Tag Archive: Senate Rules

Nov 22 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Filibuster Has Been Mortally Wounded

Filibuster has suffered a mortal wound. In an historic vote, the Senate drastically change the game by eliminating the need for 60 votes to confirm a presidential nominee to executive and judiciary, ending at least some of the obstruction by Republicans that has hampered President Barack Obama’s administration. The final straw that changed the mind of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-VT) was the filibuster of the last three court appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, regarded as second only to the Supreme Court in influence, it plays a central role in upholding or knocking down federal regulations. The court was evenly divided between Democratic and Republican appointed judges with three vacancies that the Republicans were determined to keep vacant, along with the other 90 court vacancies, so long as Barack Obama was in the Oval Office. Thinking that Reid would never go “nuclear” and lacked the votes, the Republicans overplayed their hand angering the Democratic holdouts against limiting the filibuster. The changes will apply to all 1,183 executive branch nominations that require Senate confirmation, not just cabinet positions but hundreds of high- and mid-level federal agency jobs and government board seats. Needless to say, the Republicans are angry, as this also puts into play the possibility of ending filibuster altogether.

With filibuster gone, there is still an obstacle for judicial appointments known as the “blue slip rule.” As Kevin Drum explains at Mother Jones:

One of the Senate’s oldest traditions is that judicial nominees require approval from their home-state senators before they can move forward, and that approval comes in the form of a blue slip returned to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. [..]

   Pre-1994: Generally speaking, only one blue-slip is needed for a nominee to move forward.

   1995-2000: Republicans take control of Senate and decide that two blue slips should be required. This makes it easier to kill Clinton nominees.

   2001: George Bush is elected president. Republicans no longer want to make it easy to block nominees, so they return to the rule that only one blue-slip is required to move forward.

   2001-02: Jim Jeffords defects, putting Democrats back in control of the Senate. They return to the rule requiring two blue-slips to proceed.

   2003: Republicans win back control of the Senate. They up the ante by effectively moving to a zero blue-slip rule: they’ll allow hearings on nominees even if no senators return blue-slips. Democrats threaten to filibuster over this rather obvious abuse of power and insist on a return to the two blue-slip rule.

   2007-Present: Democrats win control of the Senate and Pat Leahy of Vermont becomes chairman of the Judiciary Committe. Leahy is a traditionalist who maintains the two blue-slip rule.

By maintaining this rule, Sen. Leahy hurts Obama’s nominees in red states  where aggressive Republican refuse to approve even moderate judges.

As Chairman of this Committee, I have steadfastly protected the rights of the minority. I have done so despite criticism from Democrats. I have only proceeded with judicial nominations supported by both home state Senators. That has meant that we are not able to proceed on current nominees from Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Louisiana. I even stopped proceedings on a circuit court nominee from Kansas when the Kansas Republican Senators reversed themselves and withdrew their support for the nominee. I had to deny the Majority Leader’s request to push a Nevada nominee through Committee because she did not have the support of Nevada’s Republican Senator. I will put my record of consistent fairness up against that of any Judiciary chairman.

Perhaps this was why, even as a traditionalist, Sen. Leahy voted to change the filibuster rule.

On MSNBC’s All In, host Chris Hayes discusses the new rules and the history of filibuster with Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Tim Kaine (D-VA); former spokesman for Sen. Reid Jim Manley; and former Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin.

Nov 21 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Harry Finally Did It

After months of Republican obstruction, the Senate Democrats voted to end the need for 60 votes to bring the name of a executive or judicial nominee to the floor for approval. The vote to end filibuster passes 52 to 48 with three Democrats voting against the change, Senator Carl Levin (MI), Joe Manchin (WV) and Mark Pryor (AR).

With the rare presence of all 100 senators seated and Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) presiding as the president pro tempore, the change began when Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called up the nomination of Patricia Millett to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for another vote. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) then called for a five hour recess for time to find a resolution to void the rules change. That motion failed 46 – 54.

Reid opened debate in the morning by saying that it has become “so, so very obvious” that the Senate is broken and in need of rules reform. He rolled through a series of statistics intended to demonstrate that the level of obstruction under President Barack Obama outpaced any historical precedent.

Half the nominees filibustered in the history of the United States were blocked by Republicans during the Obama administration; of 23 district court nominees filibustered in U.S. history, 20 were Obama’s nominees, and even judges that have broad bipartisan support have had to wait nearly 100 days longer, on average, than President George W. Bush’s nominees.

“It’s time to change before this institution becomes obsolete,” he said, citing scripture — “One must not break his word” — in accusing Minority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) of breaking his promise to work in a more bipartisan fashion.

McConnell responded to Reid by changing the subject to the Affordable Care Act and accusing Democrats of trying to distract Americans from the law’s troubled rollout. Getting around to fidelity, McConnell noted that Reid had said in July that “we’re not touching judges,” yet he was now choosing to do so. Reid casually brushed off his suit coat and sat down.

The Senate has finally put a partial end to a stupid rule that was originally intended to extend debate not block it. Now that the Democrats have shown some spine, the next move is to end the 60 vote threshold altogether.

Nov 21 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Filibuster Reform May Have Met Its Time

Yes, I know. It deja vu all over again, as Yogi would say. Lucy will snatch the football away again and whatever cliche that fits. Only this time the Republicans have boxed themselves in with their arguments over their blocking of President Barack Obama’s last three judicial appointments to the vacancies on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. This is Greg Sargent’s assessment after the last filibuster of nominee Robert Wilkins, who is currently a U.S. District Court judge in Washington.

Senator Harry Reid appears set to go nuclear – before Thanksgiving. [..]

Reid has concluded Senate Republicans have no plausible way of retreating from the position they’ve adopted in this latest Senate rules standoff, the aide says. Republicans have argued that in pushing nominations, Obama is “packing” the court, and have insisted that Obama is trying to tilt the court’s ideological balance in a Democratic direction – which is to say that the Republican objection isn’t to the nominees Obama has chosen, but to the fact that he’s trying to nominate anyone at all.

Reid believes that, having defined their position this way, Republicans have no plausible route out of the standoff other than total capitulation on the core principle they have articulated, which would be a “pretty dramatic reversal,” the aide continues.

“They’ve boxed themselves in – their position allows them no leeway,” the aide says, in characterizing Reid’s thinking. “This is not a trumped up argument about the qualification of a nominee. They are saying, `we don’t want any nominees.'”

The aide says Reid believes he now has 51 Dem Senators behind a rules change, if it comes down to it. The Huffington Post reports that some Dem Senators who have previously opposed changing the rules – such as Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein – are now open to it. “I believe that we are there,” the aide tells me.

With Boxer, Feinstein and Pat Leahy (D-VT) aboard, even if Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) are noncommittal and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) firmly opposed, Reid ]may well have the 51 votes to reform. Reid met Wednesday with the advocates of reform and an invitation went out from Reid for a meeting on Thursday to discuss the rules change.

In an interview with The Huffington Post on Wednesday, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), one of the loudest champions of narrowing the filibuster, insisted that this wouldn’t be yet another instance of the football being placed invitingly in front of Charlie Brown’s foot. After a showdown this January resulted in a toothless set of procedural changes and another standoff this summer resulted in a fleeting pact between the parties, Democrats are beyond frustrated, the Oregon Democrat said. [..]

Aides on the Hill are equally adamant that this isn’t some big bluff on Reid’s part. One top aide told The Huffington Post that even if Republicans simply allowed for up-and-down votes on the president’s three nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (the nexus of this current filibuster fight) it wouldn’t dramatically alter the party’s thinking.

Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC’s All In, discussed why Harry Reid should use the nuclear option with Senator Jeff Merkley Dahlia Lithwick and Alan Frumin.

Reid is expected to move on reform before Thanksgiving. It could come as early as Friday. I am not holding my breath.

Nov 13 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Filibuster Reform Discussed Again

The side show over filibuster and Republican obstruction of President Barack Obama’s appointments to cabinet positions and to vacant seats on the bench, especially to the DC Circuit which hears some of the most important constitutional cases, has once again begun amidst the main event of the failure the roll out of the ACA. Senate Republicans filibustered a judicial nomination to the DC Circuit Court

President Obama’s latest choice to fill one of the vacancies on a powerful appeals court went down in a filibuster on Tuesday as Senate Republicans blocked another White House nominee – the third in two weeks – and deepened a growing conflict with Democrats over presidential appointments.

By a vote of 56 to 41, the nomination of Cornelia T. L. Pillard, a Georgetown law professor, fell short of clearing the necessary 60-vote threshold. [..]

The disagreements carried over onto the Senate floor on Tuesday, as Democrats accused Republicans of blocking a perfectly qualified woman for political purposes, while Republicans said Democrats were desperately looking for a wedge issue.

Looming underneath their disagreements about Ms. Pillard is the likelihood – which appeared to grow considerably on Tuesday – that the fight will escalate and result in a change to the Senate rules to limit the minority party’s ability to filibuster judicial nominees.

Senator Richard J. Durbin, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, warned Republicans that they were pushing the Senate dangerously close to a tipping point.

The Republicans attempt to reframe the argument saying that the DC Circuit isn’t as busy as other courts such as the 2nd Circuit in New York. The court handles most of the legal challenges to federal agencies, putting it at the center of fights over regulations – including the healthcare reform law and Obama’s push to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. After Tuesday’s vote, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) said, “We’re going by the standards that Democrats set in 2006.”

Their strategy: lock in the current 4-4 court by eliminating the empty seats and redistributing them to other circuits, because some other courts (ones that aren’t the first recourse for people suing Congress over legislation) have more cases. “In 2012, there were 512 ‘administrative appeals’ filed in D.C.,” said Grassley on Tuesday. “In the 2nd Circuit, there were 1,493. Stated differently, in D.C. there were only 64 administrative appeals per active judge. The 2nd Circuit has nearly twice as many with 115.”

That framing, which seemed like a stretch-no one also denies that the D.C. Circuit gets more pivotal cases than the 2nd Circuit-has since been universally adopted by the right. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, the sort of Republican whom Democrats like to cut deals with, has endorsed Grassley’s Court Efficiency Act because it would “bring a reasonable end to the destructive partisan fights to which both parties have contributed.” A third-party ad hitting Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor (a Gang of 14 member) right now accuses him of trying to “pack a key court with liberal judges” because he doesn’t want to eliminate the three open seats. Grassley points out that Democrats blocked a 2006 Bush nominee on the grounds that the seat didn’t need to be filled-what more evidence does he need?

“We’re going by the standards that Democrats set in 2006,” said Grassley after Tuesday’s vote. “They said that we didn’t need any more judges. And that’s exactly what I’m telling ’em, what they said! We’re just doing what they said. They set the standard and they can’t say we’re doing this because we’ve got a Democratic president, because I got a judge removed, the 12th one removed, when we had a Republican president.””

The problem with Grassley’s argument is that in 2006, the Republican’s got what they wanted. By threatening the “nuclear option,” the Democrats backed down and three very conservative, ideologues were appointed to the DC circuit. Funny how the Republicans can now support that which they opposed seven years ago.

Support for filibuster reform picked up a new supporter after the vote, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

“If the Republican caucus continues to abuse the filibuster rule and obstruct the president’s fine nominees to the D.C. Circuit, then I believe … a rules change should be in order,” Leahy said on the Senate floor, just before Republicans blocked Nina Pillard’s confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“That is not a change that I’ve wanted to see happen,” he continued. “But if Republican senators are going to hold nominees hostage without consideration of a nominee’s individual merits, drastic measures may be warranted.”

Leahy, laughing at the Republican excuse that each judge costs $1 million per year, stated the Republican government shut down cost billions of dollars that would have funded those appointments for years.

Contributing editor at the National Journal and resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Norm Ornstein laid out his reasons why it was time to stop the filibuster madness

Mel Watt was nominated by President Obama to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency-and was blocked by a Republican filibuster. The rationale that Watt was not qualified for the position was flimsy at best. If individual senators wanted to vote against him, they certainly have the right to do so on any basis. But to deny the president his choice for this post, a veteran and moderate lawmaker with sterling credentials and moral character, via filibuster, is nothing short of outrageous. Only two Republicans in the Senate, Rob Portman and Richard Burr, Watt’s colleague from North Carolina, voted for cloture.

Watt was not the only victim of a drive-by filibuster; so was Patricia Millett, a superbly qualified and mainstream nominee for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Only two Republicans supported cloture here; Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, and three others voted “present” (which was no help, since anything but a vote for cloture is meaningless with a rule requiring 60 votes, period, to end debate). The rationale here was even more flimsy than that used against Watt, namely that Obama is trying to “pack” the D.C. Circuit. FDR tried to “pack” the Supreme Court by adding seats to the existing Court. Barack Obama is moving to fill long-standing vacancies on the D.C. Circuit. On this Circuit, thanks to a slew of retired judges appointed by presidents long gone, conservatives have an edge that Mitch McConnell is determined to keep no matter what.

When Harry Reid and McConnell reached a deal on filibusters in January, it was clear that a key component of that deal was that Republicans in the Senate would give due deference to a newly reelected president in his executive nominations, and would only oppose judicial nominations for courts of appeals under “extraordinary circumstances,” which clearly means judges without clear qualifications or experience, or extreme ideologies. No one could accuse Millett of either of those characteristics. This is all about denying a president the right to pick judges to fill existing vacancies. Two more nominees for the D.C. Circuit are coming up soon, the real test of whether Republicans will continue to flout the January agreement and threaten fundamental comity in the Senate. [..]

If the other two D.C. Circuit nominees are filibustered and blocked, I would support Harry Reid’s move to change the rules now, to move from a 60-vote requirement to stop debate and vote to a 40-vote requirement to continue debate. The argument that if he does so, Republicans will do the same thing when they take the White House and Senate is a bad one: Can anyone doubt that McConnell would blow up the filibuster rule in a nanosecond if he had the ability to fill all courts with radical conservatives like Janice Rogers Brown for decades to come? I hope it does not come to this-and that the problem solvers in the Senate keep their titles, preserve their institution, and stop the filibuster madness.

But does Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have the votes? Even with Leahy’s support this time, there may not be the 51 votes needed.

“If we can’t move ahead based on how the procedures have been perverted, we need to fix the procedures. That’s the deal,” said Larry Cohen, president of Communications Workers of America, which is leading a coalition lobbying for changes to filibuster rules.

Cohen said Reid “is willing” to change the rules but “the question is whether the leader can get 50 Democrats, not 49 or 48, to sustain that motion.”

A senior Democratic aide said Reid has not conducted a recent whip count and questioned how outside groups or rank-and-file Democratic senators would know the vote count if the leader attempted a rule change immediately.

“Any declarative statements at this point are extremely premature,” said the senior aide.

A cloture vote on the nomination on Robert Wilkins, a third nominee to the court, will be held in the near future. The Republicans have already indicated that his  nomination will also be filibustered. We’ll see if reform of this antiquated, misused rule gains more support after that.  

Jul 16 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Compromise? Reached On Presidential Nominees

Harry and the Democrats have once again backed off fixing the unconstitutional filibuster rule in the Senate that has allowed the minority party to stall everything from nominees to offices, the bench and passing legislation this session.

A tentative agreement to avert reforming filibuster on presidential nominees to administrative positions was reached during the night on an unusual private session between the two caucuses.

The deal, which was negotiated primarily between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), was described by a Senate Democratic aide as one in which the Republican Party will allow votes to confirm the seven executive nominees, provided that Obama replaces his two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board with two other names. Those nominees would have a commitment “in writing” from GOP leadership to get a vote, the Democratic aide said.  [..]

Getting replacements for the NLRB nominees is, more or less, a face-saving measure for the GOP leadership. Republicans had argued that the nominees, Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, were irrevocably tainted because Obama elevated them as recess appointments, which were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Democrats countered that such taint would have been wiped away had Block and Griffin received a clean vote by the Senate. [..]

Under the proposed deal between the two parties, which the Democratic aide cautioned was “not final yet” as of 11:00 a.m., Reid would also retain the right to consider rules reform in the future. There are “no conditions or restrictions on future action whatsoever,” the aide said. Another aide confirmed that position.

According news reports from aids, Reid had stopped talking to minority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, choosing instead to broker a deal through McCain.

The cloture vote on Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was taken late this morning, passing 79 – 29 thus ending the filibuster on his nomination. Final confirmation will take place later today.

There are some Democrats not satisfied with the tentative deal over Block and Gross:

Republicans have balked as the question to whether their recess appointments are constitutional awaits a Supreme Court decision this fall. Instead, Republicans are hoping to slot in two new Democratic-chosen NLRB members in place of Block and Griffin, a move sure to rile up the liberal wing of the party.

Democrats tried to come up with some potential replacement for Block and Griffin over the weekend, but have been unsuccessful up to this point. [..]

Some veteran Democrats, however, are standing by Block and Griffin, and are urging Reid and the White House not to cave to GOP pressure, as are labor leaders.

“If it’s a deal that somehow carves out Sharon Block and Richard Griffin from going on the NLRB, then I am going to be standing up. Because I think it would be grossly unfair to throw them out simply to make a deal,” declared Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). “Until the Supreme Court decides it, they have every right to be where they are.”

The Democratic leadership is concerned with threats made by Republicans that if they win the Senate in 2014, they would change the Senate rules in such a way as to completely block any presidential nominees and enable them to push though their agenda. The question is what is to stop them from doing this anyway? Does anyone really believe that a Republican led senate would tolerate a Democratic minority obstructing their agenda? Republicans have already threatened random acts of obstruction should Democrats exercise the option. But, truthfully, how much more obstructive can they get?

If the Democrats expect to get anything done or anyone confirmed to the bench before they lose their majority, they needed to do it now.  

Jul 12 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Filibuster Reform Is Back

Once again Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is rumbling about reforming filibuster as the GOP minority continues to block confirmation of President Barack Obama’s nominees for key administration offices. On Thursday, Reid took to the floor of the senate slamming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for breaking his word on confirmations.

This latest confrontation is over seven pending nominees, including leaders for the Labor Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, a consumer protection agency and vacancies to a politically important labor law oversight board. While Republicans signaled a path to confirmation for the EPA and Labor nominees, the parties remained at loggerheads over Obama’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). McConnell objected to trying to confirm officials already on the board who were “unlawfully” appointed in a recess session. If the Senate fails to act on the nominees for the NLRB, it will cease to function at the end of August. The rules change that is being proposed would not effect judicial nominees which would still be subject to filibuster

McConnell shot back calling this stand off the “darkest days of the senate” and, on his campaign Facebook page posted an image of Reid’s tombstone with the words “Killed the Senate.” While Reid agreed to a closed door private conversation in the Old Senate Chambers with all the Senators, it was after a 75 minute private meeting with McConnell, that Reid emerged adamantly stating that he wanted the nominees approved, or the rules changed.

One of the proponents of reforming filibuster, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), circulated a memo to his Democratic colleagues on the history of filibuster, countering the Republican cries of that the rules change would be “unprecedented”:

“The notion that changing Senate procedure with a simple majority vote is ‘changing the rules by breaking the rules’ is an absolute falsehood,” reads the memo, which was provided to The Huffington Post. “Indeed, the Senate appears to have changed its procedures by simple majority … 18 times since 1977, an average of once every other year.”

Merkley Memo On Filibuster

Merkley is working with Reid, who appears to be more committed to reform this time. One anonymous aid advocating for reform said he believed that Reid had the 51 votes which could include Vice Pres. Joe Biden as the “51st” vote to break a tie.

Reid has called for a cloture vote on the nominees for next week. Being a skeptic about Reid’s leadership and his resolve in the past on reform, I’ll believe it when it happens.

Mar 14 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Filibuster Ain’t Reformed

Here we are again, talking about filibuster reform. Despite the insistence of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), it ain’t fixed by any stretch of your imagination. It wasn’t Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and his 13 hour filibuster of CIA Director John Brennan’s nomination that set this off but the blocking of a qualified appointments by using the same cloture tactic that has been applied to stop nearly everything productive out of the Senate. The Democratic leadership has no one to blame but themselves and now they are scrambling to fix this disaster.

Top Democrats Badly Blew It on the Filibuster

by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Huffington Post

Supposedly, the saving grace in all this is that in 2014 and beyond, Democrats might lose their majority in the Senate to the GOP and then they’ll need the filibuster as their weapon to hold the GOP in check from riding roughshod over the Obama administration in getting its legislative initiatives through. But this is all guesswork and sophistry in trying to predict the future. The reality is that in the two years that the Democrats hold their Senate majority until January 2015 there will be countless numbers of presidential nominations that need to be approved, and crucial legislation from budget bills to immigration reform proposals that the Obama administration and Democrats will be pushing. And even if the GOP does take majority control of the Senate in January 2015, there’s absolutely no guarantee that it won’t simply rewrite the rules to do what Reid didn’t do, and that’s sharply limit how and when the filibuster can be used. The loser would still be the Democrats, because that’s who the GOP would target. [..]

In the meantime, the filibuster with all of its terrifying potential to delay or style effective legislation and the confirmation of Obama nominees that have been trapped in limbo for months, even years, remains in full play. Here’s a final stat to drive home just how terrifying and damaging it has been. Since 2007, according to the Senate Historical Office, Democrats have had to end Republican filibusters more than 360 times. That is a record. With Obama in the White House for three more years, the GOP, thanks to the failure of top Democrat’s to do something about it, may even break that record.

Senate Dems Weigh Consequences For GOP Filibusters Of Key Nominees

by Brain Beutler, Talking Points Memo

Senate Democratic leaders have engaged in preliminary discussions about how to address Republican procedural obstruction, according to a senior Democratic aide, reflecting an awareness that key administration and judicial vacancies might never be filled, and that a watered-down rules reform deal the parties struck early this Congress has failed. [..]

The source said conversations are still too preliminary for Democrats to lay out publicly potential avenues of recourse just yet. And the last thing leaders want is to create the expectation that they will change the filibuster rules in the middle of the current Senate session. But they are occurring in the wake of a series of GOP filibusters of top nominees, including a cabinet secretary (Chuck Hagel), the CIA director (John Brennan), and a federal judicial nominee (Caitlin Halligan) whom Republicans have effectively blocked from confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for years.

Elizabeth Warren Slams Republicans For Filibustering Consumer Protection Agency Chief

by Sahil Kapur, Talking Points Memo

“From the way I see how other agencies are treated, I see nothing here but a filibuster threat against Director Cordray as an attempt to weaken the consumer agency,” she said at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the CFPB nomination. “I think the delay in getting him confirmed is bad for consumers, it’s bad for small banks, it’s bad for credit unions, it’s bad for anyone trying to offer an honest product in an honest market.

“The American people,” Warren said, “deserve a Congress that worries less about helping big banks and more about helping regular people who have been cheated on mortgages, on credit cards, on student loans, on credit records.” [..]

“What I want to know is why, since the 1800s, have there been agencies all over Washington with a single director, including the OCC, but unlike the consumer agency, no one in the U.S. Senate has held up confirmation of their directors demanding that the agency be redesigned,” Warren said.

“What I want to know is why every banking regulator since the Civil War has been funded outside the appropriations process but unlike the consumer agency no one in the United States Senate has held up confirmation of their directors demanding that that agency or those agencies be redesigned.”

Now the president decides to get involved.

Obama To Senate Dems: We Need Solution To GOP’s Confirmation Filibusters

by Brian Beutler, Talking Points Memo

n a closed door lunch meeting with Senate Democrats on Tuesday, President Obama expressed his frustration with Republican slow-walking and filibustering of key nominees, and urged them to address the issue, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide. [.]

The White House official said Obama “made it clear that it was a priority – particularly with judges and asked for more help identifying nominees and getting them passed.”

Though some of his supporters complain the administration has been slow to name people to fill judicial vacancies, Republicans have blocked or slow-walked the confirmation many of the people he has nominated.

Pres. Obama may may have another motivation to push for filibuster reform with the threats from Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to filibuster any cuts to entitlements.

Jan 25 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: The Last Word on Filibuster Reform

Tom Harkin: Filibuster Reform Failure Hamstrings Obama Agenda

by Michael McAuliff

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) warned President Barack Obama that he “might as well take a four-year vacation” if the Senate fails to pass real filibuster reform — and the plan being unveiled Thursday by Senate leaders doesn’t qualify, the veteran lawmaker said. [..]

“Does it help a little bit? Anything helps around here,” Harkin said of the leaders’ filibuster plan. “It still will provide a system where people can filibuster and they don’t even have to come here.” [..]

“I said to President Obama back in August … and I said to him the night before the election, I said to him, ‘Look, if you get reelected, if we don’t do something significant about filibuster reform, you might as well take a four-year vacation,'” Harkin said. “This is not significant.”

The president is left with few options, Harkin added.

“He can go out and give wonderful speeches and things like that, but with the House in the hands it’s in and the fact that in the Senate now you have to have 60 votes to pass anything, well, I dare say that Obama’s package — his very aggressive proposals — will not get very far,” said Harkin.

I will give the last word on filibuster reform to MSNBC “The Ed Show” host Ed Schultz:

Is Harry Reid really a Democrat?

Jan 24 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Filibuster,” the Dead Hand of the Past”

Reports are coming that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have reach a deal on watered down reform of filibuster.

Progressive senators working to dramatically alter Senate rules were defeated on Thursday, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), set to announce a series of compromise reforms on the Senate floor that fall far short of the demands. [..]

The deal will address the filibuster on the motion to proceed by changing the amount of debate time that would follow a cloture vote from 30 hours to four, speeding up Senate business and allowing more legislation to reach the floor. But the deal still requires Democrats to muscle 60 votes to invoke cloture on that motion, despite Reid’s earlier suggestion that he would bar a filibuster on that motion entirely.

An alternate route to get past the motion to proceed will be implemented as a change to the rules, and a filibuster on the motion would be barred if the majority can find eight members of the minority, including the minority leader, to sign a petition. But Democrats already have 55 members in their caucus, five short of the 60 needed to end a filibuster, so it’s unclear what the purpose of getting three additional Republicans would be.

Under the agreement, the minority party will be able to offer two amendments on each bill, a major concession to Republicans. This change is made only as a standing order, not a rules change, and expires at the end of the term.

The new rules will also make it easier for the majority to appoint conferees once a bill has passed, but leaves in place the minority’s ability to filibuster that motion once — meaning that even after the Senate and House have passed a bill, the minority can still mount a filibuster one more time.

Huffington Post has obtained copies of the language of the deal. It can be read  here (pdf) and here (pdf).

On “The Ed Show,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) joined Ed Schultz to to share his thoughts on Reid’s plan and whether or not he’ll support it.

This is a incredibly disappointing deal but not unexpected coming from Sen. Reid. As Jon Walker at FDL Action noted, this is a concession of power to the minority Republicans:

If Senate Democrats actually vote for this worthless package instead of actual reform they will be effectively choosing to cede their power to the Republican Party. Democrats have won a majority in the Senate and can fully control it as the Constitution intended. Voting for this package is voting to give the Republican minority a veto they did not earn at the ballot box.

This is another one of Harry’s wimpy hand shakes. Mitch McConnell has once again won against the odds. Thanks, Harry, for nothing, again.

Jan 23 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Filbuster Reform is Giving Harry a Headache

Don’t Stop Now! Call Reid’s office at 202-224-3542, and tell him to include the talking filibuster and/or flipping the burden of the filibuster.

Reform the Filbuster

Sign the Petition

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a headache, Filibuster Reform.

Filibuster reform has become a headache for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Reid is stuck in the middle, between liberal senators pushing hard for drastic reform and senior Democrats balking at changing the culture of the upper chamber. [..]

Reid has begun to show signs of impatience with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), with whom he has been negotiating for weeks. He said Tuesday that he and McConnell have made progress, but added, “[W]e’ve got a long way to go.”

The Nevada Democrat said he would give Republicans another 24 to 36 hours to agree to filibuster reform and then trigger the so-called nuclear option. This controversial tactic would allow him to change the Senate rules with a simple majority vote.

Sen.  Reid insists that reform is at the top of his agenda, even though it has been delayed almost three weeks to give time for negotiations with the recalcitrant Republican minority who have used the current rule to virtually halt government. While progressive Democrats back the reforms put forth by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Tom Udall (D-NM), including “talking filibuster,” Sen. Reid has put forth his own proposal as a compromise in an attempt to placate six more senior Democrats who are reluctant to pass reform with a simple majority vote:

The proposals include eliminating filibusters on motions to proceed, and an idea proposed by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) that would shift the burden onto the minority by requiring 41 members to vote in order to maintain a filibuster, rather than requiring the majority to find 60 votes to end a filibuster. [..]

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), a co-sponsor of the scaled-back, bipartisan filibuster reform package, also said he supports putting some onus on the minority to keep a filibuster going. [..] Levin said he continues to have problems with a nuclear option. [..] Levin said he supports getting rid of the filibuster on the motion to proceed, but again held out hope for an agreement. [..]

One of the proponents of stronger filibuster reform, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), took to the floor a little later to demand that the Senate not take half measures. [..] Udall suggested the constitutional option need not actually be invoked. [..] But he added that if Republicans don’t agree, Democrats have a responsibility to act.

If there is any hope of the Senate passing comprehensive immigration reform and gun violence prevention, along with education, infrastructure, the Violence Against Women Act, veterans aid, climate change, tax loopholes, voter suppression and the farm bill, ending filibuster gridlock is a must.

The question of whether Democrats can get this done was the topic of discussion this past weekend on Up with Chris Hayes. Host Chris Hayes was joined by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM); Patrick Gaspard, executive director of the Democratic National Committee; Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress; and Jen Psaki, former Obama White House deputy communications director.

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