Category Archives: filibuster

The President’s Nominees Will Get An Up Or Down Vote

Harry Reid triggered the nuclear option.

Soooo … all of those folks clamoring for just this exact change to Senate rules way back in 2005 and 2006 — Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, Bill Frist, even Mitch McConnell, etc. — they’re all thrilled right? Right?!

Don’t be ridiculous!

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Filed under filibuster, Sen. Harry Reid, Senate

Packing The Courts

God, I simply cannot believe the balls of these people:

With Republicans set on Monday to block Robert Wilkins’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, both parties’ positions appear hopelessly intractable.

The only thing that may be able to preserve the GOP’s ability to filibuster judicial nominees is another extended battle over the Senate rules that forces a truce between the caucuses of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Here’s a statistic I’ve read: 86.8 percent of President Bush’s judicial nominees were confirmed. Some of his nominees — Harriet Miers is a notable example — were blocked by his own party, not just Democrats. That didn’t stop political partisans — Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, for one, and the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, for another — from stoking the perpetual butthurt and persecution complex of gullible Evangelical Christians in framing a battle over judicial nominees as a “Filibuster Against People Of Faith.”

Remember that? Remember:

Frist is trying to win support for a ban on the use of the filibuster, a technique to delay Senate business, to block votes on judicial nominees. He has agreed to give a videotaped speech Sunday for Justice Sunday: Stop the Filibuster Against People of Faith.

[…]

The program, which also features prominent religious leaders such as James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, is sponsored by the socially conservative Family Research Council. Churches, groups and individuals can sign up at http://www.frc.org to watch by satellite or on the Internet.

[…]

A brochure for the program, originating at a church in Louisville, says the filibuster “was once abused to protect racial bias, and now it is being used against people of faith.” Perkins says “activist courts” are conspiring “to rob us of our Christian heritage” and urges “values voters” to support Frist.

That was April 2005. Two other Justice Sundays followed: one in August 2005 at Nashville’s Two Rivers Baptist Church, called “God Save the United States and this Honorable Court,” which was timed to coincide with John Roberts’ confirmation hearings. The third event was held at a Baptist church in Philadelphia on the eve of Samuel Alito’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings. This one was labeled “Proclaim Liberty Throughtout The Land.”

As with all things right-wing, these events (especially the first one) were the newest shiny-sparkly thing to grab the media’s attention, and there were front page stories and endless hours of cable news programs devoted to them. The rallying cry, as you will recall, was “the president’s nominees deserve an up or down vote.” We heard that one ad nauseum.

Fast forward to the next administration, in which the president happens to be a Democrat, and suddenly the shoe is on the other foot. Suddenly Obama is “packing the courts.” Fewer than half of President Obama’s judicial nominees have been confirmed. And yet, there have been no rallies about the president’s nominees deserving an up or down vote, no church-based (or union hall-based) events about filibustering the working class, minorities and women. There has been no “Occupy The Courts” movement or marches on Washington or bully tactics to force the Senate opposition into giving us our way.

Republican presidents have it so easy. Once they’re in office there’s an entire network of apparatchiks across every facet of American society ready to support that president’s agenda. Democratic presidents have no such support network. Liberal apparatchiks are too busy whining about getting thrown under the bus on x, y, or z issue to bother having the presidential back on things like judicial nominees. We know, intuitively, how important the courts are to our cause, yet we’ve done precious little when President Obama’s highly-qualified picks have been blocked by Republican obstruction.

When I look back and reflect on how much time and energy was devoted to discussing the Justice Sunday events eight years ago, I am simply amazed at the strategic skills of the Republican right. Think about it: the very same people claiming it was evil and un-American and an assault on judicial independence to filibuster a judicial nominee turned round and lobbied for that very thing when Sonia Sotomayor was nominated to the Supreme Court. Amazing. And yet, no one, least of all the “liberal media,” laughed them out of the room.

No one has pointed out that the right’s event-based activism really lacks any philosophical integrity. It’s really just all about making sure their side wins. I don’t know why the media plays along with this whole charade. And I don’t know why the left doesn’t do a better job of coming together on these things.

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Filed under filibuster, Republican Party

Ersatz Politics

Ted Cruz’s marathon bloviating session is no filibuster — he’s going to have to sit down and shut up when the Senate convenes this afternoon, because he doesn’t have the power to stop the cloture vote. But this little charade provides us with a useful peek behind the curtain of our modern political establishment.

You have a powerless faction pretending to take a bold stand on an issue that’s already been decided — after first negotiating the terms of this piece of theater with the opposition ahead of time. Meanwhile the facts-be-damned news media winks and nods and plays along, and partisans on both sides of the aisle prepare to exploit this for donations.

This isn’t politics, this isn’t even the peoples’ business, it’s theater. Or, as Charles Pierce put it, just part of the never-ending campaign that has taken over our modern American political discourse:

As has been pointed out, this is something of a mock filibuster, but that’s because it isn’t an attempt to do serious legislative business. It’s an extended campaign commercial, B-Roll for the local stations in Ottumwa and Council Bluffs.

Eggg-zackly. Really, that’s all this is — that’s all anything coming out of Washington is these days. It’s all one giant PR campaign as both sides scramble to “define the issue” (any issue, it doesn’t matter) and prepare the flood of fundraising e-mails and direct mail requests. Washington has become one vast telemarketing and direct mail operation. Ted Cruz is merely the clip art for this week’s campaign. Next week it will be someone else.

This isn’t me being cynical, this is reality. This is how Washington works today and make no mistake: is feature not bug. This politics of dysfunctional is working exactly as intended for those on the inside. It’s the raison d’etre for that whole “politico-industrial complex” I wrote about a year ago. Nothing has really changed except now the star players are members of Congress themselves.

With all of this going on it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that what Ted Cruz’s theater is all about is denying people access to affordable private, for-profit health insurance. Because no one really hears that amid all of the other Kabuki. And that’s the biggest shame of all.

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Filed under Congress, filibuster, healthcare, Media, media manipulation

The Democrats’ Filibuster-Proof Majority & Other Wingnut Myths

This is old, old, old but people like Joe Scarborough keep bringing it up (this morning, in fact) so I really want us to quash this myth that President Obama had a filibuster-proof Democratic Congress to work with. Pretty please? Just stop spreading this shit.

Between Norm Coleman’s protracted legal challenge of Al Franken’s win in Minnesota and the death of Ted Kennedy and the summer recess and everything else, the Democrats’ much-ballyhooed filibuster-proof majority barely existed. Or, as Mr. Universe so clearly explained:

Depending upon which metric is used, Democrats had a super majority for roughly six months which includes the seven weeks between Franken’s swearing-in on July 8 to Ted Kennedy’s death on August 25 and the four months and nine days between Paul Kirk’s swearing-in on September 25, 2009 to his replacement by Scott Brown on February 4, 2010. This was just barely enough time to pass the biggest and most difficult health care legislation in generations; an event that would likely never have happened under any other circumstances. This also happened under the onslaught of every procedural obstruction the Republicans could put in its path.

President Obama, against advice from many of his advisors, gambled his political capital on this bill and won. And it was a significant battle in what is sure to be a series of battles to come in order to keep the foothold on this particular beachhead. He put the brief super majority to good use and any argument that he squandered it will need to stand next to the impressive accomplishment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Three weeks after Franken got sworn in, Congress took its summer recess. And then in August Ted Kennedy died. At best President Obama had four months of a Democratic Congress to work with. President Obama had one shot to do something really big and he took it. And I haven’t even mentioned all of the DINOs and Liebermans in the Democratic caucus who seize any opportunity to demand that we pay attention to them, hold their hands, give them whatever little baubles they want to prove how important they are.

So this idea that Obama had two years of a Democratic Congress just waiting around to do his bidding is so wrong. It’s a lie spread by Republicans who want to make it appear that Obama had two years to do whatever he wanted and the Republicans were just poor, helpless little members of Congress, their hands tied and their mouths taped shut, which means everything that’s wrong is Obama’s fault!!

That’s just bullshit. Anyone remember the summer of 2009? What we’ve called the Summer of Crazy? When conservatives unleashed their uninformed, unhinged tin-foil hat masses on the public? That was the summer of birthers and death panels and “town brawls.” FEMA re-education camps and comparing Obama to Hitler! Misspelled signs, courtesy of the American Moran Brigade. All of it a campaign orchestrated by the well-funded right to intimidate the media, control the narrative, and ensure any rational discussion of the real issues would be impossible.

Because when we actually do have a rational discussion of real issues, Republicans lose. When we have fearmongering about non-existent threats and people shouting over one other, then Republicans win. Funny how that works.

It kind of makes me nuts that this stuff keeps getting repeated. We’re not talking ancient history here, people. We’re talking two years ago. It’s not like you can’t Google this shit.

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Filed under Congress, filibuster, Media

The Gentleman Will Sit! The Gentleman Is Correct In Sitting!

Norm Ormstein has a column on reforming the filibuster that I think is a must-read.

Time was, a filibuster meant Senators reading from Betty Crocker and the Encyclopaedia Britannica for hours on end. These days the rules have changed and we no longer have real filibusters, we only have threats of filibusters. I never understood why that was. Ormstein explains:

Senate rules put the onus on the majority for ending a debate, regardless of how frivolous the filibuster might be.

If the majority leader wants to end a debate, he or she first calls for unanimous consent for cloture, basically a voice vote from all the senators present in the chamber. But if even one member of the filibustering minority is present to object to the motion, the majority leader has to hold a roll call vote. If the majority leader can’t round up the necessary 60 votes, the debate continues.

OH. Ormstein suggests a tweak, force the fillibustering party round up its votes instead of the other way around:

For starters, the Senate could replace the majority’s responsibility to end debate with the minority’s responsibility to keep it going. It would work like this: for the first four weeks of debate, the Senate would operate under the old rules, in which the majority has to find enough senators to vote for cloture. Once that time has elapsed, the debate would automatically end unless the minority could assemble 40 senators to continue it.

That sounds fine but personally, I think if the minority party wants to filibuster legislation then they by God should work for it. And if that means reading from Aunt Martha’s Cookbook or the Oxford English Dictionary or the collected works of Wikipedia, so be it. Ormstein seems to agree, and I think it’s well past time that the Senate did that. Enough with this obstruction; the filibuster may be useful to protect the minority’s voice but it shouldn’t be wielded like a cudgel because some assholes want to “break” the president.

And this is basically what I told the DSCC when their fundraiser called my house to ask for a ludicrously insane donation. As I always do when they call I say no thanks, I’ll support individual candidates or organizations but not the party because the party doesn’t deserve it. They got a huge mandate in the last two elections and failed to act on it. They offered weak, watered down legislation and their lame excuse is that they had to because they lacked a filibuster-proof majority? Well then fix the filibuster, you idiots! End of story.

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Filed under filibuster, Senate

You Break It You Own It

Paul Krugman did a good piece yesterday on our broken political system and our dysfunctional U.S. Senate. He points the finger at the “filibuster,” a self-imposed rule in the Senate that appears nowhere in the Constitution, which the Republicans have used to an unprecedented degree to grind Senate business to a halt.

He writes:

Some people will say that it has always been this way, and that we’ve managed so far. But it wasn’t always like this. Yes, there were filibusters in the past — most notably by segregationists trying to block civil rights legislation. But the modern system, in which the minority party uses the threat of a filibuster to block every bill it doesn’t like, is a recent creation.

The political scientist Barbara Sinclair has done the math. In the 1960s, she finds, “extended-debate-related problems” — threatened or actual filibusters — affected only 8 percent of major legislation. By the 1980s, that had risen to 27 percent. But after Democrats retook control of Congress in 2006 and Republicans found themselves in the minority, it soared to 70 percent.

I’m glad people like Paul Krugman have finally awakened to a story that us lefty bloggers have been writing about for over two years. In September 2007 I linked to a Digby post about this (complete with a very interesting chart), noting the hypocrisy of Republicans filibustering everything that crossed their path when they whined about “Democratic obstructionism” when they were in the majority.

Anyway, here we are talking about the filibuster again, and here I am linking to another Digby post, with lots of very interesting charts. Here’s one:

Digby writes that abolishing the filibuster is a nice pipe dream but it won’t happen because both parties like it too much, plus there’s not much difference between 50 and 60 votes. She writes:

The argument for abolition of the filibuster falls apart when you see that the Dems have the 60 votes and—it doesn’t make any difference. And that’s because there is always some pampered little prince or princess who thinks he or she should be running everything and they will hold up the process regardless. That 50th Senator for the vote would be as hard to get as the 60th for the filibuster unless the Democratic party starts to require some partisan loyalty.

That’s exactly right. I don’t see how abolishing the filibuster will do anything but give fodder to the “Democrats are totalitarian Fascists/Socialists” tea bagger set.

But here’s what I don’t get. If the Republicans insist on gumming up the works, threatening to filibuster everything from this healthcare bill, to judicial nominations to the federal appeals court (remember when “the president’s judicial nominees deserve an up or down vote”?), to an extension of unemployment insurance, to whether D.C. should have House representation, well, I say: call their bluff, Democrats.

Seriously, I realize it will grind things to a halt but that seems to be the Republican Party’s intent here, anyway. So let’s just let them stand up there and talk for hours and hours on end about why people can’t have an extension of their unemployment benefits or why the dang Department of Defense can’t be funded.

Can you imagine if the Pentagon ran out of money and when everyone asked why the answer would be, “Republicans are filibustering the bill, and you can watch it on C-SPAN”? I’m betting that filibuster won’t last too long.

Democrats need to play some hardball here, instead of constantly capitulating to the minority party. If the Republicans are going to insist on breaking our system, then for crying out loud, make them own it.

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Filed under filibuster, Senate

He Was Against Judicial Filibusters Before He Was For Them

Disgraced ex-Frist staffer Manuel Miranda is back:

Well guess what?  Miranda is back with the same coalition but a new letter [PDF] with new demands – namely, that Senate Republicans carry out a filibuster against Sonia Sotomayor.  But not one of those disgusting “partisan” filibusters that the Democrats used, but rather one of those glorioius and noble “traditional” filibusters that protects the Constitution.

[…]

Do I need to point out the irony in the fact that the group once known as the National Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters is now explicitly calling for the use of a judicial filibuster?

Yes, apparently you do. Because the GOP is nothing if not irony-challenged. And they have no shame. They see absolutely nothing wrong with campaigning against the judicial filibuster on all of the Sunday morning bobblehead shows and at Justice Sunday events when there’s a Republican president, then do a complete 180 when there’s a Democrat in the White House. And they’ll use a crook to carry their message and never think twice about it.

And what is it with these tarnished Republicans connected to Bill Frist? First we have Medicare-fraud king Rick Scott, now leading the charge against healthcare reform with dubious infomercials.

Manuel Miranda, for those who don’t recall, was forced to resign in 2004 as Frist’s top judiciary aide, after he hacked into Democratic computers.

More on Manuel from the memory hole here. He actually sued John Ashcroft in an attempt to quash the criminal investigation into his illegal hacking activity.

They do have some brass ones. Gotta hand it to ’em.

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Filed under Bill Frist, filibuster

Back To The Kitchen, Beeyatches! (Part 2)

Hey, John McCain! Yeah, I’m talking to you! Fuck you!

McCain opposes equal pay bill in Senate

By LIBBY QUAID

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Republican Sen. John McCain, campaigning through poverty-stricken cities and towns, said Wednesday he opposes a Senate bill that seeks equal pay for women because it would lead to more lawsuits.

Instead, McCain says women need “more training and education.” Clearly McClueless doesn’t understand the concept of “equal pay for equal work.” That means, you know, they already have the training and education because they are doing the same job, they just aren’t getting the same pay.

Excuse me while I bang my head on the desk. Repeatedly.

But back to our story:

Senate Republicans killed the bill Wednesday night on a 56-42 vote that denied the measure the 60 votes needed to advance it to full debate and a vote. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had delayed the vote to give McCain’s Democratic rivals, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, time to return to Washington to support the measure, which would make it easier for women to sue their employers for pay discrimination.

McCain skipped the vote to campaign in New Orleans.

Remember folks, “60 is the new 50.” Whatever happened to the glorious “up or down vote”? But I digress.

So with the Bush economy in the toilet, the Republican Party stands with Big Business against working women. Their standard-bearer this election, John McCain, supports that position whole-heartedly. Because “lawsuits” would be, like, icky and stuff.

Well excuse me but lawsuits are how we in this system right wrongs and past injustices. It would be nice if we could click our heels and sprinkle fairy dust and have everyone magically do the right thing but that just doesn’t happen. Sometimes we need to take people to court to right a wrong, for example, the one experienced by Lilly Ledbetter:

It is named for Lilly Ledbetter, a supervisor at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s plant in Gadsden, Ala., who sued for pay discrimination just before retiring after a 19-year career there. By the time she retired, Ledbetter made $6,500 less than the lowest-paid male supervisor and claimed earlier decisions by supervisors kept her from making more.

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 last year to throw out her complaint, saying she had waited too long to sue.

Ledbetter’s story actually gets worse. After 20 years of being treated inferior to other employees because of her gender, Ledbetter finally got some justice through the courts. Until the GOP-dominated Supreme Court took it all away, that is:

At the end of the trial, the jury found that Goodyear had discriminated against me in violation of Title VII. The jury awarded me backpay as well as $4,662 for mental anguish and $3,285,979 in punitive damages. Although the trial judge agreed that the jury’s verdict was amply supported by the evidence at trial, he had to reduce the punitive damages and mental anguish award to the $300,000 statutory cap.

The Supreme Court took it all away, even the backpay. They said I should have complained every time I got a smaller raise than the men, even if I didn’t know what the men were getting paid and even if I had no way to prove that the decision was discrimination. They said that once 180 days passes after the pay decision is made, the worker is stuck with unequal pay for equal work under Title VII for the rest of her career and there is nothing illegal about that under the statute.

Justice Ginsburg hit the nail on the head when she said that the majority’s rule just doesn’t make sense in the real world. You can’t expect people to go around asking their coworkers how much money they’re making. At a lot of places, that could get you fired. And nobody wants to be asked those kinds of questions anyway.

If you like this stuff then keep voting Republican, people. There will be a lot more under a McCain presidency.

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Filed under equal pay, feminism, filibuster, John McCain, Republican Party

60 Is The New 50

Digby’s post on ”E-Z filibusters” is a must read. Under the current political rules of “IOKIYAR” and “can’t win for losing,” it seems even a razor-thin Senate majority hasn’t helped Democrats. Republicans are threatening to filibuster everything in sight, which means 60 is the new 50.

Digby links to Kevin Drum’s post on the topic. For the uninitiated:

[…] Republicans aren’t just obstructing legislation at normal rates. They’re obstructing legislation at three times the usual rate. They’re absolutely desperate to keep this stuff off the president’s desk, where the only choice is to either sign it or else take the blame for a high-profile veto.

As Drum and Digby point out, the press has done a pretty half-assed job of reporting this; I mean really, a vote to give Utah and the District of Columbia House representation was going to be filibustered? For real?

“Democratic obstructionism” was the mantra of conservatives pre-November 2006. Go on, Google it, I dare you. Now that they’re in the minority, obstructionism is business as usual for GOP senators, and the press hasn’t bothered to notice. I know, I keep forgetting, IOKIYAR.

Even worse, the Democrats are enabling this behavior, counting the votes ahead of time and calling for floor votes instead of forcing a real filibuster. Digby’s solution? Call their bluff. “Make ‘em talk,” she says:

The Democrats are going to have to force real filibusters. I know that it will disrupt the business of the senate, but there’s really no other choice. Look at that chart. The Republicans have successfully halted virtually anything worth doing with these EZ-Filibusters. Forget cloture. Make ’em talk.

I’m still looking forward to hearing Huckleberry Graham doing his dramatic reading of Miss Mellie’s death scene. And I hear St John McCain does an amazing rendition of Captain Queeg’s “strawberries” soliloquy. Let ’em stand there and blather on until they’re hoarse. It’s the only way to break this silly deadlock and instruct the country about who’s stopping the congress from getting anything done. The press certainly isn’t getting the job done. Everybody’s blaming the Dems for being ineffectual so they really have no choice but to force these Republicans to filibuster for real or risk paying the price at the ballot box when the Republicans run against the “do-nothing congress.”

I like the way this girl thinks. Make ’em talk. If they’re threatening to do it, then make them do it. Stand up there for 20 hours reciting Aunt Martha’s favorite recipes to block passage of some legislation granting Utah more House representatives. Or denying children’s healthcare coverage. Or shredding the Constitution by killing off habeas corpus.

Go on. I dare you.

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Filed under filibuster, obstructionism, Senate