Filibuster reform achieved on bipartisan basis

posted at 2:15 pm on January 27, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

It took more than three weeks for the Senate to finish its first official day of business, which Harry Reid finally gaveled to a close on January 25th.  With that, the hopes of some Democrats to overhaul the filibuster rules also crashed into the hard reality of politics.  Instead of making sweeping reforms to filibusters demanded by Democrats on a majority-only basis, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell have agreed to a much more modest series of rule changes:

Senate leaders say they have agreed to steps to limit use of some filibusters, allow more amendments and take other steps to reduce partisan tactics that often slow business to a crawl.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican leader MitchMcConnell say they have also agreed to promote legislation that would reduce by a third the number of presidential appointments that require Senate confirmations. Carrying out this advice and consent role often takes the Senate months, or even years, to achieve.

The Senate is already poised to reject the radical changes pushed by some Democrats.  While the AP didn’t give any specifics on the rule changes themselves, there already existed a bipartisan consensus on reducing the number of positions for Senate confirmation in order to allow incoming administrations to staff themselves in a timely manner.  Right now, several hundred appointed positions must pass the Senate, which makes for either a cursory look or long delays, neither of which helps in the long run.

Any changes to the filibuster will probably mean a limitation on its use to prevent the start of debate, which members of both parties have agreed leads to abuses of the system.  Republicans may have exchanged that for a rule barring the procedure of “filling the tree,” used by the Senate Majority Leader to block amendments from the minority.  Republicans have complained about that ever since Harry Reid took over control of the Senate.  Hopefully, the agreement will also include substantial changes in “holds” — especially those made anonymously, a practice that should end entirely.

Otherwise, it looks like the effort to steamroll the GOP on massive “reforms” has been stopped.  As Byron York explained, too many members of the 53-seat majority have begun to suspect that they will shortly have to use the filibuster themselves:

Through January 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 — through all those days the Senate was in recess and therefore still officially in its “first day.”  That meant liberal Democrats could continue to maneuver and negotiate ways to end the filibuster and, if they could find 51 senators willing to go along with their scheme, take a vote on the Senate’s “first day.”

Furious negotiations went on behind the scenes.  The Democrats’ anti-filibuster wing, led by Sen. Mark Udall, tried to muster support for the effort to kill, or at least substantially weaken, the filibuster.  Udall wasn’t, of course, trying to persuade Republicans to go along; all GOP senators opposed the idea.  Rather, Udall and his allies were trying — and, it turns out, failing — to convince 51 Democrats to put an end to the filibuster.  By Tuesday, it was clear they had failed.  After the State of the Union, Reid adjourned the Senate, and the 22-day “first day” was over.

The problem for Democrats turned out to be bigger than the filibuster itself, though.  Changing the rules of the Senate usually requires substantial bipartisan support in order to get 67 members to vote in favor of them.  By setting a precedent based on a flimsy, ahistorical view of rule changes that allow only a bare majority to make changes on the first “day,” Democrats would tee up the GOP for a complete overhaul of the Senate if/when they take the majority in 2013 — perhaps on committee allocations, rules of order, and so on.

But even outside of the precedent, Democrats may have run into problems with the new filibuster rules as proposed, and perhaps immediately.  The catalyst for this dawning realization may have been the Rule 14 scheduling of the ObamaCare repeal vote.  Had that bill come to a vote on the floor with the filibuster eliminated or damaged, Republicans only needed four Democrats to flip to pass it — which may have been possible, given the number of red-state Democrats facing re-election next year.  The ObamaCare repeal reminded Democrats that they have use for some obstructionism, too.

We’ll need to see what the precise changes are before assessing their effect.  However, stopping this interminable-day strategy is clearly a win for the GOP.


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Comments

Will they be making up their “show days” ?

J_Crater on January 27, 2011 at 2:17 PM

reduce partisan tactics that often slow business to a crawl.

They say that like it’s a bad thing.

Vashta.Nerada on January 27, 2011 at 2:17 PM

Reid and McConnell are the new “it” couple of Congress.

Bishop on January 27, 2011 at 2:21 PM

they have also agreed to promote legislation that would reduce by a third the number of presidential appointments that require Senate confirmations.

Burying the lede. It’s what’s for dinner.

The Mega Independent on January 27, 2011 at 2:22 PM

Liberals soiled their diapers.

2012!

Schadenfreude on January 27, 2011 at 2:23 PM

Passing repeal through the Senate is good for theatrical reasons, but is not going to get signed.

pedestrian on January 27, 2011 at 2:24 PM

Talk about slow as molasses

Cripe sakes, no wonder nothing gets done

cmsinaz on January 27, 2011 at 2:24 PM

they have also agreed to promote legislation that would reduce by a third the number of presidential appointments that require Senate confirmations

That had better not include the National Labor Relations Board… Obama has nominated two people who believe in a backdoor card check… Lafe Solomon and Becker…

ninjapirate on January 27, 2011 at 2:25 PM

Harry Reid has been allowed to stretch the rules of the Senate to the breaking point. That’s what should be stopped.

petunia on January 27, 2011 at 2:25 PM

So they allowed one day to last for weeks, in order to attempt to stop allowing debate on one bill to last forever.

David Shane on January 27, 2011 at 2:26 PM

reduce partisan tactics that often slow business to a crawl.

Vashta, my thought as well.

ObamaCare rushed through without debate, without a reading, without a VOTE.

Bi-Partisan McCain’s Comprehensive Immigration Reform Package was speeding through on the can’t read it until it’s law express, as well. It wasn’t any legislative procedure that halted amnesty for illegals last time, but VOTER CONSTITUENTS PROTESTING VOCIFEROUSLY prior to politicians’ re-elections.

Congress learned to simply tune the citizenry voice out as if nonexistent, because the majority of the citizenry was strongly against ObamaCare, and it passed anyway.

So why be encouraged by more bipartisan reforms that aren’t being detailed in public report prior to passage? It isn’t as if the names labeling bills truthfully reflect the content.

maverick muse on January 27, 2011 at 2:26 PM

Passing repeal through the Senate is good for theatrical reasons, but is not going to get signed.

pedestrian on January 27, 2011 at 2:24 PM

If that could happen… and I doubt that repeal will pass the Senate at all, but if it did. The bill would be effectively dead. It would be hard to argue for funding a bill that is only in force because of one man’s denial.

petunia on January 27, 2011 at 2:27 PM

Sausage Inspector Closes Senate for Safety Violations

Mervis Winter on January 27, 2011 at 2:28 PM

Senators’ views of the filibuster follow only one principle.

Majority-party Senators hate filibusters, minority-party Senators love them.

Then there are those in the majority who worry about being in the minority in the near future–yeah, it’s a bummer now, but it could come in handy some day–let’s keep it.

One thing about filibusters–they force Senators of opposite parties to talk to each other. Isn’t that what debate is all about?

Steve Z on January 27, 2011 at 2:32 PM

What’s with the “Don’t Be An Easy Target” ad on the main page, complete with bullseye?

What is HA trying to do, foment a revo.lution?

Bishop on January 27, 2011 at 2:34 PM

Since we’re on the topic of maneuverings in congress:

Machine Guns WEREN’T Banned?

Background: In 1986 an amendment called “The Hughes Amendment” was allegedly attached to wider firearms legislation in The House and passed. This amendment made unlawful the private ownership of machine guns manufactured after 1986.

There’s a problem with this law, however. It appears that the amendment was never actually passed.

Archival footage of the actual House session has been found and is reproduced here.

Watch the video. It is quite clear that not only did the voice vote on the amendment fail but in addition it appears, if someone hasn’t tampered with this video, that there was an electronic recorded vote that went down on the question as well.

Colbyjack on January 27, 2011 at 2:37 PM

I can see 2012 from my window.

tarpon on January 27, 2011 at 2:47 PM

Me thinks,if this was a ” CRISIS “,Libs would mobilize,
er…or sumpin like dat!!

canopfor on January 27, 2011 at 2:47 PM

********************RINO#ALERT****************************

Meghan McCain: Michele Bachmann A “Poor Man’s Sarah Palin”
==========================================================

Oh this is definitely going to piss most of you off, as it did me. On Larry O’Donnell’s show on MSNBC tonight, Meghan McCain spewed some bitter, hateful bile right at Michele Bachmann:
———

“I mean I think it’s important to note that Michele Bachmann is not a leader and she is not the leader of the Republican Party. Michele Bachmann in my opinion is no better than a poor man’s Sarah Palin. And I think the fact that Fox and MSNBC elected not to run this is admirable to the kind of journalism that Fox and MSNBC is airing. I think that CNN should be ashamed of themselves for airing this. She is one rogue woman who couldn’t even look into the camera directly and I take none of it seriously…”

http://www.therightscoop.com/meghan-mccain-bachmann-is-a-poor-mans-sarah-palin

canopfor on January 27, 2011 at 2:51 PM

Carrying out this advice and consent role often takes the Senate months, or even years

Perhaps they could get to them in a more timely manner if they didn’t have business before the Senate that is not part of their enumerated powers.

Kafir on January 27, 2011 at 2:52 PM

So how are they going to get around the House.

And think how much better it would be if the States had their Senate back. NONE OF THE ENDLESS UNFUNDED MANDATES WOULD HAVE EVER SEEN THE LIGHT OF DAY.

tarpon on January 27, 2011 at 2:55 PM

One step closer to mob rule.

Fantastic.

There are very good reasons that our system was set up with two distinctly different houses of legislation that necessarily will be at odds from time to time.

I’m sick and tired of our Constitution being conveniently ignored.

hillbillyjim on January 27, 2011 at 2:57 PM

There are many instances when keeping bad law from being written is a more important job than writing new legislation.

Oftentimes, gridlock is good.

hillbillyjim on January 27, 2011 at 3:00 PM

After the State of the Union, Reid adjourned the Senate, and the 22-day “first day” was over.

Chapter 1 of the Book of Reidesis:

In the beginning Byrd created the filibuster, and the Senate was void and without form. And the Lord Reid said the filibuster was Bad. And the Lord Reid said, Let it be the first day, and so it was written, and let there not be filibusters after the first day.

And it was the morning and the evening
and the morning and the evening
and the morning and the evening
and the morning and the evening
and the morning and the evening

and the morning and the evening
and the morning and the evening
and the morning and the evening
and the morning and the evening
and the morning and the evening

and the morning and the evening
and the morning and the evening
and the morning and the evening
and the morning and the evening
and the morning and the evening

and the morning and the evening
and the morning and the evening
and the morning and the evening
and the morning and the evening
and the morning and the evening

and the morning and the evening
and the morning and the evening

of the first day,
and the Senators above the firmament remained divided
from the Senators below the firmament, and there could not be found 51 righteous Senators to end the filibuster.

And the windows of heaven opened, and the snows prevailed over the Capitol. And the Lord Reid repented of his actions, and said “Let there be filibusters to divide the Left from the Right”, and it was done.

And it was the morning and the evening of the second day.

Steve Z on January 27, 2011 at 3:17 PM

That had better not include the National Labor Relations Board… Obama has nominated two people who believe in a backdoor card check… Lafe Solomon and Becker…

ninjapirate on January 27, 2011 at 2:25 PM

Agencies like the NLRB have statutes authorizing them which require Senate confirmation for their Board members. The Senate cannot unilaterally overrule these statutes. I think they can decide that some positions like the Assistant Secretary for Administration at HUD, which have no policy responsibilities and minimal staff and budgets, and are usually filled by bureaucrats and the occasional fatcat’s daughter, do not require Senate confirmation. Perhaps appointments of career foreign service officers to ambassadorships should not require confirmation either.

rockmom on January 27, 2011 at 3:18 PM

Meghan McCain: Michele Bachmann A “Poor Man’s Sarah Palin”
==========================================================

Meghan McCain is a Rich Woman’s Poorly-Educated Politician.

If MegMac had half of Bachmann’s brains, she would be in Congress. But she only dishonors her father.

Steve Z on January 27, 2011 at 3:24 PM

Rather, Udall and his allies were trying — and, it turns out, failing — to convince 51 Democrats to put an end to the filibuster. By Tuesday, it was clear they had failed. After the State of the Union, Reid adjourned the Senate, and the 22-day “first day” was over.

DAMN YOU, DEMOCRACY!@!!!

WE NEED AUTHORITARIANISM!

Good Lt on January 27, 2011 at 3:31 PM

canopfor on January 27, 2011 at 2:51 PM

Honestly, who listens to that heifer?

search4truth on January 27, 2011 at 3:35 PM

After the State of the Union, Reid adjourned the Senate, and the 22-day “first day” was over.

Reid can bend time to his will! Master of the Universe!!!!!11!!

iurockhead on January 27, 2011 at 3:50 PM

Since we’re on the topic of maneuverings in congress:

Machine Guns WEREN’T Banned?

Background: In 1986 an amendment called “The Hughes Amendment” was allegedly attached to wider firearms legislation in The House and passed. This amendment made unlawful the private ownership of machine guns manufactured after 1986.

There’s a problem with this law, however. It appears that the amendment was never actually passed.

Archival footage of the actual House session has been found and is reproduced here.

Watch the video. It is quite clear that not only did the voice vote on the amendment fail but in addition it appears, if someone hasn’t tampered with this video, that there was an electronic recorded vote that went down on the question as well.

Colbyjack on January 27, 2011 at 2:37 PM

Win The Future?

Insert witty screen name here on January 27, 2011 at 3:55 PM

canopfor on January 27, 2011 at 2:51 PM
===========
Honestly, who listens to that heifer?

search4truth on January 27, 2011 at 3:35 PM

search4truth:Heck of a good point!

canopfor on January 27, 2011 at 4:19 PM

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican leader MitchMcConnell say they have also agreed to promote legislation that would reduce by a third the number of presidential appointments that require Senate confirmations.

I sure hope this involves closing down one out of three Federal agencies.

cthulhu on January 27, 2011 at 4:39 PM

DAMN YOU, DEMOCRACY!@!!!
WE NEED AUTHORITARIANISM!
Good Lt on January 27, 2011 at 3:31 PM

Tom? Tom Friedman? Is that you?

ya2daup on January 27, 2011 at 5:39 PM

The Democrats’ anti-filibuster wing, led by Sen. Mark Udall, tried to muster support for the effort to kill, or at least substantially weaken, the filibuster. Udall wasn’t, of course, trying to persuade Republicans to go along; all GOP senators opposed the idea. Rather, Udall and his allies were trying — and, it turns out, failing — to convince 51 Democrats to put an end to the filibuster.

Udall, the same f-tard who attempted to urge me to sign his petition for more civility. I don’t think he’ll be contacting me any further after my response.

jdkchem on January 27, 2011 at 5:53 PM

Isn’t that what debate is all about?

Steve Z on January 27, 2011 at 2:32 PM

There hasn’t been a debate in Congress since the invention of the audio recording device.

BobMbx on January 27, 2011 at 6:37 PM