The Filibuster Briar Patch

posted at 1:36 pm on December 23, 2010 by Jazz Shaw

I can still remember quite well the period in 2004 which spurred the feeling of deja vu that hit me this week. Republicans not only held the White House, but majorities in both houses of Congress as well. The problem, of course, was those pesky Democrats who were gumming up the works on everything from judicial nominations to controversial pieces of legislation. Then the not very subtle whispering began… “maybe we should just get rid of the filibuster and get down to business.”

Be careful,” I said. “The American people are fickle and sooner or later you’re going to wind up back in the minority. You way want to keep that particular card in your pocket.”

Well, sooner rolled around even more quickly than many imagined, shoes switched over to other feet and the GOP was back to vigorously employing the filibuster at every turn. And now the Democrats – never being ones to let a little thing like history boss them around or inform their thinking – have signed on to a letter proposing the same brilliant plan.

So should Republicans be trying to instruct their colleagues across the aisle about the folly of such a move? The 2004 version of myself would no doubt be saying so, but some interesting observations by William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection have me questioning the strategy.

With a solid Republican majority in the House, the filibuster takes on less importance for Republicans. The threat of a filibuster still will play into the politics of judicial nominations, but not much else. With so many Democrats in the Senate up for reelection, the “centrist” block of Democrats may make a filibuster unnecessary in most events.

So if Democrats change the filibuster rule, will they be shooting themselves in the foot?

In 2012 there is a reasonable likelihood of a Republican majority in both houses of Congress. If Obama loses, and Republicans find themselves in the position Democrats have been in the past two years, things could get very interesting with relaxed filibuster rules. Even if Obama wins, the ability of a Republican Senate to pass on legislation to Obama — requiring a veto — will be an important political tool.

What goes around, comes around. Senators, having the long memories they do, understand this, even if the rabble in the left-wing blogosphere do not.

It’s a bit of an All-In bet, if we want to think of beltway politics in terms of no-limit hold’em poker, but the man has a point. If you truly believe that the 2010 wave hasn’t fully washed up on shore yet and that the Republicans will take back the majority in the Senate next time around, it would make for an interesting couple of years whether Obama wins a second term or not.

So, Democrats, you made a very good point about the problems with the filibuster. Let’s just keep it out of your hands too.

The dangers over the next two years indeed seem minimal given the unusual period where each party controls one chamber in Congress. The one exception to that is judicial nominations, but that’s not a food fight that ever ends well for either side under the best of circumstances.

The real problem comes much further down the road. Nothing has changed in terms of the fickle public and the day will come again when Democrats control both the House and the Senate. If the filibuster goes away and people become used to the idea of government functioning without it for the better part of a decade it will be exceedingly hard to get it put back in place.

But in the short term it could be sauce for the goose, at least in terms of entertainment for the chattering class. Will it happen? Much like Jacobson, I rather doubt it. But then, I’ve seen quite a few things in the last couple of years which I never thought would happen.

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
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Will it happen?

Hold your Tongue. Everytime someone says that, it freaking happens.

upinak on December 23, 2010 at 1:38 PM

I love A Christmas Story. Unfortunately, the GOP is so stupid that they’ll end up being Schwartz getting the h*ll punished out of him for doing nothing wrong.

C’mon, GOP. Take a page out of Ralphie’s playbook and beat the snot out of Scott (Obama) Farkus and crummy little toady Grover (Gibbs) Dill.

BuckeyeSam on December 23, 2010 at 1:40 PM

Well, sooner rolled around even more quickly than many imagined, shoes switched over to other feet and the GOP was back to vigorously employing the filibuster at every turn.

um, what?

when did this happen?

Since the rules only apply to conservatives and the liberals are never held accountable, it stands to reason that we make the rules as forgiving as possible.

joeindc44 on December 23, 2010 at 1:41 PM

What’s the point of a filibuster when it’s never used? The Republicans caved on every issue this session. It’s a moot point.

angryed on December 23, 2010 at 1:44 PM

Since the rules only apply to conservatives and the liberals are never held accountable, it stands to reason that we make the rules as forgiving as possible.

Think about it, the libs were able to “filibuster” Bush’s judges without actually doing anything resembling a fillibuster. Compare that to the lame duck session where the cons couldn’t even stop the most unpopular congress ever.

why bother with such a rule?

joeindc44 on December 23, 2010 at 1:44 PM

That is a Knock on wood moment!.

hawkman on December 23, 2010 at 1:45 PM

The odd think here is that the filibuster was designed with the notion of being another block on an out of control government.

In this case is has mostly failed. Obama got most of his extreme agenda through.

In fairness to our system though, it is impossible to design any version of a representative republic that does not ultimately depend on a vigilant electorate. And a significant portion of the electorate embraced ignorance in 2008.

18-1 on December 23, 2010 at 1:45 PM

This would backfire spectacularly on the Democrats when the Republicans take over the Senate in 2013.

aunursa on December 23, 2010 at 1:56 PM

Compare that to the lame duck session where the cons couldn’t even stop the most unpopular congress ever.

joeindc44 on December 23, 2010 at 1:44 PM

Well said. We had the most nationally unpopular congress in history, were coming off the most overwhelming off-year victory for our party in a century, and we still got rolled with barely a whimper.

rrpjr on December 23, 2010 at 1:57 PM

This would backfire spectacularly on the Democrats when the Republicans take over the Senate in 2013.

Hahaha right. Funny!!

Grow Fins on December 23, 2010 at 2:00 PM

The Rump Congress

Speakup on December 23, 2010 at 2:07 PM

BuckeyeSam on December 23, 2010 at 1:40 PM

Heh.

Is Pelosi ‘Black Bart’?

ladyingray on December 23, 2010 at 2:08 PM

“Filibuster” means fewer laws. Fewer laws mean lower taxes. What’s not to like?

unclesmrgol on December 23, 2010 at 2:44 PM

The real problem is that Washington is too involved — too involved in the economy, too involved in local policy, too involved in misallocation of resources, too involved with unions….

And a step toward the solution would be to make it more difficult for Congress to pass anything, so that the things it passes would be less controversial and more necessary.

One highly-effective method might be to have a lottery every time Congress voted….and one member — Senator or Representative — would be sacrificed Aztec-style on a bloody altar in the middle of the floor. They could even name the bill after the victim. That would bring to a grinding halt the perpetual influence-peddling, special-day proclaiming, back-patting, post-office-renaming BS that American taxpayers always end up paying for.

Seeing how that solution is unlikely to find too much favor (although….ask again in 10 years), another method to cut down the hooey would be to increase the number of Senators for cloture — to 80 or so. If 80 Senators can’t agree that something needs to be done, perhaps it just isn’t that pressing…..

cthulhu on December 23, 2010 at 2:52 PM

This is what’s been bothering me. The Democrats passing all these regulations giving the president and unelected officials more and more power when just a couple of years ago they were yelling about Bush being a Hitler, spying on every body and wanting to rule the world. Evidently they can’t see beyond their nose or they don’t plan on ever being out of power. That they might think they will always be in power worries the hell out of me and the very same worries apply to Republicans. Term Limits!

Herb on December 23, 2010 at 2:58 PM

Will it happen?

Hold your Tongue. Everytime someone says that, it freaking happens.

There is only one way to be absolutely sure something will happen:

What could possibly go wrong?

The Monster on December 23, 2010 at 3:22 PM

What’s the point of a filibuster when it’s never used? The Republicans caved on every issue this session. It’s a moot point.

angryed on December 23, 2010 at 1:44 PM

I say keep it, though your point is well taken.

AshleyTKing on December 23, 2010 at 3:26 PM

And now the Democrats – never being ones to let a little thing like history boss them around or inform their thinking – have signed on to a letter proposing the same brilliant plan.

Democrats have less to lose.

They know Republicans won’t try to wreck the country/republic they love, or try to become tyrannical with 2-4 years of control of both houses and maybe even the presidency.

Remember, Democrats are not bound by the same rules as normal people.

They don’t really care about the constitution, don’t necessarily love America (Obama), but rather love their guiding philosophy/religion called liberalism.

It reads: “Do what you think is right, no matter if your methods are evil or not, because if the outcome is “good” even if it includes tyranny, then it is ok”. Liberals function on group scales, that is why they get labeled marxist/socialist/communist. (It’s not often too far from the truth!)

scotash on December 23, 2010 at 5:57 PM

If you want to bitch slap the democrats into reality just tell them that without the filibuster then a national right to work and even more drastic legislation putting the labor unions into the trash heap of history would have passed years ago.

Jdripper on January 2, 2011 at 3:42 PM