Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Or Maybe Not?

Kevin Drum thinks that the Udall filibuster tweaks won't mean much: "Finally, there's #5: require honest to goodness Jimmy-Stewart-talk-til-you-drop debate if you want to filibuster a bill. It's not clear just how this would work technically, but in any case it's not really much of an impediment to filibusters. If you have 40 senators willing to join in, each one just reads the phone book for an hour or two and then yields. That's about one hour of phone book reading per week per senator, which is hardly onerous. In fact, it's so obviously non-onerous that I imagine it changes nothing in practice."

To coin a phrase, it depends on what your definition of change is. A number of bills and nominations have had their final passage/confirmation delayed, despite eventually garnering support far in excess of 60 votes. I find it hard to believe that Mitch McConnell is going to be able to get 40 of his colleagues to waste their time yakking about the perils of appointing Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board, or the tyranny of the Food Safety bill. These bills would likely pass and pass quickly. Yes, large, high-impact pieces of legislation—like health care reform—would still be subject to filibuster-based delay. But more run-of-the-mill stuff would likely hit the President's desk much more quickly, and with fewer brain-dead concessions to the opposition.

Nonetheless, this is yet another reason why requiring 40 no-on-cloture votes is a good idea (a number of cloture votes failed with the minority having fewer than 40 votes, but several Senators not being present).

1 comment:

low-tech cyclist said...

Exactly. When 'filibustering' simply means letting the Minority Leader that one is not willing to go along with granting unanimous consent in certain situations, it's easy to do a lot of it.

But the proposed Udall-Merkley reform would require a commitment of time by the members of the minority. Since time is a scarce asset for all of us, this means that they'd filibuster when they felt it was worth a serious commitment of time, and not do so otherwise. Which is the way it should be.

Also, the fact that the filibuster is a 'talking filibuster' under this reform is something we should be excited about, because it's going to make Dems look better and the GOP look worse, by and large. We're going to be filibustering things that only a rich minority want, and they're going to be filibustering stuff that most Americans are for. In both cases, the more public the filibuster is, the better we do.