Why the Dems should eliminate the filibuster on Motions to Proceed NOW
by RT, Tue Apr 27, 2010 at 09:06:06 AM EDT
Given the current state of play over Wall Street reform, I think the Dems are blowing an opportunity right now to exercise their authority under Article I, Section 5 to determine what the Senate rules are, and set a valuable political precedent, establishing its authority for being able to change the rules by majority vote.
The argument for waiting for January to rewrite the Senate rules is that the incoming Senate won't have given its implied consent to the pre-existing rules by operating under those rules.
The arguments against waiting for January are fourfold:
1) Regardless of the argument for waiting for January, what it takes to change the rules is the same at any time: the votes of 50 Senators, and the willingness of the President of the Senate to overrule the inevitable ruling by the Senate Parliamentarian that a 2/3 majority is required; and
2) there won't be as many Dems in January as there are now, so finding 50 votes will be more of a challenge.
The Dems could find themselves with as few as 50-51 Senators in their caucus in January, two of whom will be Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson. The Dems simply may not have 50 votes for changing the rules, come January.
3) If the Dems lose 6-8 seats in November, any effort to change the rules to make it more possible to govern with a bare majority will be portrayed as an effort to undo the results of the election by changing the rules.
I know it's unfair, but it'll happen, it'll be echoed by the Villagers, and it'll be a PR disaster. We all know how this game is played, and we can expect the GOP to play it with its usual ruthlessness, and for the pundits to be worse than useless.
4) Finally, the Dems have a real opportunity now. If there's any sillier aspect of Rule 22 than allowing filibusters of a Motion to Proceed - i.e. voting to keep debating whether or not a bill should be debated - I can't think of it.
It may not be the silliest thing in the Senate rulebook (the need for unanimous consent to hold committee meetings after 2pm is certainly sillier), but it's the silliest one that gets regularly invoked. And the Dems are going to force the GOP to invoke it all week.
So NEXT week, the Dems should vote to change the rule so that a motion to proceed can't be filibustered.
With 59 Senators, they have at least a decent chance to get 50 votes for the rule change. And there'd be no really good PR argument against their doing so - sure, it's a bit of strong-arming, but no matter how much fuss Fox News or Rush Limbaugh or even the Villagers raise over the change, most people will have no idea what the fuss is about, and any effort to get people riled up about it will be doomed to failure. Not to mention, this is exactly the bill that you want to do this with: the public wants Wall Street reform, and the party that's blocking it is the one that will look steadily worse as more attention is drawn to their efforts to block it.
That's what the Dems SHOULD do. But sadly, they won't. Sigh.