Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Fixing the filibuster

John Podhoretz has some fun treasuring the hypocritical switch in positions on using the "nuclear option" to change the rules on invoking cloture on debate in the Senate. Back when the Republicans were talking about changing the rules for voting on judicial nominations to end the possibility of filibusters, Harry Reid was all sanctimonious about such an "arrogant abuse of power" and Mitch McConnell was all for it. Now that the Democrats are in the majority, suddenly such a nuclear deal to force a change in the rules seems a lot less arrogant and the Republicans are all of a sudden much more worried about the sacred rights of the minority party.

These shifts happen when parties switch power. But there are some Democrats who don't care. They're just ticked at how the Republicans have barred the bills that they want to pass so they want to take advantage of the window opened by starting a new Congress to vote in a change in the rules. However, there are some Democrats who disagree and don't want to pull that nuclear lever. They're worried that they might be in the minority perhaps after the 2012 elections when twice as many Democratic senators are up for reelection and many of those senators are in red states.

Here is another reason to doubt that the Democrats will vote through such a change in rules. It wouldn't do them any good. The GOP controls the House so the Democrats aren't going to be able to pass the bills they want even with a lower limit on ending a filibuster. They'd be incurring all the bad publicity and it wouldn't help them enact the sort of laws that they want to. But they would certainly be setting up the GOP if they should gain control over both houses in the next election.

Look for some sort of compromise along the lines of Senator Alexander's proposal to fix some other problems in the Senate.
In a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation, Alexander said the move would hinder legislators from amending legislation.

"Let's be clear what we mean when we say the word 'filibuster,' " Alexander said. "So the real 'party of no' is the majority party that has been saying 'no' to debate, and 'no' to voting on amendments that minority members believe improve legislation and express the voices of the people they represent."

Instead, Alexander suggested improving the Senate by requiring all senators to vote, end the "three-day work week" and end the practice of secret holds.
Secret holds are an abomination and ending them would be to the benefit of both parties. There's a good start on reform that makes sense no matter which party controls the Senate.