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Hullabaloo


Thursday, January 24, 2013

 
Filibuster reform near death due to "bipartisanship"

by David Atkins

Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are near completion of a "deal" that will do very little to correct the crippling abuse of the filibuster while allowing Republicans two poison pill amendments. It's a terrible disappointment for those who were hoping for an abatement to one of the most destructive and corrupting practices in American government.

One of the more common responses has been to attack Harry Reid for subverting Senate Democrats to make a "bipartisan" deal with Republicans. But despite Senators Udall's and Merkley's bold claims, it has never been entirely clear that there were ever a full 51 votes for real reform. So it's possible that Harry Reid, rather than subterfuging Democrats, is instead counting votes and playing his best hand.

But whether Harry Reid is personally at fault or it's the result of certain more conservative or comity-obsessed Democrats, the specter of pointless bipartisanship appears to have once again trumped basic principles of good governance.

That said, as important as this issue is, the probable failure of reform in 2013 isn't the end of the world. While an end to filibuster abuse would allow the Senate to pass message bills more easily, the biggest current obstacle to decent legislation is the Republican House. So at least until 2015, little in the way of major passable legislation is likely to be significantly affected. It will matter more if the GOP advantage in the House is whittled or eliminated, and Democrats maintain control of the Senate.

But the most important outcome is the realization that while we aren't quite there yet, the newer crop of Democrats like Merkley and Udall is far better than much of the old guard responsible for abetting and supporting the broken system. We're only a few retirements and progressive primaries away from a Democratic Senate majority progressive enough to make the necessary changes. In the coming days we'll likely find out which Democrats scuttled reform, and those people will need to be held to account as we prepare for 2014.

Things are getting better. We're not there yet, and that's frustrating. But we're getting there.


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