Watered-down Filibuster Reforms Agreed to by Sen. Harry Reid

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid never fails to disappoint me. He has successfully managed to do so again.

Progressive Democrats have for months been working on reforms to the antiquated and arcane rules of the U.S. Senate that provide for a minority filibuster of bills supported by a clear majority of senators — you know, majority rule in a democracy.

FillibusterChartTea-Publicans, led by the Septegenarian Ninja Turtle, Mitch McConnell, have engaged in an unprecedented abuse of the Senate filibuster rules in recent years, converting the Senate into a super-majoritarian body to conduct even the most mundane Senate business. It is a tyranny by an obstructionist minority that rendered the U.S. Senate a dysfunctional body incapable of doing the people's business.

The effort to reform the Senate filibuster rules by Progressive Democrats was an atempt to light a candle rather curse the darkness of Tea-Publican tyranny. To quote St. Matthew 5:15: "No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is
placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house." Harry Reid just doused the candlelit lamp of filibuster reform under a basket.

Ryan Grim and Sam Stein report at the Huffington Post, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell Reach Filibuster Reform Deal:

Progressive senators working to dramatically alter Senate rules were
defeated on Thursday, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
and his counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), set to
announce a series of compromise reforms on the Senate floor that fall
far short of the demands. The language of the deal was obtained by
HuffPost and can be read here and here.

* * *

Reid cut the deal with McConnell, which includes changes to how
the Senate operates but leaves a fundamental feature, the silent
filibuster, in place.

The deal will address the filibuster on the motion to proceed by
changing the amount of debate time that would follow a cloture vote from
30 hours to four, speeding up Senate business and allowing more
legislation to reach the floor. But the deal still requires Democrats to
muscle 60 votes to invoke cloture on that motion, despite Reid's
earlier suggestion that he would bar a filibuster on that motion
entirely.

An alternate route to get past the motion to proceed will be
implemented as a change to the rules, and a filibuster on the motion
would be barred if the majority can find eight members of the minority,
including the minority leader, to sign a petition. But Democrats already
have 55 members in their caucus, five short of the 60 needed to end a
filibuster, so it's unclear what the purpose of getting three additional
Republicans would be.

Under the agreement, the minority party will be able to offer two
amendments on each bill, a major concession to Republicans
. This change
is made only as a standing order, not a rules change, and expires at the
end of the term.

The new rules will also make it easier for the majority to appoint
conferees once a bill has passed, but leaves in place the minority's
ability to filibuster that motion once
— meaning that even after the
Senate and House have passed a bill, the minority can still mount a
filibuster one more time.

Reid won concessions on judicial nominations as well. Under the old
rules, after a filibuster had been beaten, 30 more hours were required
to pass before a nominee could finally be confirmed. That delay
threatened to tie the chamber in knots. The new rules will only allow
two hours to pass after cloture is invoked before a nominee is
confirmed.

The two leaders agreed that they will make some changes in how the
Senate carries out filibusters under the existing rules, reminiscent of
the handshake agreement last term, which quickly fell apart
. First,
senators who wish to object or threaten a filibuster must actually come
to the floor to do so
. And second, the two leaders will make sure that
debate time post-cloture is actually used in debate
. If senators seeking
to slow down business simply put in quorum calls to delay action, the
Senate will go live, force votes to produce a quorum, and otherwise work
to make sure senators actually show up and debate.

The arrangement between Reid and McConnell means that the majority
leader will not resort to his controversial threat, known as the
"nuclear option," to change the rules via 51 votes on the first day of
the congressional session.

Reid may have been able to achieve greater reforms that way, but several
members of his own party were uncomfortable with the precedent it would
have set. And Reid himself, an institutionalist, wanted a bipartisan
deal for the long-term health of the institution. Reid presented
McConnell with two offers — one bipartisan accord consisting of weaker
reforms, and a stronger package Reid was willing to ram through on a
partisan vote. McConnell chose the bipartisan route.

The deal, said one top Democratic aide, is "not everything Reid wanted but there are significant changes.

I would argue that the changes are mostly cosmetic and will do little to discourage the politics of obstruction that Tea-Publicans have engaged in for the past four years. This does nothing to create an impediment to those who would abuse the Senate filibuster rules. They will continue to do so, especially if this is another handshake agreement between Reid and McConnell that was quickly disregarded the last time.

Fix the Senate Now, a coalition of over 50 progressive and labor organizations that has been tirelessly advocating for an end to the silent filibuster, called the emerging deal a "missed opportunity."

"While the provisions included in the likely agreement may help with
streamlining certain nominations, potentially a significant step
forward, the agreement avoids measures that would actually raise the
costs of Senate obstruction," the group said in a statement. "Neither
the talking filibuster provision nor the shifting the burden provision
is expected to be included in the final package. While certain details
remain important and unresolved, such as potential conditions attached
to the elimination of filibusters on the motion to proceed, we know
enough to sum up the agreement as follows: a missed opportunity to
provide meaningful filibuster reform, while advancing some decent
procedural improvements."

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