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Rachel Maddow took viewers through the litany of statements made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about the need to reform the filibuster rules to prevent the Republican minority from forcing 60 votes on every single bill, but as she noted, what ended up passing this Thursday was nothing that anyone could consider any type of meaningful reform.
About the only issue I'd take with Rachel's reporting on the subject is that I'm not sure if it's fair to lay all of the blame at Reid's feet, or if it's what I believe is a more likely scenario, which is that he'd have gladly signed onto the reforms himself if he thought he had the votes within his own caucus, which he did not. If that is the case, I'd like to know which Senators he was dealing with that refused to go along with stopping the unprecedented obstruction we've seen from the Republicans since Barack Obama was elected president.
And in regard to the failure to pass any new reforms now, as long as Democrats do not control the House, it's not like there is going to be any actual progressive legislation making it through our Congress that Senate Republicans would be blocking. It would make a big difference with nominees and treaties being held up (which I don't want to minimize) to get the rules changed now, but if Democrats were going to reform the filibuster rules, it would have made a real difference when they had control of the House as well and they refused to do it then. I'm disgusted but not shocked that they didn't do anything about it now as well, given their track record.
I've read jokes about the day Al Franken finally got sworn in being the worst day of Harry Reid's life because they couldn't use the Republicans as an excuse any more for not getting anything done in the Senate. I think we're seeing right now that we're not going to have any reforms as long as we've got a bunch of Democrats mucking up the works who are not much better than their counterparts on the right.
Here's more from Ezra Klein on the latest: Harry Reid: “I’m not personally, at this stage, ready to get rid of the 60-vote threshold”:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have come to a deal on filibuster reform. The deal is this: The filibuster will not be reformed. But the way the Senate moves to consider new legislation and most nominees will be.
“I’m not personally, at this stage, ready to get rid of the 60-vote threshold,” Reid (D-Nev.) told me this morning, referring to the number of votes needed to halt a filibuster. “With the history of the Senate, we have to understand the Senate isn’t and shouldn’t be like the House.”
What will be reformed is how the Senate moves to consider new legislation, the process by which all nominees — except Cabinet-level appointments and Supreme Court nominations — are considered, and the number of times the filibuster can be used against a conference report. You can read the full text of the compromise, which was sent out to Senate offices this morning, here (pdf).
But even those reforms don’t go as far as they might. Take the changes to the motion to proceed, by which the Senate moves to consider a new bill. Reid seemed genuinely outraged over the way the process has bogged down in recent years.
“What the Republicans have done is turn the motion to proceed on its head,” he argued. “It was originally set up to allow somebody to take a look at a piece of legislation. What the Republicans have done is they simply don’t allow me to get on the bill. I want to go to it on a Monday, they make me file cloture, that takes till Tuesday. Then it takes two days for the cloture vote to ‘ripen,’ so now it’s Thursday, and even if I get 60 votes, they still have 30 hours to twiddle their thumbs, pick their nose, do whatever they want. So, I’m not on the bill by the weekend, and in reality, that means next Monday or Tuesday.”
But the deal Reid struck with McConnell doesn’t end the filibuster against the motion to proceed. Rather, it creates two new pathways for moving to a new bill. In one, the majority leader can, with the agreement of the minority leader and seven senators from each party, sidestep the filibuster when moving to a new bill. In the other, the majority leader can short-circuit the filibuster against moving to a new bill so long as he allows the minority party to offer two germane amendments. Note that in all cases, the minority can still filibuster the bill itself. Read on...