Category Archives: Senate

Rotten Cotton

[UPDATE]:

Oh, apparently we just can’t take a joke:

Republican aides were taken aback by what they thought was a lighthearted attempt to signal to Iran and the public that Congress should have a role in the ongoing nuclear discussions. Two GOP aides separately described their letter as a “cheeky” reminder of the congressional branch’s prerogatives.

“The administration has no sense of humor when it comes to how weakly they have been handling these negotiations,” said a top GOP Senate aide.

Interfering with foreign policy negotiations, hilARious!

———————————————

Well you could have knocked me over with a feather:

In an open letter organized by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., 47 Senate Republicans today warned the leaders of Iran that any nuclear deal reached with President Barack Obama could expire as soon as he leaves office.

Tomorrow, 24 hours later, Cotton will appear at an “Off the Record and strictly Non-Attribution” event with the National Defense Industrial Association, a lobbying and professional group for defense contractors.

The NDIA is composed of executives from major military businesses such as Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, ManTech International, Boeing, Oshkosh Defense and Booz Allen Hamilton, among other firms.

This is my shocked face:

shocked

Seriously, Republicans. Have you ever met a war you didn’t like? I guess as long as Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Booz Allen Hamilton are filling the campaign coffers, the answer to that would be no.

And major kudos to Tennessee Senators Alexander and Corker, who refused to sign the letter. They’re probably getting slammed from the Neocon wing of the party, which means there will be red meat thrown on another issue, no doubt. But on this they are correct.

Look, elections have consequences. And every time Republicans hold the reins of power, the militarism and warmongering heat up. If you don’t want war, don’t vote Republican. Simple as that.

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Filed under defense, Iran, Republican Party, Republicans, Sen. Bob Coker, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Senate, war economy

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

>Political Theater Alert

>Stupid U.S. Senate!

With folks like Sen. Jim DeMint threatening bullshit stunts like this, I have to wonder what the point of having a bicameral government is. Really? You just want everything to grind to a halt? Again? What the hell for?

Republicans loaded the omnibus bill with billions of dollars in pork (as did the Democrats but they aren’t the ones whining about it), then are shocked–shocked!–at the size of the bill! Amazing!

Hmm, starting to look like a bunch of political theater to me, but who is the audience? Who is paying attention to this stuff? What is the point? I don’t get it.

And let me just say, those of us who are paying attention are appalled. We deserve better. We deserve–and want–a government that functions. I never again want to hear the Democrats tell me they need a “filibuster proof majority” — when they had one, they went on and on about the need for bipartisanship! So screw you all, we’re not as dumb as we look. Broken government? No thank you.

Next Democratic majority needs to reform Senate rules FIRST THING:

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Filed under obstructionism, Republican Party, Senate

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

Memory Hole: Medicare Part D

Ah, the hand-wringing over the “sweetheart deals” which brokered the healthcare bill into being. I’m still playing the world’s tiniest violin for Republicans.

I have no idea if this is “how it’s normally done” as I don’t work in D.C. But I did have a nagging little memory in the back of my head about some shenanigans Tennessee’s own Bill Frist, then Senate Majority Leader, fenagled to bring about the unfunded, politcally-motivated, fiscally irresponsible Medicare Part D expansion back in 2003 (Note: I’m remembering some shenangans in the Senate but the link is clearly about the House bill). After a few attempts my Google-fu hit pay dirt:

Recall the situation in 2003. The Bush administration was already projecting the largest deficit in American history–$475 billion in fiscal year 2004, according to the July 2003 mid-session budget review. But a big election was coming up that Bush and his party were desperately fearful of losing. So they decided to win it by buying the votes of America’s seniors by giving them an expensive new program to pay for their prescription drugs.

Recall, too, that Medicare was already broke in every meaningful sense of the term. According to the 2003 Medicare trustees report, spending for Medicare was projected to rise much more rapidly than the payroll tax as the baby boomers retired. Consequently, the rational thing for Congress to do would have been to find ways of cutting its costs. Instead, Republicans voted to vastly increase them–and the federal deficit–by $395 billion between 2004 and 2013.

Okay, that’s all preamble. Now we get to the heart of the matter:

What followed was one of the most extraordinary events in congressional history. The vote was kept open for almost three hours while the House Republican leadership brought massive pressure to bear on the handful of principled Republicans who had the nerve to put country ahead of party. The leadership even froze the C-SPAN cameras so that no one outside the House chamber could see what was going on.

Among those congressmen strenuously pressed to change their vote was Nick Smith, R-Mich., who later charged that several members of Congress attempted to virtually bribe him, by promising to ensure that his son got his seat when he retired if he voted for the drug bill. One of those members, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, was later admonished by the House Ethics Committee for going over the line in his efforts regarding Smith.

Holy WTF? I mean, at least offering Medicaid funding for Nebraska and Louisiana helps, you know, Nebraskans and Louisianans. “Ensuring” the son of a sitting Senator his seat when he retires (how do you even do that? Really?) is completely beyond the pale.

Eventually, the arm-twisting got three Republicans to switch their votes from nay to yea: Ernest Istook of Oklahoma, Butch Otter of Idaho and Trent Franks of Arizona. Three Democrats also switched from nay to yea and two Republicans switched from yea to nay, for a final vote of 220 to 215. In the end, only 25 Republicans voted against the budget-busting drug bill. (All but 16 Democrats voted no.)

Wonder if there were any “sweeteners” to get those folks to change their votes–which, by the way, happened at 3 a.m. Ya think?

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Filed under healthcare, 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

>Senate To Hold TVA Hearings Tomorrow

>The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works will hold hearings on the TVA spill Thursday, January 8, at 10:00 AM EST.

I can’t tell if C-SPAN will broadcast these hearings, since they only post today’s schedule on their website. If you’d like to see these hearings you need to fax their viewer services department at 202-737-6226 (an e-mail doesn’t appear to do the trick).

I urge everyone to take a few minutes and send C-SPAN a fax right away. I just did it and it took me 1 minute. A hand-written note will do.

Aren’t you just dying to see TVA CEO Tom Kilgore fold like a lawnchair under the brutal questioning of Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander?

Aw, who am I kidding!

But yeah, we need to see these hearings. So fax that letter, pronto. ‘kay, thx, bai.

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Filed under ash spill, environment, Senate, TVA

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