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Senate Filibuster Rules: Nuclear Option?  
User currently offlineRevelation From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 12722 posts, RR: 25
Posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 1480 times:

I found this topic interesting.

I've never understood why a "super-majority" of 60 is needed to get anything done in the US Senate.

It's all down to the procedural rules of the Senate.

Quote:

A potential showdown vote to limit Senate filibusters would not come until January. Democrats are threatening to resort to a seldom-used procedure that could let them change the rules without GOP support, all but inviting Republican retaliation.

Interesting enough, "filibuster" is derived from the Spanish word for "pirate" or "privateer", and it allows an individual to extend debate on a measure ad infinitum, which kills the bill being debated.

60 members can vote to end the debate, or "cloture".

The meat of the article is:

Quote:

Frustrated by the GOP's growing use of filibusters, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is considering a Senate vote in the new year to limit their use.

"I think that the rules have been abused and that we're going to work to change them," Reid, D-Nev., told reporters this past week. "We're not going to do away with the filibuster, but we're going to make the Senate a more meaningful place, we're going to make it so that we can get things done."

Democrats say that vote to change the rules would require a simple majority of senators, and they argue that the Constitution lets Senate majorities write new rules for the chamber. That, in effect, would mean Democrats could change the rules over GOP opposition, assuming 51 Democrats go along.

It seems these rules are very sensitive to the Senators, and the GOP would be very put out if the Dems change them with a simple majority, which is something that is allowed but not often used due to the extreme sensitivity of the rules.

However the Dems feel the GOP are using the rules to an extreme level, and are not talking about eliminating the filibuster, but weakening it:

Quote:

Democrats say, Republicans frequently have used stalling tactics to prevent the Senate from even beginning to debate bills. They then bog down debate by insisting on votes on piles of amendments, including many on unrelated issues that are designed to score points in future election campaigns, Democrats say.

Reid wants to prevent filibusters on "motions to proceed," which let the Senate begin debating a bill, and aides say he might consider other restrictions as well. Reid plans to discuss it with fellow Democrats in the postelection session. Discussions with McConnell could occur as well, Democratic aides said.

Seems the data does suggest that the cloture has had to be invoked at a record level:

Quote:

According to the Senate Historian's Office, the number of "cloture petitions" — a procedural step that sets up a vote to end a filibuster — was 68 in the two-year session of Congress running from 2005 to 2006, the last time Democrats were in the minority.

But that number has exceeded 100 for each of the past three two-year sessions, all of which have seen Republicans in the minority, peaking at 139 in the 2007-2008 session. There have been 109 in the current 2011-2012 session, with several more weeks of lame duck meetings expected.

Ref: http://news.yahoo.com/dems-gop-fight...curbing-filibusters-123939041.html

Wiki describes the "nuclear option" as:

Quote:

In U.S. politics, the "nuclear option" allows the United States Senate to reinterpret a procedural rule by invoking the argument that the Constitution requires that the will of the majority be effective on specific Senate duties and procedures. This option allows a simple majority to override the rules of the Senate and end a filibuster or other delaying tactic. In contrast, the cloture rule requires a supermajority of 60 votes (out of 100) to end a filibuster. The new interpretation becomes effective, both for the immediate circumstance and as a precedent, if it is upheld by a majority vote.

Although it is not provided for in the formal rules of the Senate, the nuclear option is the subject of a 1957 parliamentary opinion by Vice President Richard Nixon and was endorsed by the Senate in a series of votes in 1975, some of which were reconsidered shortly thereafter.[1] Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.) first called the option "nuclear" in March 2003.[2][3] Proponents since have referred to it as the constitutional option.[4][5][6]

The maneuver was brought to prominence in 2005 when then-Majority Leader Bill Frist (Republican of Tennessee) threatened its use to end Democratic-led filibusters of judicial nominees submitted by President George W. Bush. In response to this threat, Democrats threatened to shut down the Senate and prevent consideration of all routine and legislative Senate business. The ultimate confrontation was prevented by the Gang of 14, a group of seven Democratic and seven Republican Senators, all of whom agreed to oppose the nuclear option and oppose filibusters of judicial nominees, except in extraordinary circumstances.

Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_option

It's an immense issue.

It's clear many on the GOP have kept talking about the Senate's inability to pass a budget, but the GOP has had these powerful rules that allow them to put sticks into the spokes of the wheels. The main issue for the Dems is that chances are good that sooner or later they'll find themselves in the minority and want to have the ability to filibuster things as well.

So, it's a perverse situation: You are in power now, yet you don't want to abuse power because you think you may not be in power in the future. However, because you are in power now, your constituency expects you to be able to use that power and get things done.

The Wiki above shows the stalemate was broken by an agreement not to use filibusters of judicial nominees except in extraordinary circumstances, but doesn't seem to have coverage for other situations, and clearly the Dems feel the GOP has been abusing the filibuster.

So, do we think Reid et all will have the nerve to "go nuclear"?


Inspiration, move me brightly!
15 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinepar13del From Bahamas, joined Dec 2005, 7380 posts, RR: 8
Reply 1, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 1480 times:

Quoting Revelation (Thread starter):
It's clear many on the GOP have kept talking about the Senate's inability to pass a budget, but the GOP has had these powerful rules that allow them to put sticks into the spokes of the wheels.

Ask yourself this question, why would Republicans in the Senate not want to pass a bugget created by their fellow members and passed in the Republican controlled House of Representatives? I think there is much more to the issue of the Senate not having passed a budget and the host of other items they have relinquished their position in the process on, remember why they are elected for 6 years versus 2, they have abandoned their position of superiority, may as well have them elected for 2 years like the rest of the pack.

The power of the Senate has been used in the past 20-30 years by the party who controls the majority of seats. The majority leader set the agenda, which bills / amendments will be brought to the floor, time for debate, etc etc etc numerous rules and regulations will controls the discourse and ultimately the outcome.

It is to the credit of the "aliens from another world" who wrote the constitution and other rules of the USA that they put in place such procedures of adversarial measures that the country at times have been protected from the excess of the powerful. Neither party has problems with the rules when they are in the majority in the upper chamber protecting and pushing their parties agenda, they only get "snippy" when they cannot bribe the opponents onto their side and they use their adversarial measure the thwart the agenda.

The rules may well be changed, the danger is not that they will get their way and pass laws / rules that they like and want to implement, the danger will come in the number of rules / laws that will abrogated by the minority party when they become the majority. I would expect the SCOUS to not have it so easy to say a bill is a tax thus lawful etc. etc. etc.,
the fiscal cliff will be small in comparison.


User currently offlineeinsteinboricua From Puerto Rico, joined Apr 2010, 3182 posts, RR: 8
Reply 2, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 1480 times:

Quoting Revelation (Thread starter):
Interesting enough, "filibuster" is derived from the Spanish word for "pirate" or "privateer"

Actually, the word 'filibustero' is derived from the Dutch word for pirate 'vrijbuiter'.



"You haven't seen a tree until you've seen its shadow from the sky."
User currently offlinerfields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 3, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 1480 times:

I was just reading about Vice-President Thomas Marshall (1913-1921) and how he is so upset by filibuster procedures that he forced the Senate to change the filibuster rules to allow a stop.

I'm not sure the current rules are a bad thing.

Yes, the party not in power complains about the rule at times, and the party in power complains about the filibuster being used excessively at times.

If one party wants to change things - they need to remember what goes around comes around. Do the Republicans want that rule removed if they were the party in power?

Quoting Revelation (Thread starter):
I've never understood why a "super-majority" of 60 is needed to get anything done in the US Senate.

It does not take a 'super-majority' to get anything done.

It takes reasonable people willing to put aside party ideology and work to achieve a soloution. Our Congress today is dominated by idiots in both parties who would rather have the country grind to a halt rather than accept anything but total victory.

Texas just elected a new senator who campaigned in the primary on a "never compromise" promise.

We no longer have gentlemen and statesmen as Senators. We just have a lot of cheap jumped-up ambulance chasers.


User currently offlineblueflyer From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 4069 posts, RR: 2
Reply 4, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 1480 times:
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I think it is no coincidence that the number of filibusters has increased as the practice has changed from having to actually stand up in the chamber and talk for hours on end without yielding, to simply picking up the phone to announce one's intent to filibuster.

A phoned-in threat shouldn't be enough to block a law, senators should be forced to, again, literally stand up for their belief and physically filibuster what they don't like. Too bad if that means they miss the flight home to their adoring constituencies...

Quoting rfields5421 (Reply 3):
We just have a lot of cheap jumped-up ambulance chasers.

We have a lot of people who vote for them too. We love to decry our politicians, but we send them to DC. We are as stupid as they are, and frankly, I haven't felt smart in a long time...



I've got $h*t to do
User currently offlineRevelation From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 12722 posts, RR: 25
Reply 5, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 1480 times:

Quoting par13del (Reply 1):
Ask yourself this question, why would Republicans in the Senate not want to pass a bugget created by their fellow members and passed in the Republican controlled House of Representatives?

Two reasons: (1) Dems control the Senate and can change a lot of the bill before it goes to conference, and (2) scoring political points: the tactic of saying "The GOP House could pass a budget but a Dem Senate could not" works for them

Quoting einsteinboricua (Reply 2):
Actually, the word 'filibustero' is derived from the Dutch word for pirate 'vrijbuiter'.

Yes, you are correct, the original word is from the Dutch.

Quoting rfields5421 (Reply 3):
It does not take a 'super-majority' to get anything done.

It takes reasonable people willing to put aside party ideology and work to achieve a soloution.

Right, but it takes 60 of them in the Senate.

Quoting blueflyer (Reply 4):
I think it is no coincidence that the number of filibusters has increased as the practice has changed from having to actually stand up in the chamber and talk for hours on end without yielding, to simply picking up the phone to announce one's intent to filibuster.

A phoned-in threat shouldn't be enough to block a law, senators should be forced to, again, literally stand up for their belief and physically filibuster what they don't like. Too bad if that means they miss the flight home to their adoring constituencies...

Agreed, that would be more in the spirit of the original concept.



Inspiration, move me brightly!
User currently offlineHOMsAR From United States of America, joined Jan 2010, 1189 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 1480 times:

Quoting blueflyer (Reply 4):
I think it is no coincidence that the number of filibusters has increased as the practice has changed from having to actually stand up in the chamber and talk for hours on end without yielding, to simply picking up the phone to announce one's intent to filibuster.

A phoned-in threat shouldn't be enough to block a law, senators should be forced to, again, literally stand up for their belief and physically filibuster what they don't like. Too bad if that means they miss the flight home to their adoring constituencies...

This.

Make them read the damn phone book from cover to cover if they truly feel strongly enough about an issue to filibuster.

There needs to be some kind of protection against bad things passing with a simple majority, so keeping the filibuster in place is important. But they should have to work for it.



I was raised by a cup of coffee.
User currently offlineKen777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 8328 posts, RR: 9
Reply 7, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 1480 times:

The Senate has worked hard to make like easy. If there is a Filibuster then let them Filibuster live and on the Senate Floor.

I can see some changes, but I believe that the Senate will continue to hold on to the 60 vote rule in a lot of cases. Reality is that there will be a shift in power at some point in the future and the Democrats will be wanting the same level of power that the Republicans now hold. Especially since the GOP has been teaching everyone how to leverage a minority. McConnell is a master of Senate rules and future minority leaders will use his operations manual tothe hilt.


User currently offlineL-188 From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 29802 posts, RR: 58
Reply 8, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 1480 times:

This is just party of Harry Reid fighting a bigger battle for absolute control.

Funny how nowbody talks about why the republicans are fillerbustering these bad bills, it is because te rules have been changed by the democrats to prevent amendments from being offered.

That is why it was so important for the nation that the republicans to hold the house, to be a protective bulkhead against democrat totalitarism.

the founding fathers ever intended a two party system. In a true multi-party system that was intended,no party would have had over 50% of the vote and so comprimise would have been required accross multiple parties would have been required to get something passed.



OBAMA-WORST PRESIDENT EVER....Even SKOORB would be better.
User currently offlineseb146 From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 11718 posts, RR: 15
Reply 9, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 1480 times:

Quoting L-188 (Reply 8):
This is just party of Harry Reid fighting a bigger battle for absolute control.

Control like majority rules instead of minority rules? How awful!

Quoting L-188 (Reply 8):
Funny how nowbody talks about why the republicans are fillerbustering these bad bills,

Bad bills like the Paul Ryan budget that adds trillions to the deficit?



Life in the wall is a drag.
User currently offlineDocLightning From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 19942 posts, RR: 59
Reply 10, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 6 days ago) and read 1480 times:

Quoting L-188 (Reply 8):
Funny how nowbody talks about why the republicans are fillerbustering these bad bills, it is because te rules have been changed by the democrats to prevent amendments from being offered.

No. It's because the GOP hated Obama so much that they were willing to sabotage the country to make him not get re-elected. Now that it didn't work, they have to play again because they learned that their little plan didn't go so well.


User currently offlineOzGlobal From France, joined Nov 2004, 2723 posts, RR: 4
Reply 11, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 1480 times:

Quoting DocLightning (Reply 10):
It's because the GOP hated Obama so much that they were willing to sabotage the country to make him not get re-elected. Now that it didn't work, they have to play again because they learned that their little plan didn't go so well.

Exactly: the GOP have behaved in a manner to directly undermine the democratic process, paralyze wilfully congress, damage the country and hope that the created discontent serves their interests. Such behaviour is treasonous. I can't believe people are having scruples about blocking such destructive and unpatriotic tactics...



When all's said and done, there'll be more said than done.
User currently offlineAesma From France, joined Nov 2009, 6724 posts, RR: 12
Reply 12, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 1480 times:

Rules are being changed regularly in our French chambers, including those kind of rules (number of members needed to pass a law, limits on amendments by the opposition, etc.), the constitution was amended a couple years ago by the conservative ruling party because it felt the socialist opposition had too much power to slow things down. Now, that opposition is in power and can enjoy the same rules (that even helps them with the far left supposed to be allies).

To me that's not a problem. The opposition should have a say in things, point out why a law is flawed etc., but in the end the ruling party should be able to pass the laws it was elected to pass. If people are unhappy, they'll put the other party in power. For the past 6 months the socialists have been reversing a lot of Sarkozy's laws, and the conservative opposition is already saying they would pass them back if elected in 2017. It seems a little futile and indeed many laws are passed without ever getting applied, but at least the people feel putting a party in power really means they have power, and the shortcomings of their term is theirs alone.

Of course, the electoral map in the US is very strange so that changes in power are not that simple, and the president doesn't always have the legislature he needs. That's what really needs fixing in my opinion.



New Technology is the name we give to stuff that doesn't work yet. Douglas Adams
User currently offlinepar13del From Bahamas, joined Dec 2005, 7380 posts, RR: 8
Reply 13, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 1480 times:

Quoting blueflyer (Reply 4):
I think it is no coincidence that the number of filibusters has increased as the practice has changed from having to actually stand up in the chamber and talk for hours on end without yielding, to simply picking up the phone to announce one's intent to filibuster.

Best solution yet, will force the light and a/c to say on running up the utility bill for all to see but most importantly, will demand that the Senators put in the time for their beliefs.
Good solution.

Quoting seb146 (Reply 9):
Bad bills like the Paul Ryan budget that adds trillions to the deficit?

Did the majority leader even let Paul Ryan put forward a bill for debate much less come up for a vote?
Whether we agree with it or not, was he allowed to present it?
I recall the Senate Majority leader killing one House budget before it even got to the Senate, does defeat the public process, let the masses see the process and hear the bills points versus just killing the debate. Who knows it may have even had more of an effect on the elections, you never know.

Quoting DocLightning (Reply 10):
No. It's because the GOP hated Obama so much that they were willing to sabotage the country to make him not get re-elected.

So, were the rules changed to make it difficult for the Minority in the Senate to offer amendments?
Is it all cause and effect or the chicken and egg, the Republicans are against Obama so they offer amendments for everything, the Democrats to protect the Presidents agenda adjust rules to make offering amendments difficult?
My understanding of the Senate Rules in terms of budgets for example, is that they have to originate in the House, the Senate also has to pass the budget but their strength is that they are allowed to offer amendments which must then be resolved in conference, so making / offering amendments is essential to the workings of the Senate.


User currently offlineRevelation From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 12722 posts, RR: 25
Reply 14, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 1480 times:

Quoting par13del (Reply 13):
So, were the rules changed to make it difficult for the Minority in the Senate to offer amendments?

That's not my understanding. The wiki nuclear option page points out how the last major trauma around this was due to a judicial nominee, and ended with a gentleman's agreement not to filibuster such nominees except in "extreme cases".

The interesting thing to me is that the numbers show the ever-increasing use of filibuster by the minority party over the last few years, in particular since 2008.

Quoting par13del (Reply 13):
My understanding of the Senate Rules in terms of budgets for example, is that they have to originate in the House, the Senate also has to pass the budget but their strength is that they are allowed to offer amendments which must then be resolved in conference, so making / offering amendments is essential to the workings of the Senate.

Correct, but IIRC this comes from the Constitution: the House has 'the power of the purse string'....



Inspiration, move me brightly!
User currently offlinebhill From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 993 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (1 year 11 months 1 week 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 1480 times:

Well....if you can't buy what you want....filibuster.....If this is not proof the GOP has been obstructionist...


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