Is Obama Growing Weary Of The GOP’s ‘Filibuster Everything’ MO?

UPI/Newscom

There’s growing sentiment on the left–most recently evinced by SEIU President Andy Stern and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman–that the Senate’s quiet acceptance of the filibuster–and therefore a 60 vote threshold for most legislation–is dangerous to the country’s ability to govern itself, no matter who’s in power. Well, they may have a powerful new ally.

“[A]s somebody who served in the Senate, who values the traditions of the Senate, who thinks that institution has been the world’s greatest deliberative body, to see the filibuster rule, which imposes a 60-vote supermajority on legislation – to see that invoked on every single piece of legislation, during the course of this year, is unheard of,” says President Obama in a yet-to-air interview with PBS.

I mean, if you look historically back in the ’50s, the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s – even when there was sharp political disagreements, when the Democrats were in control for example and Ronald Reagan was president – you didn’t see even routine items subject to the 60-vote rule.

So I think that if this pattern continues, you’re going to see an inability on the part of America to deal with big problems in a very competitive world, and other countries are going to start running circles around us. We’re going to have to return to some sense that governance is more important than politics inside the Senate. We’re not there right now.

Obama even suggested that the filibuster, as it’s currently being employed, harms democracy.

Look, the fact of the matter is, is that if used prudently, then I don’t think it’s harmful for our democracy,” Obama said. “It’s not being used prudently right now. And my hope would be that whether a Sen. is in the majority or is in the minority, that they’re starting to get a sense, after looking at this year, that this can’t be the way that government runs.”

Some might like a firmer statement than that. But everything’s gotta start somewhere. For instance, that’s slightly different from what Obama was saying earlier this month.

These days you need 60 votes for everything because of the filibuster, which it used to be was applied rarely, but now the opposition just evokes it for everything. I mean, you can be — try to pass a bill to rename a post office, and they’ll say, no, we need 60 votes for that and we need two weeks of debate […] You know, sometimes it gives you a headache just thinking about it, but, look, that’s democracy. That’s part of what makes our government stable is, is it’s not easy to get anything done. But it’s also what makes it frustrating when we have emergency situations.

Then came the triple health care filibuster. You can read the entire exchange below.

MR. LEHRER: How do you feel about the way the 60-vote filibuster rule has been employed on the health-care debate?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I am very frustrated.

I think that right now that’s the way things are operating. And we’ve had to make sure that we fight through those issues. I think Harry Reid has done a very good job grinding it out.

But as somebody who served in the Senate, who values the traditions of the Senate, who thinks that institution has been the world’s greatest deliberative body, to see the filibuster rule, which imposes a 60-vote supermajority on legislation – to see that invoked on every single piece of legislation, during the course of this year, is unheard of.

I mean, if you look historically back in the ’50s, the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s – even when there was sharp political disagreements, when the Democrats were in control for example and Ronald Reagan was president – you didn’t see even routine items subject to the 60-vote rule.

So I think that if this pattern continues, you’re going to see an inability on the part of America to deal with big problems in a very competitive world, and other countries are going to start running circles around us. We’re going to have to return to some sense that governance is more important than politics inside the Senate. We’re not there right now.

MR. LEHRER: Is there anything you can do about this as president of the United States? Isn’t it a Senate situation?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It is a – it is a matter of Senate rules. Look, the fact of the matter is, is that if used prudently, then I don’t think it’s harmful for our democracy. It’s not being used prudently right now. And my hope would be that whether a Sen. is in the majority or is in the minority, that they’re starting to get a sense, after looking at this year, that this can’t be the way that government runs.

And one of the things that I think Democrats and Republicans have to constantly do is try to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. If we had a Republican president right now and a Republican-controlled Senate, and Democrats were doing some of these things, they’d be screaming bloody murder. And at some point, you know, I think the American people want to see government solve problems, not just engage in the gamesmanship that has become so customary in Washington.

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