The Senate: Filibuster reform at last

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John F
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The Senate: Filibuster reform at last

Post by John F » Fri Nov 22, 2013 12:41 am

Republicans warn that if they win the Presidency and the Senate, they'll use this to their advantage. Fine. When we elect a President, that entails his being able to staff his administration as he pleases, and to appoint federal judges likewise. The minority party in the Senate has no such right, though the Senate Republicans have been behaving in recent years as if it did. For the rest, if the Senate wishes to allow legislation and Supreme Court nominations to be talked to death, so be it.

In Landmark Vote, Senate Limits Use of the Filibuster
By JEREMY W. PETERS
Published: November 21, 2013

WASHINGTON — The Senate approved the most fundamental alteration of its rules in more than a generation on Thursday, ending the minority party’s ability to filibuster most presidential nominees in response to the partisan gridlock that has plagued Congress for much of the Obama administration.

Furious Republicans accused Democrats of a power grab, warning them that they would deeply regret their action if they lost control of the Senate next year and the White House in years to come. Invoking the Founding Fathers and the meaning of the Constitution, Republicans said Democrats were trampling the minority rights the framers intended to protect. But when the vote was called, Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader who was initially reluctant to force the issue, prevailed 52 to 48.

Under the change, the Senate will be able to cut off debate on executive and judicial branch nominees with a simple majority rather than rounding up a supermajority of 60 votes. The new precedent established by the Senate on Thursday does not apply to Supreme Court nominations or legislation itself...

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/22/us/po ... uster.html
John Francis

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Re: The Senate: Filibuster reform at last

Post by John F » Fri Nov 22, 2013 12:46 am

Democracy Returns to the Senate
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Published: November 21, 2013

For five years, Senate Republicans have refused to allow confirmation votes on dozens of perfectly qualified candidates nominated by President Obama for government positions. They tried to nullify entire federal agencies by denying them leaders. They abused Senate rules past the point of tolerance or responsibility. And so they were left enraged and threatening revenge on Thursday when a majority did the only logical thing and stripped away their power to block the president’s nominees.

In a 52-to-48 vote that substantially altered the balance of power in Washington, the Senate changed its most infuriating rule and effectively ended the filibuster on executive and judicial appointments. From now on, if any senator tries to filibuster a presidential nominee, that filibuster can be stopped with a simple majority, not the 60-vote requirement of the past. That means a return to the democratic process of giving nominees an up-or-down vote, allowing them to be either confirmed or rejected by a simple majority.

The only exceptions are nominations to the Supreme Court, for which a filibuster would still be allowed. But now that the Senate has begun to tear down undemocratic procedures, the precedent set on Thursday will increase the pressure to end those filibusters, too.

This vote was long overdue. “I have waited 18 years for this moment,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa.

It would have been unthinkable just a few months ago, when the majority leader, Harry Reid, was still holding out hope for a long-lasting deal with Republicans and insisting that federal judges, because of their lifetime appointments, should still be subject to supermajority thresholds. But Mr. Reid, along with all but three Senate Democrats, was pushed to act by the Republicans’ refusal to allow any appointments to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, just because they wanted to keep a conservative majority on that important court.

That move was as outrageous as the tactic they used earlier this year to try to cripple the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (which they despise) by blocking all appointments to those agencies. That obstruction was removed in July when Mr. Reid threatened to end the filibuster and Republicans backed down. The recent blockade of judges to the D.C. appellate court was the last straw.

Republicans warned that the rule change could haunt the Democrats if they lost the White House and the Senate. But the Constitution gives presidents the right to nominate top officials in their administration and name judges, and it says nothing about the ability of a Senate minority to stop them. (The practice barely existed before the 1970s.) From now on, voters will have to understand that presidents are likely to get their way on nominations if their party controls the Senate.

Given the extreme degree of Republican obstruction during the Obama administration, the Democrats had little choice but to change the filibuster rule. As Mr. Reid noted on the floor, half of all filibusters waged against nominations in Senate history have occurred since Mr. Obama was elected. Twenty of his district court nominees were filibustered; only three such filibusters took place before he took office. There has also been a record-setting amount of delay in approving the president’s choices for cabinet positions and federal agency posts, even when no objections have been raised about a nominee’s qualifications.

The rule change does not end the 60-vote threshold for blocking legislation, which we have argued is worth preserving. But the vote may lead to broader filibuster changes. A proposal by several younger Democratic senators to require “talking filibusters” — forcing objecting lawmakers to stand up at length and make their cases — may well gain steam now, and it could finally spell an end to logjams that have prevented important legislation from reaching votes.

Democrats made the filibuster change with a simple-majority vote, which Republicans insisted was a violation of the rules. There is ample precedent for this kind of change, though it should be used judiciously. Today’s vote was an appropriate use of that power, and it was necessary to turn the Senate back into a functioning legislative body.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/22/opini ... enate.html
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Re: The Senate: Filibuster reform at last

Post by John F » Fri Nov 22, 2013 12:59 am

The Washington Post takes a darker view, but to me, its arguments are empty. They fear that judicial nominations will become more political, if the President and the Senate majority are of the same party. But they could hardly become more political than they already are, as witness what's happened with the Supreme Court for at least 4 decades and probably ever since the beginning. If the people don't like the President's judicial appointments, they need only wait two years to vote in more Senators of the opposition party to block them. And if the people don't care, then we deserve what we get. As for how the Senate sets and changes its rules, that's entirely up to them and always has been; it's not written into law, let alone the Constitution.

After filibuster vote, both parties will face nasty ‘nuclear’ fallout
By Editorial Board
Published: November 21

The rewriting of filibuster rules by Senate Democrats on Thursday changed the legislative body in fundamental ways, and for the worse. Republicans whose unjustified recalcitrance provoked the change should be ashamed. Democrats who are celebrating will soon enough regret their decision. The radical action, a product of poisonous partisanship, will also be an accelerant of poisonous partisanship.

Fed up with Republicans repeatedly blocking President Obama’s judicial nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Democrats triggered the so-called “nuclear option.” In violation of long-standing precedent, they voted by a bare majority to alter the rules of the Senate, giving the minority no voice in the procedural change. The new rule bans filibusters of presidential nominations except those for the Supreme Court.

The Democratic majority was justified in its grievance but not in its rash action. Republicans had made increasing use of the filibuster to block presidential appointments for which a majority, but not the required 60 votes, could be mustered. Most recently, they rejected three of Mr. Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit without even considering their merits. Their motivation was to prevent the president from making the court more liberal. Their pretext was that the court is under-worked. As we wrote previously, their motivation was unjustified; an elected president is entitled to nominate judges who, if qualified, should be confirmed. Their rationale, if genuine, should have been satisfied by changing the size of the court in the next presidential term.

Both parties have been guilty of delaying and blocking qualified judicial nominees of presidents from the opposing side, particularly for this important appeals court. We believe a filibuster should be rarely invoked. But now that it is not an option, the result is likely to be that the partisanship of Congress will seep increasingly into the judiciary, as presidents feel no obligation to search for balance or moderation in their nominations. As Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) warned before Thursday’s vote, “When we have the majority, when we have a Republican president, we put more people like Scalia on the court.”

The impact of changing the rules in this way may be even more far-reaching. The Democratic action sets a precedent that a future Republican majority will use to change procedures when it gets into a political jam, rather than negotiate with Democrats. The logical outcome is a Senate operating more like the House, with no rights for the minority, no reason for debate and no incentive to cooperate. For those who view that as an improvement, we offer today’s House as a counterargument.

Democrats understood all this very well when they were in the minority. “You may own the field right now,” then-Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D) said in 2005, when Republicans threatened to invoke the nuclear option. “But you won’t own it forever. And I pray to God when the Democrats take back control we don’t make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.” Republicans resisted pushing the nuclear button then; both parties should have stepped back and hammered out a bipartisan compromise reform now.

This time Republicans proved incapable of exercising their minority rights in a responsible way. Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) proved not enough of a leader to resist the “naked power grab.” American democracy is that much poorer as a result.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ ... story.html
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Ricordanza
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Re: The Senate: Filibuster reform at last

Post by Ricordanza » Fri Nov 22, 2013 6:40 am

Invoking the Founding Fathers and the meaning of the Constitution, Republicans said Democrats were trampling the minority rights the framers intended to protect.
That would be hilarious, if it were not so pathetic. The filibuster is nowhere in the Constitution, nor was it a practice or policy at the time of the Founding Fathers.

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Re: The Senate: Filibuster reform at last

Post by lennygoran » Fri Nov 22, 2013 7:06 am

About time Harry Reid listened to me and asserted himself--I've been clamoring for this since I brought it up in Feb in this thread! I don't think there's anyway the Republican obstructionists can block Obama's judicial choices now!

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John F
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Re: The Senate: Filibuster reform at last

Post by John F » Fri Nov 22, 2013 8:36 am

Ricordanza wrote:
Invoking the Founding Fathers and the meaning of the Constitution, Republicans said Democrats were trampling the minority rights the framers intended to protect.
That would be hilarious, if it were not so pathetic. The filibuster is nowhere in the Constitution, nor was it a practice or policy at the time of the Founding Fathers.
The framers of the Constitution were concerned about the "tyranny of the majority," which is why Rhode Island and California have the same number of Senators, and why the confirmation of judges etc. is vested in the Senate and not the House. The filibuster extends the minority party's power beyond even that, not because it's implicit in the Constitution but because it's a Constitutional loophole.

The majority has its rights too, and ordinarily it should prevail when bills or appointments come to the floor of the Senate. And the House too; the Tea Party has had its way there not because it wins up-down votes by the whole House, but because the Speaker prevents many bills from being voted on at all, unless a few dozen of his party's Congressmen are in favor. If we're talking about abuses of power, there's a big one for you.

Can anybody think of a bad piece of legislation or unworthy Presidential appointment from which the nation was saved by a filibuster alone? I can't, offhand.
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Re: The Senate: Filibuster reform at last

Post by lennygoran » Fri Nov 22, 2013 9:24 am

John F wrote: The majority has its rights too, and ordinarily it should prevail when bills or appointments come to the floor of the Senate. And the House too;
That's right--the House got rid of the filibuster in 1842--it's time the Senate did the same! Regards, Len

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Re: The Senate: Filibuster reform at last

Post by Steinway » Fri Nov 22, 2013 12:24 pm

It's time for Obama to sock it to the obstructionists.

At long last, there's some joy in Washington0 and the Republicans are squirming.

Pull the trigger, Barack. :lol:

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Re: The Senate: Filibuster reform at last

Post by RebLem » Fri Nov 22, 2013 3:50 pm

It is evident to me that reform was needed, but I think it has taken the wrong form.

As for the Founding Fathers' design being frustrated, that is completely laughable. In 2009, before Obama had done ANYTHING as president, the GOPers decided they would simply oppose everything the president did in hopes of making him a one term president. People ask for Democrats to compromise, but you can't compromise with people like that. And now that the goal has failed, and Obama has a second term, it just boils down to punishing the American people for having elected Obama, and letting us know that we had better give them unchallenged control of every branch of government more or less permanently, or we will be allowed no peace, no progress, no action at all. That is profoundly anti-democratic. It is not only un-American, it is very aggressively anti-American. Republicans need to re-read Federalist papers 10 and 51 in which James Madison discusses what he calls "the evil of faction," its causes, and methods for mitigating the damage it can do.

But the method chosen is one which will come back to bite the Democrats. What I think they should have done is reformed the filibuster, abolishing the system where you can just say you are filibustering and then one senator gets to block action, and go back to having to do talking filibusters. Then, go to a rule where after 3 days of debate, you need on 57 votes rather than 60, 54 votes after 6 days, and only 51 after 9 days of debate. That would be sufficient.

The way to goad GOPers into accepting this is to challenge their physical abilities. Tell them you understand that many of them are getting older and that we understand that many of them see the non-talking filibuster as a sort of ADA compliance measure. Watch them react like wounded bulls, then say, "OK, prove it!"
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