Banner Week For The Filibuster

We’ve been monitoring the collapse of January’s Senate rules reform agreement over the past couple months, mostly through the lens of presidential nominations. But this week brings us with exciting new examples of its colossal failure.

Here, for instance, is our most recent story about must-pass legislation to avoid a government shutdown. Long story short, some Republicans weren’t allowed votes on their amendments. Then instead of accepting the fact that the bill has supermajority support, they wasted three legislative days out of protest. That’s three days the Senate wasn’t debating the Dem budget Republicans have been salivating over for four years.

But the filibuster reform flop is also partially to blame for the early demise of Dianne Feinstein’s assault weapons ban.Of course anyone paying even glancing attention to the gun control debate recognized that an AWB was going to be a stretch even without the filibuster. But it turns out it’ll be left out of the base bill — and is thus prematurely dead — because filibuster reform was such a dud.

One of the putative goals of the new rules was to limit the minority’s ability to filibuster what’s known as the motion to proceed — to stop the minority from preventing the Senate from simply debating an issue. The compromise essentially gave the majority and minority leaders more control over that choke point, but didn’t eliminate it entirely.

Then on Tuesday, Harry Reid said the AWB couldn’t be included in the underlying bill because if it were it would succumb to a filibuster on the motion to proceed.

Presto failo.

Now it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Reid is hiding behind this filibuster, or at least isn’t terribly distraught about it. His own complicated relationship with gun control is well known, and this outcome allows him to hold a separate, doomed vote on the AWB — even possibly to vote in favor of it — rather than orchestrate its eventual removal from the underlying legislation. But yet a third supposed goal of rules reform was greater transparency — preventing senators from using parliamentary procedure to hide power moves from public scrutiny. And it’s not working very well in that regard either.