The filibuster is in jeopardy


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Back in the darkest days of the Bush administration and Tom DeLay’s house of horrors, Republicans threatened to nuke the Senate filibuster. I’m proud to say my colleagues at Daily Kos and I responded with, go for it. It’s a dumb arcane artifact of Senate rules that obstructs ledge and gives individual and small groups of senators the ability to legally shake down industries and star in their own dramatic CSPAN grandstand. Since 2008 the GOP has used it a record number of times to thwart progressive policies and block everything in sight. It appears Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has finally had enough:

WaPo — With Senate Republicans blocking a third Obama nomination to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, a senior Senate Democratic leadership aide tells me Reid is now all but certain to move to change the Senate rules by simple majority — doing away with the filibuster on executive and judicial nominations, with the exception of the Supreme Court – as early as this week.

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.

I’d like to think Obama is trying to tilt the courts. That’s one of the prizes in winning the WH and we did win, twice. But far from being the socialist revolutionary secular politician — who won’t even say God in the Gettysburg Address! — Barack Obama is a careful, center-left, albeit overall competent chief executive. Hopefully Reid will push the red button despite WH and Senate reluctance. But I’ll believe it when I see it. In my view, it’s in the DNA of both Reid and Obama to compromise and triangulate a little too much, especially considering the obstruction and vitriol they’ve gotten in return.


  1. Al Dente says

    I disagree with one thing you say. Obama is not center-left. 20 years ago he would have been a moderate, so-called Rockefeller Republican. So I think he’s center-right. Yeah, the Overton Window has shifted that much.

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    The filibuster ain’t what it used to be. Back in the good old days, a senator had to actually filibuster. Take hte floor and hold it for a considerable length of time. Now it’ more like each and every senator has a veto. Good riddance to that.

  3. Holms says

    The filibuster is easily the most ridiculous political device I have ever learned about since I started noticing American politics. The fact that it is actually enshrined in law that a person who feels like being a dick can simply stop the government deciding certain things is just staggering to this Australian; by contrast, our political debates and such are all controlled with strict time limits so as to stop any obstruction or grandstanding.

    To paraphrase Asterix, you yanks are crazy.

  4. cottonnero says

    Center-right. Obama’s the best Republican president we’ve had since at least Eisenhower.

    I wouldn’t mind retaining the filibuster if it was the old must-keep-talking-no-bathroom-breaks version.

  5. says

    This is Reid. Any filibuster reform he’ll put to vote would be watered down and weak. So weak that it’ll allow, like, three more votes.

    The usual refrain of “remember if the filibuster is gone then the GOP will ram legislation through if ever they win the Senate” is misplaced.

    This GOP will gut the filibuster the first chance they get and ram through all legislation they want.

    Reid should have done it four years ago. He can do it now, but he will only do the lamest of reforms.

    @5, absolutely spot on about Obama.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    The president whose foreign policy has consisted in following the Bush-Cheney blueprint for the Middle East to the letter, whose proudest achievement is enacting a 20-year-old health care plan from the Heritage Foundation, and whose major legacy (so far) is a permanent maximum surveillance state reaching around the globe (though the damage from that may well be surpassed by the corporate-written Trans-Pacific Piracy Pact) that president qualifies as “center-left“?!?

    Somebody watches too much cable tv “news”…

  7. Holms says

    That just shows the malleability of politics and culture. Yesterday’s progressive is today’s average joe, and tomorrow’s conservative. Americans, ever the exceptionalists, have reversed this wisdom thanks to the new right turning yesterday’s Orwellian thug a centrist by comparison.

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