Fallout From the Filibuster Rule Change

With a historic and controversial move, Senate majority leader Harry Reid renders the sober Senate more like the hyperpartisan House

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Senate Democrats Pass "Nuclear Option" On Filibuster Rules
Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Capitol Hill, November 21, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid and 51 of his Democratic colleagues on Thursday changed how the chamber considers Executive Branch and most Judicial Branch nominees. But the ramifications of the action go well beyond the Senate’s advice-and-consent powers.

The vote was a dramatic reaction to a dramatic increase in filibusters that could affect everything from carbon regulations to the implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial-reform bill. The move also signals a major shift in the Senate, as it becomes nastier and more effective, like the majority-driven House.

The Senate has already been moving in the direction of the lower chamber, as long-term Republican Senators like Indiana’s Dick Lugar and Utah’s Bob Bennett have been pushed out by the Tea Party, and some long-serving Democrats — like West Virginia’s Robert Bryd, Massachusetts’ Ted Kennedy and Delaware’s Joe Biden — have been replaced. Remaining party elders, including Reid and minority leader Mitch McConnell, have moved toward their respective political fringes.

“It’s just as ideologically divided [as the House, and like that chamber] its members think about re-election all the time,” says Tom Mann, a congressional scholar at the Brookings Institution.

(MORE: Reid Blocks First G.O.P. Offer on Filibuster Reform, Leaves Nuclear Option on Table)

The new move is historic because it goes well beyond lowering the threshold from 60 Senators to a simple majority on all presidential appointments and nominations, except those to the Supreme Court. Reid acted outside the formal rulemaking process, leading his colleagues to overrule the Senate president in the middle of a contentious debate. Reid thus created a new precedent in which a simple majority can dispense with Senate rules on any vote, including legislation covering any aspect of life in America.

Three Democrats — Senators Carl Levin of Michigan, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Pryor of Arkansas — voted with every Republican against Reid’s procedure, citing the dangerous precedent it set.

Pryor bemoaned the simple-majority move, known as the “nuclear option.” The Senate, he said on the chamber floor, is “the only place where the minority is guaranteed a voice.”

“With all due respect to our colleagues in the House, you don’t see law being made there,” he added. “They come out of their rules committee, and it’s all pretty much set up and they at least tend to vote party-line, party-line, party-line, done.”

Levin expressed concern that the Democrats’ action will snowball into areas outside nominations.

“This precedent is going to be used, I fear, to change the rules on consideration of legislation,” said Levin. “And down the road — we don’t know how far down the road; we never know that in a democracy — but, down the road, the hard-won protections and benefits for our people’s health and welfare will be lost.”

The minority party was outraged. Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who attempted to broker a deal with Reid to avert this outcome, said he was “angry” and “upset” and ripped Reid for opposing the “nuclear option” in 2005. Reid tanked the offer because McCain did not grant a vote on all three of the President’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“What the Republicans came up with was a way to change our country forever,” said Reid in a 2008 interview. “They made a decision if they didn’t get every judge they wanted — every judge they wanted — then they were going to make the Senate just like the House of Representatives.”

(MORE: Senate Democrats Go ‘Nuclear’ to Curb the Filibuster)

The hypocrisy, which McCain noted on the Senate floor, could point to a more partisan level of discourse; as the minority party’s power diminishes, its voice may grow more vitriolic. “This thorough breach of trust will deeply complicate all legislative business coming before Congress, including budget negotiations,” says a senior Republican budget aide.

Mann believes that while the method was “abrupt” and “extreme,” the motion will actually return the Senate to an era of efficiency. The filibuster’s “excessive” and “routine” use, he says, “has done great damage to the Senate.” Reid’s charge is “a move back toward some sanity,” he adds. While the vast majority of Obama nominees have been confirmed, nearly half of all cloture motions ever filed have been made since 2009, and recent high-profile cases like the D.C. Circuit Court judges, Federal Housing Finance Agency director, National Labor Relations Board members, and the Defense Secretary nomination have all been filibustered.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats who did support Reid are celebrating. After Reid left the Senate floor, his fellow Democrats and advocates cheered his entry to the Democrat caucus room. One supporter began the festivities with a joke, which will soon grow old.

“Forty-one Republicans walked into a bar,” the wag began. “And shut it down.”

178 comments
ThomasHall
ThomasHall

Changing the filibuster rules is "historical and controversial." How about the all-time record of 430+ GOP blocked bills, blocked presidential appointments that have been 86 among all previous presidents combined and 82 under Pres. Obama, or the unprecedented GOP use of the 60-vote super majority to block bills that even the American public wants like sensible gun control. Even with the change, the GOP still can block legislation and House Speaker Boehner is holding up bills passed by the Senate that also the public wants like immigration reform and gay workplace rights.

The slimy GOP who now have to lie, cheat, and steal to win elections, to use their elections-rigging nationwide gerrymandering, and GOP-SCOTUS' Citizens United corruption of democracy flood of unlimited, usually anonymous, campaign funding by the rich, and their ongoing voter suppression efforts nationwide only support their despicable abuse of power at the state and fed levels to attempt to nullify the 2008 and 2012 elections and to deliberately sabotage economic and job growth for partisan political gain. Nothing patriotic about these self-serving, bigoted and greedy jerks.

emptyk
emptyk

The Republicans have announced their intention to block any possible legislative success by the President. In the Senate, they have been fulfilling their promise since the election of Scott Brown from Massachusetts and the losses of 2010. For three full years, progress has only come by enlisting Mitch McConnel's help in the Senate.

With McConnel's tenure in the Senate threatened by his reelction challenges, he is not participating in the process except when there is a global threat.

The Republican Senators protect their House colleagues and protect their own reelection by killing appointments made by the President to the federal judiciary and to positions of financial regulatory power.

By allowing the "silent filibuster" to persist, the Dems have threatened their own wmajority by being blamed as a "do nothing" branch of govenment.

Filibuster reform was demanded by the public and required by circumstances to advance the policies of the President's majority in the Senate.

Representatives are supposed to participate in governing and this rules change will at least allow Presidential appointments to be made on merit rather than blocked based on partisan affiliation.

snowy
snowy

Actually the democrats are hypocrites they said in 2005 they did not want any filibuster , Harry Reid said it would be a calamity for the country. They are spoiled brats. Since Obamanation has hit an all time low in the polls over "The unaffordable Care Act", this is their reaction. To stromp their feet, cry foul, drudge out the old filabuster terror. They did not like the way the game was going so they changed the rules. The Republicans are in the minority. Ghee, if you think Filabuster is a crazy notion then the Civil Rights Act is a silly notion. Both protect the right of minorities. When will Reid, Pelosi, Schumer, Biden and all the WH stop the "bunker mentality"? Where is the transparency? Where is the honesty coming from this WH? America is not cracking up like Shaprio.len thinks in fact it is in revolt against the corrupt Chicago Mob style governing from this administration. In spite of all the crap Obama has done throwing away our stimulus money on Solydra, Finland for cars, Mexico, Egypt on tanks and planes,  Bail outs that helped no one in GM just the unions. People lost retirement funding. With all the war on coal, gasoline, and stopping  a pipeline great Americans have moxie. Private lands have pumped oil out and distributed it in spite of Obama's war. WE will endure, sprout new ideas, carry on while the democrats are desperately dragging our economy down by forcing redistribution of wealth, health care, and producing programs that take from those that produce and give to the drones. Time to lead this country with honest Americans, honest wages, honest governing, time to squash the Socialist.

shapiro.len
shapiro.len

Now we are coming full circle. We are getting just what we dished out to Iraq- we are becoming a phony United States of America. With the tea party leading the way,and corrupt politicians like john Boehner, America is cracking up, both politically,economically and socially.

The system that works for the Tea Party, like the Koch bros., no tax increase Republicans, Democrats who go to fundraisers but never read a single bill they vote for, and anyone who says anything to get votes. These demagogues are taking us into Iraqiland. No more Disneyland for us. We will decline and fall as fast as the oceans are heating up, and we will drown in our own pollution, climate change, lies and deceit,and just plain greed.

where will Bush,Boehner,Reid,Koch,Murdoch,Limbaugh,Rove,Rumsfeld,Rice etc etc etc.

be?    dead and buried with all their mistakes,blunders, stupidity and sophistry.

shapiro.len
shapiro.len

gw Bush never heard of sunni and shia when he started shock and awe,killing thousands of Iraqis who were only guilty of living in a place where tons of oil was. Bush looked all over Texas for oil, but couldn't find any. His father found oil there, so Bush had to look elsewhere. He found it in Iraq.

But Iraq was a phony state, created by european imperialists for their own needs. Saddam held it together,kept out the terrorists, and got hugs from donald rumsfeld. Then Saddam got greedy,as all hired hit men do.So he had to go.

Being as dumb as a rock,Bush had no plan for "Iraq", only for oil. Without Saddam, there was no phony Iraq. Bush cared not at all. American mercenaries guarded the oil and Exxon Mobil moved in. The french and the Russians were kicked out.

when the Iraqis began to fight back,Bush never went to a single funeral,or even went to the airbase where bodies were unloaded. He cut all the money for veterans,though.

shapiro.len
shapiro.len

Americans are moving to the brink. there is no going back. A cliff is in front of us,we can see it, and we are going to go over it. Shutting down the govt was the first step. Defaulting on federal debt payments and the downgrade on US credit will soon follow.

America will stop borrowing because it won't be able to. The federal govt wll be whittled down to the size it was in 1790. There will be no regulations for anything at the national level. States will govern as separate nations. Tea Party states will become monarchies, autocracies and theocracies. Americans who won't be able to tolerate that, will leave those monarchies and go to progressive states.

Eventually there will be conflict between such opposite systems. That is what the lunatic fringe is waiting for. They will come out with all their weapons and ammo, and go to war against the hated liberal states. Sarah Palin will sing their anthem

shapiro.len
shapiro.len

since when is a "voice" total shutdown of the US federal govt. The Tea Party hates the Federal govt and wants to abolish it by making it so weak and dysfunctional , it doesn't exist.  republicans are in terror of the Tea Party because they are funded by the Koch bros. billionaires and others,and they won't stand up to them, any more than anyone will stand up to the NRA(including harry Reid).

Trying to abolish the New Deal programs will bring
America to social chaos and violence against the Congress. When the right to life  is only for the unborn,and NOT FOR EVERYONE, the right wing religious extremists will have to take on the millions of Americans who are very much alive and kicking. If this ends in a Civil War, rich against poor, liberals against reactionaries, the common man against  the corrupted man, as one of the most corrupted men who ever lived,george w. Bush said, BRING IT ON!

ifthethunderdontgetya
ifthethunderdontgetya

Oh jeeze, the Rich Person's Club might not represent the nation's plutocracy!!??


Thanks for the concern-trolling, Swampland.  Somehow, I knew you'd be this craven and unimaginative.

~

ccdrz
ccdrz

Yeah, i fail to see how talking non-stop for thirty hours just to prevent the normal functioning of the government is  "sober".

LDF
LDF

Republicans screaming "hypocrisy" over the change of the rules they forced Reid into is like an alcoholic accusing a moderate drinker of hypocrisy for criticizing the alcoholic's destructive behavior brought on by his drinking habits. The Republicans have clearly gone from responsible use of the filibuster to prevent unqualified people from being appointed to blocking qualified moderates and undermining proper functioning of the judiciary and the executive branch. 

As for the Senate becoming more "vitriolic", it's hard to see how the likes of Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz could possibly become more vitriolic without suffering a stroke.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

Such shortsightedness. Obama sacrificed what ever plans he had for the good of everybody just so he could place liberal judges on the bench. He cut the legs from the moderate Republicans, galvanized the hard core conservatives, and as sure as night follows day when the Republicans come to power will do their utmost to unravel all that this incompetent nincompoop plans. Worst of all whatever  civility is left is gone now. Already Corker is proposing to cut Obama power to negotiate with Iran. More will follow. All because of liberalism which in ultimately will be rejected by the American people anyway. Maybe this will be good for conservatism in the long run as Republicans will heed what their true constituents want.

Lexi
Lexi

Maybe this great country should be renamed the DSA (the Divided States of America) ?

AlphaJuliette
AlphaJuliette

All I can say is you reap what you sow.  The Fillibuster has been abused in an effort to obstruct anything the White House presented.  It has also been abused, in my humble opinion, as a tool to reduce the size of government as is one of the tenets of the far right.  Extreme abuse begets extreme reaction.

Senator Pryor isn't correct when he stated "... the chamber floor, is “the only place where the minority is guaranteed a voice.”  That minority voice is not only heard in the House it has held that branch of government hostage to far right demands.  And, along with the House the nation has been held hostage.

From Sam Adams -

“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.”

“Our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty.”

And from John Adams -

"There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution."


KevinMichaelShelton
KevinMichaelShelton

time is now an official mouthpiece of the corporate right. no more reading time for me.


PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

I think it should also be mentioned that when the Republicans complained that the Democrats were using the filibuster too much during the W Administration, McConnell got Reid to agree on a handshake deal to stop, and he did.

During the Obama Administration, Reid has gotten McConnell to agree to stop overusing the filibuster on a handshake deal three times -- and McConnell has broken that agreement all three times immediately.

hubbert1
hubbert1

So the MINORITY is applying the filibuster to disallow voting on issues they are likely to lose. and have done so hundereds of times.
and the MINORITY GOP is claiming its a grab for power .... really? unbelievably disingenuous.

Gbox
Gbox

There was a time when Obama got it: 

“You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating it is, to make sure that there’s a broad consensus before the country moves forward.”

But then he became the Emperor.

Karobwa
Karobwa

It will be interesting when the GOP wins both houses in 2014! The Dems will regret the simple majority nuke.!! 

RobertNguyen
RobertNguyen

The nation 's business must move forward. 

The republicans in Congress have turned our Democracy into a farce - and its time that the system gets put back on its track.

jmac
jmac

@snowy The filibuster rule has been fine since 1974.   The difference is Republicans abused it so badly by filibustering half of all filibusters done since that time.   They took a rule and nuked it.  

Why do you care if it was changed?   When Republicans get in they claim they can put on more Scalia's, and that's fine.       The difference is that Scalia got 98 votes so they could put on a Scalia anytime they wanted (see Alito) because Democrats understand when you win elections you get to put your Scalias and Thomases and Alitos in.  That's how it's suppose to work.   You don't filibuster your own bills just because the President decides he'll support it.  That's sick.  

Curious_Quiche
Curious_Quiche

@ReneDemonteverde Did you even read what you wrote before you posted it? 


Herp a durr, Bronco Bammuh done gone and made all the publicans mad at him when they wunnt already and that stupid idiot tardface idiot gon make errbody talk nasty at each other, the dirtgrub idiot Kenyan, but it don't even matter nohow cuz the publicans gon' win anyway cuz Murka.


You didn't even pretend to look at this objectively. You didn't even pretend to have an understanding of the issue. This is why Republicans fail. You would have been better off talking about the lizardfolk conspiracy.

AlphaJuliette
AlphaJuliette

@Lexi

If our so called leaders don't do something soon to rectify the ever widening and bitter divide the fracturing of America just may become true.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
--January 27, 1838 Lyceum Address

AlphaJuliette
AlphaJuliette

@hubbert1 

Let us not forget the recent rule change in the House where only the Speaker can bring a bill to the floor for a vote.  That puts unbelievable power in the hands of one man.

La_Randy
La_Randy

@Gbox The founders designed the filibuster as republicans use it today?

I would like to see a link to that information.

hubbert1
hubbert1

@Gbox when did Obama become Emperor? He's doing his best to do the job he was elected (twice) to do.
and the numbers clearly show hes doing a great job.  

I might add, when did McConnel or Boehner become emperors? 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@Gbox Emperor? If you think Obama is Emperor what where your thoughts about GWB and D!ck "I don't report to any branch of government" Cheney?

grape_crush
grape_crush

@Gbox 

There is a broad consensus in the Senate. The problem is that a single person can override that consensus, even if the nominee has broad bipartisan support.

tom.litton
tom.litton

@Karobwa The polls would seem to indicate that your being very over optimistic.

AlphaJuliette
AlphaJuliette

@ReneDemonteverde 

Oh, I'll be around.  But I don't want to see the payback.  In fact, I don't want to see any of this bitter partisanship which is paralyzing our government.  When you really consider the fact that each side has good ideas and valid concerns there just isn't any real reason they are behaving this way.

For those people (you perhaps?) who think extremism in our own government is justified I suggest you take a look at other countries around the world where extremism is the law of the land.  Not much freedom or anything for that matter.

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

@paulejb @PerryWhite1 Wow. An irrelevant point,  that is also factually inaccurate, accompanied by a personal insult. I hit the Troll Trifecta!

snowy
snowy

@hubbert1 Where have you been! Obama is the Emperor who is naked and does not know it because his people(Valerie Jarret) are yes people. Obama has no clue he is an amateur one that was elected twice by low information voters like yourself. His recent polls reveal he is at an all time low his popularity has collapsed along with his failed policies. When he lied to the American public and people;s wallets were hit they woke up. They realized that he never intended to bring us "affordable health care" rather he made deals with the unions, Muslims, insurance companies. They passed the bill and changed the rules three months later. Any grandfather rules would never apply they say "they are sub standard". Bull crap. Too many people across this country had great insurance and now they have none. The preminums are up 50-200% and deductibles are up to 5000, to 12,000. He has not done a great job but then those that have nothing will always be waiting for socialist like Obamanation to give free hand outs. While you were sleeping many of us were planning our lives. You are what Lenin called "an useful idiot", Obama got elected by idiots.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@hubbert1 Yeah right. Doing a great job. Tell that to the more than 50% who disapproves of his performance.

Gbox
Gbox

@hubbert1  When? That would be at his inauguration. Then he began his abuse of executive order to get bills through without Congressional approval, like Cap and Trade, the Dream Act, Voting Rights Act, ordering the DOJ not to enforce laws he doesn't like, etc. He acts like a petty, vindictive little dictator.

A great job?  What numbers are you talking about? His approval rating is at a new low of 37%, with 57% disapproving.

Those last 2 guys I would like to donate to your party, for all the good they do Republicans.

AlphaJuliette
AlphaJuliette

@PatPerleberg @RobertNguyen 

Not so Pat.  The Republicans are the party of Borrow and Spend.  They have increased the national debt every time a Republican president was elected.  The exception is Obama.  And that is because he is dealing with a precedent that has become unmanageable.

hubbert1
hubbert1

@PatPerleberg @RobertNguyen 

the facts say otherwise.
GWB started two wars and created the 2008 economic issues
under Obama the stock market has recovered, unemployment is down, the economy is growing and we are out of Iraq and soon to be out of Afghanistan

tom.litton
tom.litton

@PatPerleberg @RobertNguyen First this country can't go into bankruptcy.  

Second, the deficit has been shrinking at a faster pace then anytime in decades. In fact the deficit has shrunk under every democratic president and expanded under every republican president for the last 40 years or so.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@AlphaJuliette @ReneDemonteverde You remind me of the liberal bleeding hearts before Sept 11. How we were jumping to conclusion in condemning Al Qaeda Muslims for the bombings in Africa among others. When 9/11 happened you hear nothing from them They hide under whatever rock they came from Only to pop up again during the Afghanistan/Iraq war and this time attacking Bush and our troops. Oh well.

ccdrz
ccdrz

@ReneDemonteverde @Openminded1 @sacredh @PerryWhite1 yeah, so obviously you haven't been paying attention ... or just think it's cool to be like a moron, seriously it's getting pretty cool to be a moron ... guess it must be some kind post-modernism or something

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@Openminded1 @sacredh @PerryWhite1 No body could beat Obama in the lying department. If he could lie more than twenty times on the same promise, if he is capable of sending secret messages to Putin while negotiating on behalf of the American people he`s got to be the number one of all time. And that is only a partial list. Never mind the Benghazi, IRS the rest. As for scum bag, what is lower than a scum bag ?