What To Make Of The Filibuster Deal?

January 24, 2013 8:48 a.m.

A Senate staffer emails with his take on the filibuster rules change agreed to by Reid and McConnell:

I think that your posture on rules reform — culminating in “Oh, that’s not good” — has not shown the other side of the argument for progressives.

All Senate Democrats agree that rules reform is essential. Now we appear to be on the brink of that, and the “fix the Senate crowd” is dismayed. Unlike last time Reid isn’t proposing just a “gentleman’s agreement,” these are real changes to Rule 22. And these appear to have minority support. This is a big deal.

You don’t agree (and it’s fine) but there is a strong, progressive case against pursuing rules reforms via the nuclear/constitutional option.

I have not see anyone show how these rules will help advance the progressive cause and just as troubling is the lack of reflection about how rules reforms under the constitutional option could be used to hurt us someday when President Rubio teams up with Speaker Cantor and Leader McConnell. Is the progressive community oblivious about what happens when the minority has no tools to prevent majority excess? What happened this week in Virginia much less Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin the past several years should make progressives more circumspect about the value of mechanisms, like the filibuster, that preserve minority rights.

The talking filibuster and Sen. Franken’s proposal are not the same as what we have now and that isnt good. Senate Rules shouldn’t be based upon a movie and the filibuster should not be changed to shift the burden on the minority — that is the opposite of its purpose. The filibuster is to force the majority to work with the minority. Waiting out the minority is not the same thing.

Back in the good old days, before it was for filibuster reform, Common Cause said: “filibuster shouldn’t be jettisoned simply because it’s inconvenient to the majority party’s goals. That’s abuse of power.” Take a look at Dem cloture votes when Frist was majority leader. Do progressives think that rules reform would protect them should that situation occur again (and it will).

Some questions:

*Would the nuclear option help the Senate’s near-term functioning? No. There is ample room for mischief without the filibuster. The Senate doesn’t do anything — even publish the Record — absent consent. You dont need the filibuster to grind this place to a halt.

*Even if the Senate passed more bills would they clear the present House? No.

*If we have a situation like when Frist was majority leader, would the nuclear option likely undermine our ability to prevent extremist votes? Yes.

*Does Reid’s package achieve much of what Merkley/Udall sought? Yes.

So the Senate did not pursue reforms that would do little to help the near term progressive agenda. But it did revise its rules — a rare feat; it worked collaboratively — almost as rare; and preserved the ability of future progressive minorities to thwart efforts by a future President Rubio to repeal Davis Bacon or the Clean Air Act.

With all due respect, this is a great outcome and the teeth gnashing of some is wholly misplaced.

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