Category Archives: Filibusters
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV): Floor Statement 11/21/2013 –
“In the history of the Republic, there have been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations. Half of them have occurred during the Obama Administration – during the last four and a half years. These nominees deserve at least an up-or-down vote.”
“This gridlock has consequences. Terrible consequences. It is not only bad for President Obama and bad for the United States Senate; it’s bad for our country. It is bad for our national security and for our economic security.”
“Today the important distinction is not between Democrats and Republicans. It is between those who are willing to help break the gridlock in Washington and those who defend the status quo… This change to the rules regarding presidential nominees will apply equally to both parties. When Republicans are in power, these changes will apply to them as well. That’s simple fairness. And it’s something both sides should be willing to live with to make Washington work again.” (emphasis added)
The money quote is in the first line. The motivation comes in the press release wherein Senator Reid states the obvious:
“It is a troubling trend that Republicans are willing to block executive branch nominees even when they have no objection to the qualifications of the nominee. Instead, they block qualified executive branch nominees to circumvent the legislative process. They block qualified executive branch nominees to force wholesale changes to laws. They block qualified executive branch nominees to restructure entire executive branch departments. And they block qualified judicial nominees because they don’t want President Obama to appoint any judges to certain courts.” (emphasis added)
In short, nominees are being stymied for reasons which are superfluous to the functioning of our courts or to the operation of our executive branch — it’s pure politics. Reid goes on to explain in a trip down memory lane:
“At the beginning of this Congress, the Republican Leader pledged that, quote, “this Congress should be more bipartisan than the last Congress.” We’re told in scripture that, “When a man makes a vow… he must not break his word.” Numbers 30-2. In January, Republicans promised to work with the majority to process nominations… in a timely manner by unanimous consent, except in extraordinary circumstances.
“Exactly three weeks later, Republicans mounted a first-in-history filibuster of a highly qualified nominee for Secretary of Defense. Despite being a former Republican Senator and a decorated war hero, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s nomination was pending in the Senate for a record 34 days, more than three times the previous average. Remember, our country was at war. Republicans have blocked executive branch nominees like Secretary Hagel not because they object to the qualifications of the nominee, but simply because they seek to undermine the very government in which they were elected to serve.”
And so it began… it didn’t take the Republican minority a full month to renege on their promise to deal with the backlog of civilian nominees. Now what?
Oh, wail the Washington Chatterati, this action to reduce the filibusters of judicial and executive will come to grief. The acrimony will increase! Uh, if it took the GOP only three weeks to back off from their initial promise not to filibuster qualified nominees, the level of acrimony has already hit the top of the scale. Not to mention the Republican precipitated Government Shutdown which was not exactly an outstanding example of cooperation and good will.
Not sure if the Gridlock assertion is real? The full list of civilian nominations in committee is located here. The list of judicial nominations for the district and circuit courts is available here. It doesn’t take much imagination to look at the lists and conclude that if the Republican minority in the Senate were to filibuster each and every nominee there would continue to be serious backlogs in our courts for the foreseeable future. Now, consider the “acrimony factor.”
If the present system, allowing the filibuster of every civilian (including judicial) nominee, were to continue in the Senate, and if the Republicans regained the control of the Senate, then it isn’t inconceivable that the Democratic minority would revert to the same tactics as the GOP in the 113th Congress. Imagine the judicial system if this were to continue through subsequent Congresses?
The only people who would be served by a completely dysfunctional judiciary are those who are already fulminating about the Evil Government taking their unspecified “freedoms,” the modern anarchists.
** Remember when Governor Sandoval vetoed SB 221, the bill which would have expanded background checks to private gun sales to insure that individuals who were felons, fugitives, undocumented aliens, juveniles without parental supervision, those restrained by a court from possessing firearms because of spousal abuse and domestic violence, and seriously mentally ill individuals could not obtain guns? The Governor claimed the bill was “too broad,” but now we have a very specific example of precisely the kind of activity the proposed law was designed to prevent — a seriously mentally ill individual purchased a gun from a Reno police officer, and Nevada Progressive has a good summation of the situation.
For background information see: “RGJ Exclusive: Mentally ill man who bought gun from Reno cop was prohibited from having a gun” Reno Gazette Journal, July 16, 2013. “Gun issue smolders in Nevada political landscape,” Ray Hagar, Reno Gazette Journal, July 17, 2013.
** The Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus would like to remind Senator Dean Heller (R-Big and Bigger Banks) that it is often a good thing to read laws one is complaining about, and to refresh one’s memory about how the Congress of the United States of America functions prior to launching aggrieved letters to the Executive Branch. See: “Heller Has No Clue How Congress Works and He Apparently Can’t Read Either,” at the NRDC site. Senator Heller’s latest nod to the Tea Party in regard to the Affordable Care Act substantiates the NRDC’s headline.
** Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) got tired of the GOP obstructionism in the Senate and played the anti-filibuster card. Why? As Sebelius explains:
“Not a single cabinet secretary nominee was filibustered in President [Jimmy] Carter’s administration. Not a single cabinet secretary nominee was filibustered in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. Only one cabinet secretary was filibustered in President [Ronald] Reagan’s administration. And only one cabinet secretary was filibustered in President George W. Bush‘s administration. But already in President Obama’s administration, 4 cabinet secretaries have been filibustered, and more filibusters are likely. Yet the Republican Leader says there is no problem here. The status quo is fine.”
And then came The Deal, as explained by the Washington Post:
“The clear winner from the ugly debate was the president, who will have a full slate of his nominees confirmed and will settle the messy staffing issue at the CFPB and the NLRB. Those agencies are the subject of a legal battle that will reach the Supreme Court over Obama’s method of making an end run around Senate confirmation to install interim appointees, threatening to undermine more than 1,000 rulings issued by the labor board in the past 18 months.”
In this instance it appears as though Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) isn’t quite as “necessary” as he thought he might have been? E.J. Dionne, Jr. offers more analysis in his column. And, Bingo!, we have Thomas Perez confirmed as the new Secretary of Labor.
** Speaking of undermining the system. The Republican controlled House of Representatives, which just can’t seem to help itself from repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, has voted to delay the individual mandate section of the law — an action which will die in the Senate, and would meet a veto from the White House — The latest exercise in futility passed 264 to 121, with Nevada Representatives Heck (R-NV3) and Amodei (R-NV2) voting in favor of the bill; Representative Titus (D-NV1) voted no.
Perhaps those voting in the affirmative, such as Reps. Heck and Amodei, didn’t take the time to read the latest reports concerning the implementation of the ACA and Patients Bill of Rights — especially the one which reports that health care insurance premiums are projected to drop by 50% in New York, or the release this morning from HHS:
“The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is set to release a report on Thursday morning that analyzes the 2014 premiums in the Obamacare insurance marketplaces in 11 different states, including Virginia, Colorado, Ohio, and Oregon. Officials said that the data will show that the weighted average of the least expensive mid-level health plans in those states’ marketplaces are 18 percent lower than what the CBO thought they would be when the law first passed.” [TP] (emphasis added)
In essence, since insurance companies are factoring in the increased demand for their products under the individual mandate — what Representatives Heck and Amodei just voted to do is Increase the Cost of Health Insurance Premiums?
** You can’t make this stuff up.
ALEC’s Back — this time with bills crafted for state consumption which would privatize the nation’s educational systems, state by state. There are 139 bills awaiting passage in 43 states and D.C., but before we jump on the ALEC “reform” bandwagon, it’s advisable to read “Cashing In On Kids.” There were three bills in the last session of the Nevada legislature related to the ALEC campaign to cash in on kids: AB 254 was the ALEC sponsored “Parent Trigger Bill,” and SB 314, the ALEC supported “Parental Rights Amendment.” SB 407 was the “Great Teachers and Leaders Act.” AB 254 was sponsored by: Hansen, Hickey, Hambrick, Fiore, Hardy, Kirner, Livermore, Wheeler, Gustavson — no surprises there?
Beautiful Downtown Deer Trail, CO is pondering whether to offer a bounty to those who shoot down drones. For $25 dollars, the ordinance proposes, you can get a hunting license for a drone, and take target practice on your very own Spy Ship. This is interesting because Congress has directed the FAA to make airspace more readily available for surveillance drones, and most serious legislation on the subject calls for a probable cause warrant before police utilize a drone. [ACLU] So, if the Colorado State Patrol gets a probable cause warrant to send a drone over a suspected meth lab or marijuana farm — the residents of Deer Trail could shoot it down? And, please tell me the people advocating the Drone Shoot aren’t some of the same individuals who are all for using drones to spot undocumented workers trying to cross the deserts?
** Nevada Progressive offers a good summary on the politics of comprehensive immigration law reform. Add to this, Antonio Villaraigosa’s op-ed piece, “Comprehensive Immigration Reform: The Time Is Now.”
** The recent exceedingly insensitive and hyper-hypocritical ad from the National Rifle Association gets the treatment it deserves in “NRA ad targets Obama’s kids…” and welcome advice in “Trolls don’t deserve a seat at the table.”
The gun-lusters keep telling me that “Gee Whiz, the AR-15 isn’t the most powerful gun out there…A person could use a ____________ (fill in the blank with the caller’s weaponry of choice.” The point appears to be that the poor AR (A for Assault, R for Rifle) is getting picked on. I wouldn’t want to try to make this point to the parents of Ben Wheeler, one of the victims of the Sandy Hook Massacre. [MSNBC with video] Perhaps this is the time for us to deal with the graphic gore in that tragic classroom? This, from the chief medical examiner tasked with doing the autopsies on the slain children:
“Everybody’s death was caused by gunshot wounds and obviously the manner of death on all these cases have been classified as homicide,” Carver said.
He said that he personally performed seven autopsies and those children had between three and 11 wounds each. Two of them were shot at close range, the others at a distance.
“This is a very devastating set of injuries,” Carver said. “I believe everyone was hit more than once.”
“I’ve been at this for a third of a century and my sensibility may not be the average man’s, but this is probably the worst I’ve seen.” [DKos links with video of the press conference]
There are sentient points to be made about the technicalities of firearm classifications, BUT (1) merely because illegal weapons can be purchased in black markets doesn’t preclude the necessity of banning the sale of military style weaponry which places our children, our law enforcement officers, and even ourselves in danger. As one who generally opposes the extension of drug availability, I don’t see any reason to make either contraband drugs or contraband firearms easier to obtain. All too often drugs and guns create a toxic mix — especially for law enforcement; (2) and, no we’ll not de-glamorize gun violence statutorily, but we can, and should, make the acquisition of firearms a more stringent process; and (3) while no single package of legislation will ever eradicate gun violence, we can, and should, take rational steps to make firearms more difficult to obtain by those who are irrational, or criminal. We make bank robbery a criminal act, even though we know that the presence of a statute in the books doesn’t prevent the lazy and greedy from attempting it, and periodically succeeding. We need to make the same effort to make gun massacres more difficult to perpetuate.
** Filibuster reform is another hot topic du jour: The inimitable Bill Moyers urges we take action on Filibuster Reform. As the cliché goes — if you don’t read anything else, make it this piece.
#1. The Senate of the United States of America does something constructive with the FILIBUSTER rule. The original rule was intended to prevent the willful trampling of minority points of view, but the abuse of the rule is now part of the clichéd “Washington Gridlock.” There is a delicate balance between Majority Rule and Minority Rights, but Obstruction for its own sake is not a laudable occupation.
#2. The Republicans in the House of Representatives eschew the Hastert Rule , under which a majority of the majority party caucus must agree to the passage of a bill before a vote can be taken on the House floor. This might have been a lovely idea if the current majority party caucus weren’t the replication of that other cliché– a wheelbarrow load of frogs. Governance requires compromise, and compromise demands the admission that we don’t always get everything we want. Ideological posturing is not a substitute for principled discourse.
#3. Someone in a position to do something about it finally figures out that arguments over raising the debt ceiling are academic at best and consummately silly at worst — rather like announcing that because I overspent my budget for this holiday season I’m going to chop up my credit cards and not pay the bills. Aside from being the most fiscally irresponsible action imaginable, it’s also a manifestation of the idea that the full faith and credit of the United States is some kind of bargaining chip in ideological squabbling.
#4. The National Rifle Association (aka No Rational Argument) stops pretending to care about the right of our citizens to keep and bear arms, and honestly announces that its ultimate intention is to promote the sale of as many firearms as its manufacturing donors can create. After that, it should be far easier to discuss comprehensive background checks, closing the gun show loophole, and banning military style assault weapons.
#5. More people, perhaps even more people in the national media, stop referring to “The” government and start calling it what it is — OUR government. “The” government calls to mind the institution which cracks down on Moonshiners, or enforces school integration, or ignores calls to make Jefferson Davis’s birthday a national holiday. “The” government didn’t decide to integrate public schools — “our” government did. “The” government didn’t decide to enact regulations to prevent air and water pollution — “our” government did. And, “The” government didn’t create the Food Stamp (SNAP) program — “our” government did that. And so it goes. Continual references to “The” government is an unfortunate holdover from the Reaganesque caricature of government designed to promote the financial health of the economic elite by appealing to the discontent with those laws “our” government enacted to promote OUR general welfare.
#6. Our representatives on Capitol Hill learn to say “____ isn’t the end of the world as we know it.” I could do with a great deal less hysterical hyperbole. “This is the Largest Tax Increase In The History of the Universe!” Probably not. “This is the worst violation of human rights ever!” Probably not that either. “This will create the worst calamity known to man.” Probably not. “This will destroy our ____.” Again, probably not. Excuse me while I chuckle at the pomposity of this meaningless prognostication.
#7. Journalists who seek to inform me via the television set prove to be (1) knowledgeable about the subject under discussion, and (2) include fact checking as part of the “context” of which they speak so often. If a statement made by a politician is factually inaccurate, they will tell me; and I hope they’ll be able to offer a correction. I really don’t care if they are correcting the record in the wake of Left Wing Larry or Right Wing Richard’s pontification. The object of the exercise should be to impart accurate information so far as it can be known — I can get my “entertainment” elsewhere. Bluntly, the “he said, she said, and then he said” reactions from professional chatterati or elected representatives is less entertaining than a good professional wrestling match, which at least has the grace to admit it’s a scripted farce.
#8. Somebody finally declares the Culture Wars over and done with. Our contemporary version appears to incorporate a toxic dose of good old fashioned misogyny. Women make up about 51% of our population and telling them they cannot have an abortion (even in the cases of an ectopic pregnancy or as the result of a rape) is paternalistic to the core. Worse still would be telling them that their employer can decide if their health insurance plan covers contraceptive medication.
#9. On a related note, it really doesn’t do to blame God for everything. I’d cheer the week that some blowhards weren’t showcased in the media for pronouncing God’s Wrath for … whatever. Hurricane Katrina — God’s wrath for a Gay Pride gathering? Really? God’s wrath because we don’t pray hard enough? That certainly doesn’t explain the attack on congregants in the Knoxville Unitarian church. God’s Wrath because we don’t have organized prayer in schools? Huh? No one at Columbine High School, Platte County High School, Northern Illinois University, Virginia Tech University, or Sandy Hook Elementary knew how to pray and practiced it regularly? Spare me the Westboro Wannabes who “know” the mind of God better than a six year old child.
#10. The confetti will fly when we begin to have a serious discussion about global climate change without having to incorporate the phony “science” offered up by the fossil fuel industry. No, there isn’t a “controversy” here. And, no reputable science deflects our responsibility as human beings for the contamination of which we are clearly capable.
Speaking of the Almighty, there’s an old story about the man caught in a flood which seems appropriate at the moment. “Why, he cried out to God, am a trapped in these flood waters?” The Almighty, sorely tired of listening to the wailing, said, “I sent you warnings.” “When?” “When?” responded the Deity. “When indeed.” “I sent you warnings on the radio. You ignored me. I sent you warnings in television broadcasts, and you ignored me. I even sent a deputy sheriff to personally advise you to evacuate. And, you ignored him too.” ….
We’ve been visited with major named storms, watched ice caps diminish, seen glaciers disappear… and all together too many people are ignoring the warnings.
<Snark> I do hope you appreciate my efforts this morning. I got up nice and early — more a function of a miniature dachshund who had tangled himself in a sheet than an intention — and took my coffee to the deck and Bid The Sun To Rise! <snark> OK, it wasn’t this sunrise, which is a stock graphic, and much better than this morning’s cloudy rendition. Now to the point. The Rolls-Royce Ticket (Romney/Ryan) has Promised an increase of 12,000,000 jobs!
Right there in the acceptance speech: “And unlike the president, I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs.” [Politicususa] This would be lovely, except that it is roughly analogous to my claim of bidding the sun to rise; it’s probably going to happen anyway:
‘In its semi-annual long-term economic forecast released in April, Macroeconomic Advisers projected that the economy would add 11.8 million jobs from 2012 to 2016. That means Mr. Romney believes his newly announced policies would add an extra 200,000 jobs on top of what people already expected, or a jobs bonus of about 2 percent. The more jobs the better, of course, but that’s not really much to write home about.” [NYT]
And, actually the President HAS a plan to create jobs — the American Jobs Act. S. 1549 was introduced by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) on September 13, 2011. That it has not moved since isn’t a function of “Presidential Leadership,” but of good old fashioned Republican intransigence.
The legislation includes tax cuts and regulatory reforms for small businesses and entrepreneurs. But, the GOP doesn’t want to move on it.
The legislation includes provisions for preventing teacher layoffs, hiring more veterans, investments in infrastructure projects, public-private projects for rehabilitating local communities. But the GOP doesn’t want to vote in favor of these elements.
The legislation promotes work based reforms to create innovative ways to retrain, rehire, and re-employ American workers. But the GOP doesn’t want this to come to the Senate floor.
The legislation also encourages more re-financing of homes for stressed home-owners. But the GOP doesn’t want to talk about this either. [AJAfactsheet]
The level of Republican intransigence can be measured by the number of tax cuts they passed up in order to block this legislation:
#1. The Republicans rejected a provision which would cut the payroll tax in half to 3.1% for employers on the first $5 million in wages, providing broad tax relief to all businesses but targeting it to the 98 percent of firms with wages below this level.
#2. The Republicans rejected a full holiday on the 6.2% payroll tax firms pay for any growth in their payroll up to $50 million above the prior year, whether driven by new hires, increased wages or both. This is the kind of job creation measure that CBO has called the most effective of all tax cuts in supporting employment.
#3. The Republicans rejected a proposal for 100 percent expensing, the largest temporary investment incentive in history, allowing all firms – large and small – to take an immediate deduction on investments in new plants and equipment.
#4. The Republicans rejected the Returning Heroes Tax Credit of up to $5,600 for hiring unemployed veterans who have been looking for a job for more than six months, and a Wounded Warriors Tax Credit of up to $9,600 for hiring unemployed workers with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than six months, while creating a new task force to maximize career readiness of service members.
#5. The Republicans rejected the AJA including the plan to expand the payroll tax cut passed last December by cutting workers payroll taxes in half next year. This provision will provide a tax cut of $1,500 to the typical family earning $50,000 a year. As with the payroll tax cut passed in December 2010, the American Jobs Act will specify that Social Security will still receive every dollar it would have gotten otherwise, through a transfer from the General Fund into the Social Security Trust Fund.
The Mornings After
Gee, and here we thought that the sun will rise in the east every morning, and Republicans will always favor tax cuts. Yes, the President had, and still has, a specific plan to increase employment in the good old United States of America — but as of October 14, 2011 the plan ground to a halt in the face of Republican opposition in the Senate:
President Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan foundered in the Senate on Tuesday night, as a unified Republican caucus and a pair of Democrats joined to deny the proposal the 60 votes needed to allow it to proceed to full consideration. [WashMonthly]
Any claims of “bipartisan rejection” of the bill can be waived because the two “no votes,” from Senators Nelson of Nebraska and Tester of Montana, wouldn’t have broken the GOP filibuster of the American Jobs Act. The cloture motion failed on a 50-49-1 vote. [roll call 160] It takes 60 to break a filibuster and the best the Democrats in the Senate could have mustered was 53. *Senator Reid voted ‘no’ to be on the prevailing side so he could later offer a motion to reconsider under the rules.
Yes, the bill includes tax cuts, and YES it’s paid for, and yes, the Republicans, in a “unified Republican caucus” blocked it. Now, we get the vague sound of whining as the sun rises.
The Republicans whine, “but the President hasn’t shown leadership on jobs creation,” an interesting wail since the President presented a piece of legislation all packaged nicely with tax cuts and infrastructure investments. It really doesn’t do for me to park my pickup across your driveway and then criticize you for not driving your children to school.
The Republicans whine, “the bills are too big and complicated,” but when parts of the legislation are offered in the Senate those are filibustered as well. This comes perilously close to refusing to eat at the restaurant because the menu’s too long, but when offered items a la carte refusing each one.
According to GOP candidate Governor Mitt Romney: “The President doesn’t have a plan, hasn’t proposed any new ideas to get the economy going—just the same old ideas of the past that have failed.” [Prospect]
The Republican complaint would have far more authenticity had they worked with the Democrats in the Senate to pass the infrastructure and rehabilitation portions of the American Jobs Act; indeed, the ONLY specific jobs proposal on the table at the moment is the aforementioned American Jobs Act. Governor Romney’s complaint would have far more resonance if he would offer something besides the trickle down economics of Republicans Past. Speaking of no new ideas… in the words of the Rev. Al Sharpton, “We got the trickle, but nothing came down.”
The sun will rise tomorrow morning whether I take my coffee on the deck or not, the economy will probably create about 11.8 million jobs even if we do nothing, and the Republicans will filibuster anything from the White House whether it has a package of tax cuts in it or not — just because it came from the Democratic side of the spectrum.
Perhaps candidates in Nevada’s Senatorial race, and in the Nevada Congressional District races should be asked whether or not they support the American Jobs Act, or even portions of it? Perhaps it’s time we got some answers that aren’t merely more predictable-as-the-sunrise rhetoric?