Friday, January 25, 2013

The Senate's Filibuster Fail

Welp, so much for that.

If you were seeking any further proof that both of our political parties have just as much of an investment in perpetuating the stagnant swamp that is our state of governance, look no further than what happened yesterday. One of the ongoing themes I come back to again and again on this site is how the frequent deployment of the filibuster in the Senate has far exceeded not only its usefulness, but also its appropriateness.

The tactic, which sets a 60-vote "supermajority" threshold for even the most non-controversial business to get an up-or-down vote, was used a record number of times during this past congressional term (most comically late last year when Republican leader Mitch McConnell filibustered himself). While many Democrats in the Senate loudly grumped and harrumphed at the tyranny of the Republican minority, and talked a big game about implementing reforms when a peculiarity of rules at the dawn of a new term allowed the opportunity, when that moment arrived they folded like lawn chairs.

After weeks and months of bluster from Dem leader Harry Reid that he would employ a simple majority vote to amend the filibuster, and after a plan from Senators Merkley, Udall, and Harkin to force a so-called "talking filbuster," putting the onus on the obstructionist to stand in front of the country and explain their intransigence, Reid reached an across-the-aisle deal with McConnell to do...nothing. Well, basically nothing, anyway. And just like that, the cake is baked for the 113th Congress. Status quo ante.

The really sad, frustrating part about this is that it's happened enough times just during the time I've been regularly blogging that you start realizing the Dems are just as much a part of the problem when it comes to abuse of the filibuster. Not just because they live in perpetual fear of the "What about when we're in the minority?" hypothetical, but also because, more to the point, the filibuster isn't really about the tyranny of the minority. It's about the tyranny of the individual.

The existence of the filibuster at this point, which allows every single Senator to hold up progress unless they wet their beak, is no longer about making sure the majority doesn't ride roughshod. It's now primarily about protecting their personal bottom line, and that applies regardless of which party you belong to. It should be as clear as day now that there'll never be progress on this front. Never. Click on over to Talking Points Memo for the full blow-by-blow on how filibuster reform breathed its last. Be advised, however, that you'll probably feel ill after reading it.

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