WaPo has drastic change of heart about traditional filibuster after Sen. Rand Paul actually does one

posted at 3:47 pm on March 8, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

The Washington Post editorial board, Jan. 16, 2013: The editorial is entitled, “Progress in the Senate,” and praises tweaks made to Senate filibuster rules by Sens. Reid and McConnell while also noting the need for further reform. Among reform options, making senators who wish to filibuster actually perform a traditional, talking filibuster:

The Senate’s leaders deserve praise not only for what they did but for how they did it. Instead of jamming more ambitious reforms through on a partisan, simple-majority vote, Mr. Reid hashed them out with Mr. McConnell. In so doing, he offered a rare example of bipartisan accord, dodged the threat of partisan blowback hobbling the Senate and avoided setting a dangerous precedent for minority rights in his chamber. Rules changes typically require 67 votes, an arrangement that Mr. Reid’s Democrats will cherish when they find themselves once again in the minority.

Yes, the filibuster has been abused in recent years, and we would like to see more reform. Forcing lawmakers who would filibuster legislation to speak out on the Senate floor isn’t a bad idea. But these incremental changes are welcome.

The Washington Post editorial board today:

AFTER SEN. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) held the Senate hostage Wednesday in order to warn that American citizens could be targeted by drone strikes on U.S. soil, he was rightly taken to task for gross and irresponsible mischaracterizations of the Obama administration’s policy. We’ve got another complaint: Mr. Paul and his followers are distracting attention from the real issues raised by the administration’s secret warfare.

So, a talking filibuster is either “not a bad idea” in the universe of reform options for what the Washington Post deems an abused Senate rule, or it’s a method for “[holding] the Senate hostage,” depending on the month. Maybe the Washington Post thinks it’s “not a bad idea” to “hold the Senate hostage?”

The Washington Post‘s editorial board has been quite restrained on the subject of filibuster reform over the last 10 years—the filibuster has been abused in the past, but is an important guarantor of minority rights, and should be reformed by senators working to gradually improve processes, not by obliteration or “nuclear” options, is their basic line. The cultivation of that appropriately sober, old-hand take on this perennial issue is damaged by today’s reactionary editorial.

Which, by the way, seems to indicate that no one on the editorial board even listened to more than half an hour of Paul’s filibuster. The Post complains that Paul’s speech distracted from the real issue of lack of transparency in the administration’s use of drones and kill lists on foreign soil— a subject Paul talked about for large chunks of his 13-hour explication. Reason writer Scott Shackford takes on the “baffling” editorial for attacking Paul for not addressing what he repeatedly addressed:

After criticizing Paul for filibustering the administration’s lack of transparency for domestic drone use (and not even believing there’s a lack of transparency), the writer is upset that Paul’s filibuster didn’t draw attention to the administration’s lack of transparency for foreign drone use.

Paul did actually talk quite a bit about the administration’s foreign drone use in his 13-hour filibuster and specifically how the administration’s lack of transparency and method for engaging in strikes had informed his concerns about their use on American soil. Paul brought it up during the very first hour, and he repeated these comments probably four or five times at least. You didn’t have to watch the entire filibuster to grasp Paul’s argument, so the Washington Post really has no excuse for missing his point

The whole thing screams “We agree with Rand Paul….but we don’t wanna!”


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