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Matt Vespa

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January 24, 2013 - 3:28 pm

Filibuster reform has been on the docket for quite some time, and Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell pretty much kept the legislative mechanism intact.  Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey, citing The Huffington Post, wrote today that:

Progressive senators working to dramatically alter Senate rules were defeated on Thursday, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), set to announce a series of compromise reforms on the Senate floor that fall far short of the demands. The language of the deal was obtained by HuffPost and can be read here and here.

The pressure from the liberal senators, led by Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley and backed by a major coalition of progressive groups, created the political space for Reid to cut the deal with McConnell, which does include changes to how the Senate operates, but leaves a fundamental feature, the silent filibuster, in place.

The deal would address the filibuster on the motion to proceed, which had regularly prevented the Senate from even considering legislation and was a major frustration for Reid. The new procedure will also make it easier for the majority to appoint conferees once a bill has passed, but leaves in place the minority’s ability to filibuster that motion once — meaning that even after the Senate and House have passed a bill, the minority can still mount a filibuster one more time.

Reid won concessions on judicial nominations as well. Under the old rules, after a filibuster had been beaten, 30 more hours were required to pass before a nominee could finally be confirmed. That delay threatened to tie the chamber in knots. The new rules will only allow two hours after cloture is invoked.

As Morrissey noted, “yes, but the filibuster still applies, and the post-cloture debate was moot anyway.  The only really significant changes to the filibuster itself is that it can no longer be applied to a motion to proceed, but only to a floor vote, and that Senators must be present to filibusterIt still takes 60 votes to gain cloture, and it still means that bills — like, say, Dianne Feinstein’s assault-weapons ban will have to gain significant Republican support to pass.”  Furthermore, senators will still be able to put holds on legislation, which would need sixty votes to overcome.

Furthermore:

It looks as though McConnell got his wish in reforming the amendment process, too.  The first section gives the right to the minority to offer amendments in rotation with the majority, which means Reid can no longer “fill the tree” by introducing enough amendments to shut out Republicans, although the schedule becomes constricted significantly if cloture is invoked for both the majority and minority.

Some other changes were mentioned in Slate’s Dave Weigel’s post, which included:

- Making it easier to go to conference after the Senate and House have passed a bill — allowing only one filibuster, not three.

- Limiting debate time on district court nominees from 30 hours to 2 hours.

I’ve always been against reforming the filibuster.  It’s a critical tool used to slow things down in government, especially hyper-regulatory progressive policies.  It keeps our Constitution safe.  The complaints about the filibuster being “abused” are frivolous.  Don’t complain when you don’t have the political acumen to get things done.  If a bill is too liberal, then you’ll have to meet conservatives – and hash out a more palatable bill.  However, Harry Reid has decided to just table everything House Republican pass, which could get this economy moving again. However, most of the hurdles to overcome a filibuster remain in place.

It seems that Mr. Reid isn’t ready for a comprehensive overhaul.  Ezra Klein of Washington Post’s WonkBlog quoted Reid today  saying, “I’m not personally, at this stage, ready to get rid of the 60-vote threshold…with the history of the Senate, we have to understand the Senate isn’t and shouldn’t be like the House.”

Klein concluded his post with this: “Republicans have little to fear. The filibuster is safe. Even filibusters against the motion to proceed are safe. And filibuster reformers have lost once again.”

Matt Vespa is a conservative blogger who contributes to CNS News, RedState, Noodle Pundit, and was formerly with Hot Air's GreenRoom.
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