Saturday, December 29, 2012

All Current Filibuster Reform Proposals Are Small

We've got two Senate procedural reform proposals under heavy discussion these days -- the "talking filibuster" proposal from younger reformers like Merkley and Udall, and something else from McCain and Levin. As far as I can tell, neither proposal would've broken Dixiecrat filibusters of civil rights legislation, Republican filibusters of health care reform, or future Republican filibusters of climate change. Merkley's people think their proposal will help with smaller stuff here and there, and maybe it will. But it looks like Republicans can still block anything with an unending talking filibuster manned by Senators from conservative states who fear primaries more than general elections, and therefore are controlled by Fox News (there are at least 15 of these guys). Jonathan Bernstein has convincingly argued that that is the most likely outcome.

Because of this, I'm more focused on the long-term consequences for the Senate. Whatever happens this time around, I hope it eases the path to some kind of massive filibuster reform in the years to come. 


Nick Beaudrot said...

I'm not so convinced by Bernstein's argument that the Merkley/Udall reform would result in no change to the status quo. My argument is that right now a filibuster is cost-free for the minority. Requiring the minority to actually do something in order to maintain a filibuster means its no longer cost free. So in some set of situations where previously a filibuster could be maintained, enough people will decide that it's too much work to maintain it. Even Mitch McConnell has some things he'd like to see happen; having all floor time consumed by a filibuster would be an inconvenience to him. Yes, it would be more inconvenient to the majority, but right now the filibuster is purely inconvenient to the majority.

Neil Sinhababu said...

I think our disagreement comes down to whether right-wing media will offer rewards to counterbalance the costs of filibustering. If they don't, your analysis is right. But if they do, Republicans will be eager to do a talking filibuster and please their base.

Neil Sinhababu said...

I'd put it this way: Every Susan Rice has a Benghazi, and every reasonable bill can be made unacceptable to right-wingers on ludicrous grounds.