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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Now Might Be A Really Great Time (For Republicans) To Weaken The Filibuster

The filibuster in the Senate has been almost the only tool available to Republicans the past two years to stem the tide of Obamamania among Democrats.  And as it turns out, thwarting Obama's plans was in sync with the voters, who made it known in 2010 that 2008 was like a night of binge drinking, much regretted.

Naturally, Democrats are frustrated.  All returning Democrats have signed a letter to Harry Reid asking for unspecified changes to the filibuster rule in the incoming Senate session.

The timing on this is interesting. 

With a solid Republican majority in the House, the filibuster takes on less importance for Republicans.  The threat of a filibuster still will play into the politics of judicial nominations, but not much else.  With so many Democrats in the Senate up for reelection, the "centrist" block of Democrats may make a filibuster unnecessary in most events.

So if Democrats change the filibuster rule, will they be shooting themselves in the foot?

In 2012 there is a reasonable likelihood of a Republican majority in both houses of Congress.  If Obama loses, and Republicans find themselves in the position Democrats have been in the past two years, things could get very interesting with relaxed filibuster rules.  Even if Obama wins, the ability of a Republican Senate to pass on legislation to Obama -- requiring a veto -- will be an important political tool.

What goes around, comes around.  Senators, having the long memories they do, understand this, even if the rabble in the left-wing blogosphere do not.

I would be surprised to see any meaningful weakening of the filibuster rule. 

The filibuster is a card Harry Reid wants to keep in his back pocket if things head south (along with the population) in 2012.

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  1. If the Ds are really that stupid (and I put nothing past Reid), the Republicans should tell them to go right ahead. Then the House's first order of business should be repealing ObamaCare and sending the bill to the Senate. It would be a joy to watch.

  2. They need to repeal it with the same filibuster-sidestepping budgetary shenanigans that were used to pass it in the first place, and let the donks explain why such a procedural move is unconscionable. Goose, meet gander.

  3. pubsecrets, you do realize that the Republicans do not have a simple majority in the Senate?

  4. "In 2012 there is a reasonable likelihood of a Republican majority in both houses of Congress. "

    I suppose this is based on the idea that a lot of Democrat voters are going to support the Republicans in 2012, because they saw how the Republicans cooperated with the Democrats and passed every thing that Obama wanted in the lame duck session.
    In my many years, I do not believe I have ever seen such a complete capitulation as we saw on deals like the S510 Destroy the Family farm bill. Which came after the Save the estate tax bill(which was billed as some kind of a Republican victory?) so that every remaining family farm will be broken up for taxes.

    I could be wrong, but I don't see how you get a 2012 win out of this mess.

  5. pubsecrets, why would they need a filibuster when Obama can just veto, which is even harder to overturn than a fillibuster?

  6. Yes I do, Xian, but there are plenty of senators vulnerable in 2012 who might be convinced to flip on a repeal vote.

  7. Oh, puhleez don't throw me into that briar patch...!

  8. Well, I'm sure the Democrats, even if in the minority, would never seek to filibuster anything. Especially something like a Supreme Court nomination.

  9. This is actually one of the issues that really pisses me off, and accelerated my recent change of heart as regards politics. Back in 2003 the Republicans were pushing the 'nuclear option' with regards to judicial nominations, and Democrats were screaming about the rights of the minority and how it was completely unconscionable. And I agreed. And then as soon as they get a majority and Republicans appear to be intending to filibuster stuff, what do they do now? Gah.

  10. I love when dems do stupid stuff like this. A change in the filibuster (that will undoubtedly help dems)? Good grief. Do you remember when Mass changed its succession laws for seating new senators to accommodate Teddy's wish to keep Kerry's seat in democrat hands if he'd won the WH? And how the resulting special election gave us Scott Brown in Ted's seat?

  11. This may sound naive, but the question could presented apolitically: the party with a majority in the Senate should have a reasonable shot at getting its legislation through.

    Politically, the difference that malclave and Tom Dickson-Hunt are ignoring is that the Republicans changed the game by threatening to filibuster not just controversial appointments or the occasional bill, but just about everything, just to stymie Obama in the run-up to the elections. This was novel, and an unprecedented abuse of the filibuster.

  12. Anyone who actually cares about their country wants the highest degree of accountability, which the current filibuster abuse interferes with. Of course, I don't count any Teabaggers in that group.

  13. "Republicans changed the game by threatening to filibuster not just controversial appointments or the occasional bill, but just about everything..."

    Democrats had been filibustering record numbers of judicial nominees since 2001. Democrats also filibustered (or threatened to filibuster)...

    1. Every bill Republicans proposed for reigning in the runaway financial industry.
    2. Virtually every Iraq war funding resolution (they passed anyway via budget reconciliation)

  14. This article was quoted here:


  15. If the Democrats removed the filibuster rule and later lost the majority, wouldn't the obvious move be to reinstate the filibuster rule during the lame-duck session immediately following the election?

    At that point in time, they would still have a majority, they know that they will lose that majority, and there would be no filibuster rule to stop them from adding a filibuster rule to protect their interests when they are in the minority.

    Admittedly, I don't know much about US Senate procedural rules, but this strategy seems fairly sound to me.

  16. I could be wrong, but I don't see how you get a 2012 win out of this mess.

    He said "reasonable likelihood"; not lead-pipe cinch.