Obama Presidency, and make the Senate a functioning body, instead of a malfunctioning institution, which stands in the way of progress and action.

The eyes of the nation will be focused on what happens on Wednesday, and hopefully, Vice President Joe Biden, who also sees the essential need for reform, will help push it through by parliamentary maneuvers and the power of his leadership and connections with both parties of the Senate, with his 36 years of distinguished service in the upper body!