Thursday, July 11, 2013

Will Majority Leader Reid Trigger the Nuclear Option for Pres Obama's Nomiinees with GOP Threatening a Shutdown?

Constitution of the United States does not require a 60 vote margin to pass bills or to approve Presidential nominees.  Two-thirds of Senate votes (66) are required for treaties, impeachment, and to override a Presidential veto. 

The filibuster was never part of the Constitution.  Seems it all started with Aaron Burr in 1805 telling the Senate that the rule book was too messy:
When Aaron Burr said, get rid of the previous question motion, the Senate didn’t think twice. When they met in 1806, they dropped the motion from the Senate rule book.
Once the rule was gone, senators still did not filibuster. Deletion of the rule made possible the filibuster because the Senate no longer had a rule that could have empowered a simple majority to cut off debate. It took several decades until the minority exploited the lax limits on debate, leading to the first real-live filibuster in 1837.
Will Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) actually to forward with the nuclear option threat on appointees?  There are some Democrats who do not favor the nuclear option because of what might happen in the future if they are in the minority.  One thing is for sure in that Republicans have taken full advantage of Reid by not allowing President Obama to have all his people in place.  Can guarantee if the Democrats had done that to President Bush, we would never have heard the end of it on the various media outlets. Since it is Republicans doing it to Obama, the mainsteream media doesn't seem to mind.  Many of them have about the same ethics as Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) which are nil to non-existent.

Threatening to shut down Government over President Obama's nominees shows how little Republicans of today care about the Country.  Senator Everett Dirkson (R-IL) fought for what he believed but he would never have been a party to the underhanded tactics of today's Republicans.  Dirkson was the face of the loyal opposition for a decade during the Civil Rights debate of the 60's:

As Senate Minority Leader for a decade, he played a highly visible and key role in the politics of the 1960s, including helping to write and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Open Housing Act of 1968, both landmarks of civil rights legislation. He was also one of the Senate's strongest supporters of the Vietnam War and was known as "The Wizard of Ooze" for his oratorical style.
Today you could put Dirkson alongside Presidents Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln for Republicans who would be scorned by today's Republicans for their stances on Civil Rights.  Roosevelt supported the minimum wage for both men and women.  He was an early supporter of the Civil Rights movement and today he would be labeled a Progressive along with Lincoln, Ike, and Dirkson.  

It seems today's Republicans are nothing but obstructionists carrying out the orders of their major donors like the Koch Bros and Wall Street at the expensive of the American people.  They couldn't hold a candle to the early Civil Rights supporters in the Republican Party who had so much integrity and believed that "All Men are Created Equal" unlike the racism we are seeing out of a lot of Republicans today.

Now the Senate Republicans are threatening a shutdown?  Despicable, dishonorable, and dishonest sum up most of today's Senate Republicans.  Hope Senator Reid pulls the trigger to get President Obama his nominees approved.
Reid flirts with nuke option despite GOP shutdown threatsBy Alexander Bolton - 07/11/13 03:04 PM ET 
Democrats moved closer Thursday to triggering the nuclear option to change the Senate’s rules after holding a lengthy meeting to discuss President Obama’s stalled nominees. 
Democratic leaders on Thursday afternoon spoke out in favor of changing the rules and urged their colleagues to support them, according to senators who attended the meeting. 
The decision on whether to proceed with the controversial tactic depends on how votes on stalled nominees play out next week. If Republicans allow several of them to proceed with up-or-down votes, Democrats might have less rhetorical ammo to force a rules change. 
Liberal Democrats pushing for a rules change to restrict Republicans from filibustering Obama’s nominees say they are very close to having the 50 votes they need. 
Only Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his deputies know the whip count, and they have kept it secret. 
Excerpt:  Read more at The Hill
Sarah Binder from Brookings Institute testified to the Senate on April 22, 2010 on the Filibuster going back to its origins:
In testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, Sarah Binder counters a number of conventionally held notions about the origins and history of the Senate filibuster. Chairman Schumer, Ranking Member Bennett, and members of the Committee. My name is Sarah Binder. I am a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor of political science at George Washington University. I appreciate the opportunity to testify today about the history of the filibuster.
1. Origins of the filibuster 
We have many received wisdoms about the filibuster. However, most of them are not true. The most persistent myth is that the filibuster was part of the founding fathers’ constitutional vision for the Senate: It is said that the upper chamber was designed to be a slow-moving, deliberative body that cherished minority rights. In this version of history, the filibuster was a critical part of the framers’ Senate.

However, when we dig into the history of Congress, it seems that the filibuster was created by mistake. Let me explain.

The House and Senate rulebooks in 1789 were nearly identical. Both rulebooks included what is known as the “previous question” motion. The House kept their motion, and today it empowers a simple majority to cut off debate. The Senate no longer has that rule on its books.

What happened to the Senate’s rule? In 1805, Vice President Aaron Burr was presiding over the Senate (freshly indicted for the murder of Alexander Hamilton), and he offered this advice. He said something like this. You are a great deliberative body. But a truly great Senate would have a cleaner rule book. Yours is a mess. You have lots of rules that do the same thing. And he singles out the previous question motion. Now, today, we know that a simple majority in the House can use the rule to cut off debate. But in 1805, neither chamber used the rule that way. Majorities were still experimenting with it. And so when Aaron Burr said, get rid of the previous question motion, the Senate didn’t think twice. When they met in 1806, they dropped the motion from the Senate rule book.

Why? Not because senators in 1806 sought to protect minority rights and extended debate. They got rid of the rule by mistake: Because Aaron Burr told them to.

Once the rule was gone, senators still did not filibuster. Deletion of the rule made possible the filibuster because the Senate no longer had a rule that could have empowered a simple majority to cut off debate. It took several decades until the minority exploited the lax limits on debate, leading to the first real-live filibuster in 1837.
2. The Not-So-Golden Age of the Senate 
Conventional treatments of the Senate glorify the 19th century as the “golden age” of the Senate: We say that filibusters were reserved for the great issues of the day and that all senators cherished extended debate. That view misreads history in two ways.

First, there were very few filibusters before the Civil War. Why so few filibusters? First, the Senate operated by majority rule; senators expected matters would be brought to a vote. Second, the Senate did not have a lot of work to do in those years, so there was plenty of time to wait out the opposition. Third, voting coalitions in the early Senate were not nearly as polarized as they would later become.

All that changed by mid-century. The Senate grew larger and more polarized along party lines, it had more work to do, and people started paying attention to it. By the 1880s, almost every Congress began to experience at least one bout of obstructionism: for instance, over civil rights, election law, nominations, even appointment of Senate officers—only some of these “the great issues of the day.”

There is a second reason that this was not a golden age: When filibusters did occur, leaders tried to ban them. Senate leaders tried and failed repeatedly over the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries to reinstate the previous question motion. More often than not, senators gave up their quest for reform when they saw that opponents would kill it by filibuster—putting the majority’s other priorities at risk. Unable to reform Senate rules, leaders developed other innovations such as unanimous consent agreements. These seem to have been a fallback option for managing a chamber prone to filibusters.

3. The adoption of cloture 
Why was reform possible in 1917 when it had eluded leaders for decades? And why did the Senate choose supermajority cloture rather than simple majority cloture?
First, the conditions for reform. After several unsuccessful efforts to create a cloture rule in the early 1900s, we saw a perfect storm in March of 1917: a pivotal issue, a president at his bully pulpit, an attentive press, and a public engaged in the fight for reform. At the outset of World War I, Republican senators successfully filibustered President Wilson’s proposal to arm merchant ships—leading Wilson in March of 1917 to famously brand the obstructionists as a “little group of willful men.” He demanded the Senate create a cloture rule, the press dubbed the rule a “war measure,” and the public burned senators in effigy around the country.

Adoption of Rule 22 occurred because Wilson and the Democrats framed the rule as a matter of national security. They fused procedure with policy, and used the bully pulpit to shame senators into reform.

Second, why did senators select a supermajority rule? A bipartisan committee was formed to negotiate the form of the rule. Five of the six Democrats supported a simple majority rule; one Republican supported a supermajority rule, and one Republican preferred no rule. Negotiators cut a deal: Cloture would require two-thirds of senators voting. Opponents promised not to block or weaken the proposal; supporters promised to drop their own proposal for simple majority cloture—a proposal supported by at least 40 senators. The cloture rule was then adopted, 76-3.

4. Conclusions 
We can draw at least three lessons from this history:
First, the history of extended debate in the Senate belies the received wisdom that the filibuster was an original, constitutional feature of the Senate. The filibuster is more accurately viewed as the unanticipated consequence of an early change to Senate rules.
Second, reform of Senate rules is possible. There are conditions that can lead a bipartisan supermajority to agree to change Senate rules. The minority has often held the upper hand in these contests, however, given the high barrier to reform imposed by inherited Senate rules.
Third, and finally, the Senate adopted a supermajority rule not because senators were uniformly committed to the filibuster. Senators chose a two-thirds rule because a minority blocked more radical reform. Short-term, pragmatic considerations almost always shape contests over reform of Senate rules.

From the Carl Albert Center on the University of Oklahoma comes this excerpt of the book, The Rise of the 60-Vote Senate, by Gregory Koger, University of Miami:
After major civil rights legislation passed in 1964 and 1965, however, senators still attempted to change the rules in 1967, 1969, 1971, and 1975 using a complex strategy to obtain a simple majority vote on rules changes.  In 1975 they finally won a key procedural vote on their strategy and, aided by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller presiding over the Senate, seemed capable of making significant reforms in the cloture rule. Instead, the reformers traded their advantage for a slight reduction in the cloture threshold from two-thirds of those voting (the 1959 rule) to three-fifths of the entire Senate. The 1975 rule essentially ended the long contest over the cloture threshold; subsequent reforms in 1979 and 1986 limited overall debate and limited dilatory amendments after cloture is in- voked, but did not alter the three-fifths threshold. A proposal by Tom Harkin (DIowa) to allow majority cloture was defeated by wide margins in 1995 and 2011; it appears that the 60-vote Senate is here to stay. 
In 1975 the number of votes required for cloture to end a filibuster went from 2/3's (66) to 3/5's (60).  The article by Dr. Koger gives the history and what led up to the 60-Vote Senate.  Well worth reading in order to understand what the taxpayers are facing with the obstructionist minority Republicans in the Senate who have brought the Senate to a standstill on so many issues.  Personally I would like to see the Democrats get to 60 votes in 2014 to shut up Republicans like Inhofe (R-OK) who is long passed his prime and seems pretty vindictive today, McCain (R-AZ), who falls in the Inhofe category along with many other Republicans whose sole positions today seems to be to obstruct anything that President Obama has put forward even if it is something they supported in the past.

Also learned from reading Dr. Koger's overview from his book that the Senate 3-day work week was dubbed,"Tuesday-to-Thursday Club," back in the 1940's.  
The trend accelerates in the 1940s so that by the year 2000 about 80 percent of all votes occur in the middle of the week.
The Senate holds their votes in mid-week so that Monday and Friday are travel days - maybe back in the 40's that made sense as it wasn't as easy to travel but with today's airlines there is no need for working only three days a week and allowing a full day for travel to and from the Capitol every week.  How many people get to work a 3-day work week?  The sad part is this group of Republicans hold the fate of so many in their hands with all the obstructionist tactics with little recourse after Reid capitulated to McConnell in January and found out as Majority Leader he made a deal with someone who has the integrity of a gnat.  After the deal McConnell started laughing.  Now Reid wants to finally change the rules to a majority for appointees not a super majority.  Will Reid carry through with the nuclear option on appointees or will McConnell and the obstructionist Republicans blink?

Stay tuned and pass the popcorn as this could get very interesting in the days ahead.


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