Latest Posts

  • Jon Kyl Debates Jon Kyl on Filibuster Reform

    As the start of the 113th Congress barrels toward us, Democrats are considering some modest changes to Senate rules, which as Dennis explained, would require filibustering Senators to actually hold the floor and talk, depriving Americans of their last reliable source of classical music — the C-SPAN nothing-is-happening soundtrack.

    Like most of his GOP colleagues, the 2012 version of outgoing Senator Jon Kyl has been critical of these proposed changes

    "To suggest a nuclear option by which a mere majority of the body can amend the rules, is itself a violation of the rules," Kyl said. "It's an assertion of power, but as the old saying goes, might does not make right."

    If only there was another Senator who could make the opposite argument in the strongest possible terms

    Read More »

    Tags: Filibuster, Jon Kyl, Senate
  • What Happens When the Filibuster Goes Bust?

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is supposedly thinking about changing Senate rules this congress so that legislators seeking to enact a filibuster would no longer just have to say, "Hey, I filibust this, yo!" or whatever traditional talk they use. Instead they'd have to stand up in from of the Senate and talk for a really, really long time, Jimmy Stewart style. Which is why I thought people got into politics to begin with.

    Anyway, Republican senators are apparently concerned that this would get in the way of their plan to be as obstructionist as possible at all times. And they're threatening that, if Reid has his way, they will be as obstructionist as possible at all times

    Republicans are threatening even greater retaliation if Reid uses a move rarely used by Senate majorities: changing the chamber’s precedent by 51 votes, rather than the usual 67 votes it takes to overhaul the rules.

    "I think the backlash will be severe," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the conservative firebrand, said sternly. "If you take away minority rights, which is what you’re doing because you’re an ineffective leader, you'll destroy the place. And if you destroy the place, we'll do what we have to do to fight back."

    Taking away minority rights?! Oh, man! That could really hamper Republicans' ability to take away minority rights!

    Not to mention their ongoing plan to destroy the place.

    Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: Filibuster, Harry Reid, Senate, Tom Coburn
  • Thanks to Senate GOP, You'll Be in Debt Forever

    In the last few years, the GOP has emerged as the party of extreme budget hawks. Republicans like Paul Ryan have repeatedly hammered the President on spending and opposed increases to the debt ceiling.

    They really, really care about debt. Just not yours

    Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked consideration of a Democratic bill to prevent the doubling of some student loan interest rates, leaving the legislation in limbo less than two months before rates on subsidized federal loans are set to shoot upward.

    Along party lines, the Senate voted 52 to 45, failing to clear the 60-vote hurdle needed to beat back a filibuster and begin debating the measure…

    Republicans said they wanted to extend Democratic legislation passed in 2007 that temporarily reduced interest rates…But they oppose the Senate Democrats’ proposal to pay for a one-year extension by changing tax law that currently allows some wealthy taxpayers to avoid paying Social Security and Medicare.

    Republicans believe in the American dream, where everyone should have the opportunity to get an education. That is, everyone whose family can afford to pay for their education and who, consequently, doesn't actually need that education to advance in society. Sure, a college education is part of the American dream. But so is discriminating against the poor once you've already made your money.

    In fairness, the GOP did put forth their own version of the bill, in which interest rates were stabilized in exchange  for cuts to health care. Under the Republican plan, by age 40, students will be done paying off their loans. And probably dead.

    Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: Debt, Education, Filibuster, Republicans, Senate, Taxes
  • Harry Reid Goes Nuclear, Say People Who Don't Own Dictionaries

    Most everything you need to know about the U.S. Senate can be encapsulated in one fact: it's a legislative body that looks down on smartphones and electronic voting, but maintains a row of snuff boxes and a brass spittoon. The atavism extends to Senate procedure, which relies mostly on the unanimous consent of 100 Senators and the use of a 60-vote cloture requirement, rather than on something so plebeian and democratic as majority rule.

    But sometimes, the Senate stops being hopelessly archaic and starts getting real

    In a shocking development Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) triggered a rarely used procedural option informally called the "nuclear option" to change the Senate rules.

    Reid and 50 members of his caucus voted to change Senate rules unilaterally to prevent Republicans from forcing votes on uncomfortable amendments after the chamber has voted to move to final passage of a bill.

    Reid’s coup passed by a vote of 51-48, leaving Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fuming.

    The surprise move stunned Republicans, who did not expect Reid to bring heavy artillery to what had been a humdrum knife fight over amendments to China currency legislation.

    Wait, what? Harry Reid obtained an artillery-fired tactical nuclear warhead and unleashed a barrage of hell-fire on a knife-wielding, but otherwise unsuspecting, Republican caucus? Now that's a story.

    Unfortunately, the scene that played out on C-SPAN was a lot less exciting than the carnage and destruction envisioned by some analysts. Traditionally, after 60 Senators have agreed to cut-off debate on a piece of legislation, Senators are still allowed to introduce amendments, including amendments not related to the purpose of the underlying bill. The goal is to embarrass the majority party — sure, we'll vote on the currency manipulation bill, but first let's see you vote against this Hugs and Tax Cuts for Family Farmers and Small Business Owners Act of 2011.

    By over-ruling a decision of the Senate presiding officer and parliamentarian, Senate Democrats set a new precedent, limiting amendments after cloture has been invoked. Potentially, the same procedure could be used in future sessions to eliminate the filibuster, rather than limit post-cloture debate.

    But other than those subtle details, last night's Senate kerfuffle was exactly like a nuclear holocaust.

    Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: China, Filibuster, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Senate
  • From the Pork Barrel: When Filibustering Was Filibustering

    * "[T]hey returned for a 42-hour day-and-night session which began with a mass fistfight over control of the gavel and ended when Republican operatives placed a poison-soaked rag behind Toupin to gas him out of the presiding officer's chair." The 68th Congress knew how to fucking throw a filibuster!

    * Nice to know that now that the country will be so flush with cash from the money it's not spending on Planned Parenthood, it finally has the scratch to start actively funding pro-life schemes.

    * Indiana Democrats — having won concessions from state house Republicans — face unpleasant task of returning to Indiana.

    * In case you had any last shreds of confidence in Obama's intentions in Libya, this'll beat them out of you.

    * The GOP is really actually in real life gonna go after the AARP? Isn't that a little too close to the GOP going after the GOP?

    Tags: AARP, Abortion, Barack Obama, Democrats, Filibuster, Health Care, House of Representatives, Indiana, Libya, Military, Planned Parenthood, Pork Barrel, Republicans, Unions