In the wake of the Richard Cordray imbroglio
, we've heard many calls to get rid of the filibuster. Don't be so hasty: Pretty soon, the filibuster threat may be the only weapon Democrats have left. In the case of the Cordray nomination, I would prefer to see a real
filibuster; the sheer drama of the thing would be enormous fun, as would the spectacle of watching the Republicans defend an indefensible position 24 hours a day.
Just imagine what Colbert and Stewart could do with that
As I have mentioned in several previous posts, the Dems have had the ability to get rid of the filibuster all along. That's right: Just as Dorothy always was able to go back to Kansas, the Dems could have changed the Senate rules back in 2010 or 2009. After 2012, the Republicans (if they have a majority) will probably pull off the same trick described here.
And no, I'm not talking about the so-called nuclear option. This isn't a job for OWS
; it's a job for the Senate.
Want to know how to do it? Allow a bit of self-quotation from a 2010 post:
* * *
Remember, the entire point of a filibuster is to make life miserable for the opposing party. Sure, the person doing the actual filibuster must talk non-stop under physically challenging circumstances. We've all seen Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
. But in order to keep the show going, a quorum must be present, which means that all members of the opposing party have to stay in the room, or at least nearby.
Of course, those
guys can be more comfy. They don't have to stand up. They can bring in cots. They can eat and drink. They can set up laptops with internet connections and play Farmville.
Harry Reid can force the Dems to to stay in the building by force of arms. Yes, he has that authority.
Once a filibuster has started, the rules governing how the Senate operates can be changed easily.
Unfortunately, both the pundits and the senators themselves seem unaware of the actual wording of the Senate rules. I've posted the relevant section before. The subject here is cloture:
...he [the Senate Majority Leader] shall lay the motion before the Senate and direct that the clerk call the roll, and upon the ascertainment that a quorum is present, the Presiding Officer shall, without debate, submit to the Senate by a yea-and-nay vote the question:
"Is it the sense of the Senate that the debate shall be brought to a close?" And if that question shall be decided in the affirmative by three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn -- except on a measure or motion to amend the Senate rules, in which case the necessary affirmative vote shall be two-thirds of the Senators present and voting -- then said measure, motion, or other matter pending before the Senate, or the unfinished business, shall be the unfinished business to the exclusion of all other business until disposed of.
Read the words in boldface again and again until the implications sink in.
To change the rules, you don't need two-thirds of all Senators
. You need only two-thirds of the Senators present
. That's a key difference.
As I said, the whole point of a filibuster by a Republican is to force all the Democratic senators to stay in the damned room. But the Republicans will be free to go. And they will. That means most of the people in the room will be Democrats.
They can vote to change the Senate rules. That means that they can end the entire concept
of the filibuster...