Filibuster reform votes expected today

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Today, votes are expected on the filibuster reform efforts led by Senators Jeff Merkley, Tom Udall (D-NM), and Tom Harkin (D-IA).

Unfortunately, however, the procedural pathway has gotten bollixed up. It's complex, and I don't entirely get it, but the short version is that the Republicans have found a procedural mechanism to force a 67-vote threshold, rather than the 51-vote "constitutional option".

The video is Jeff Merkley's appearance last night on the Rachel Maddow show to explain what's happening.

Here's more from an email Merkley sent to supporters this morning:

In the few hours left before the vote, I'll be doing everything I can to convince my colleagues from both parties to bring transparency and accountability to the Senate by making filibustering Senators hold the floor. This is about replacing the current “silent” filibuster with the “talking” filibuster.” If 41 Senators say they want additional debate, then we will have that debate!

This will strip away the frivolous filibusters that are currently paralyzing the Senate. And it will make the Senate filibuster transparent and accountable to the American citizens. Americans can watch and weigh in on whether a Senator is a hero or a bum.

We all know that change doesn't come easy.

The bottom line is that Senate Republicans are using the very rules we're trying to change to block us from a straight-up or down vote, so we'll need 67 votes to pass tough reforms rather than the 51 provided for in the Constitution.

I don't know if we will succeed today. But I can assure you, your support has moved us further than anyone thought possible in a short time. And regardless of what happens today, I'm determined to keep fighting, as long as it takes. I hope that you will fight with me down to the wire.

A few minutes ago, Greg Sargent posted an item on the Washington Post's Plum Line blog with the outline of the filibuster reform deal - and an explanation from Senator Harry Reid about the procedural stuff.

Update: The Udall/Merkley/Harkin filibuster reform package failed with 44 votes in favor, 51 against. The stand-alone Merkley "talking filibuster" proposal failed with 46 votes in favor, 49 against.

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    My understanding isn't that the Rs found a way to block it, but that Reid opted not to allow the Ds to utilize the "Constitutional Option" that only needs a majority vote. IMO, this isn't Rs blocking, it's Ds not being bold enough.

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    The R's didn't do anything. The Democrats needed to take care of this on the "first legislative day" of the session, before rules are adopted. That ended Tuesday. Now it is filibuster-able again, where before it only needed a majority.

    I hope it's just that missing knowledge that keeps Kari from explaining this as yet another sad-sack non-act of political cowardice by the Democratic Party. The reason it didn't get done by Tuesday is that they didn't have enough Dems to vote for it, despite getting 53 signatures for it before the new session. The simple truth is they were afraid they would lose, so they protected their status as losers in a future GOP majority. Even that is moronic, because do they really think the REPUBLICANS will not hesitate to blow up the Dems' ability to filibuster if and when they take a Senate majority?

    This group is just so pathetic. As in the House, you can no longer take anything a Democrat says seriously, even if they write it down as a metaphoric line in the sand. Push them a little bit, and the line disappears in the wind.

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    Clearly there was non unanimity in the Dem. Caucus about really changing this thing.

    I was with Kurt Schrader last Aug. and someone asked him how he was finding his first two years in Congress. He said he had been surprised at how accessible the House leadership was and the receptivity to his participation. He was negatively surprised at what an "undemocratic institution" the U.S. Senate is, by members on both sides.

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    Addendum: it WILL be good to eliminate secret holds and delaying-by-reading after the 72 hour window has passed. It's a step forward to remove the power of just one, anonymous Senator. But the 60-vote threshold on daily votes is the key.

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    The Udall/Merkley/Harkin proposal just failed - with 44 yes votes, 51 no votes.

    Democrats voting NO: Baucus, Reid, Reed, Webb, Kohl

    (I may have missed a couple, or they didn't vote.)

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    Merkley should be proud of his role as a leader in this fight, particularly as a first-term senator. I don't remember this issue even getting to a vote before.

    As a practical matter, Democrats weren't going to face many critical filibusters in the senate with a Republican house to block the bills they didn't like anyway. The key things to watch will be senate confirmations, particularly of judicial nominees.

    Besides, when Republicans control the senate in 2013, they may be willing to revisit this issue. :-)

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    Mark and Eric, it's worth noting that neither the full package nor the standalone talking filibuster earned 51 votes.

    So, this is the best case losing scenario. Had the Dems exercised the "constitutional option" and lost anyway, they would have established a precedent that the Rs could have used for other nefarious purposes - without achieving anything along the way.

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    That begs the question of why there was not majority support for reform in the first place, Kari. The problem is not that Democrats don't know how to strategize a losing proposition--it's that they don't apparently know how to craft a winning one.

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      That's fair.

      I suppose I'm just reacting to those (elsewhere) that are slamming Udall, Merkley, and Harkin for not insisting on the 51-vote process.


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