Unclear on the Concept

Mike Schilling

Mike has been a software engineer far longer than he would like to admit. He has strong opinions on baseball, software, science fiction, comedy, contract bridge, and European history, any of which he's willing to share with almost no prompting whatsoever.

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29 Responses

  1. Burt Likko says:

    Next thing you know, they’ll be threatening to shut down the government when a law passed by a majority of both houses of Congress and affirmed by the Supreme Court is scheduled to take effect.Report

  2. Jam3z Aitch says:

    I’m amused by McConnell’s apparent–perhaps pretend–shock. The Republicans themselves have threatened to do this very thing, when they thought the Dems were overusing the filibuster, and their own use has gone far beyond even the previously unprecedented use of it, so really they’ve just had their own bluff called.

    I’m left wondering if:
    A) McConnell’s really so stupid he doesn’t understand how unstrategic the GOP has been in trying to filibuster almost all of the Prez’s nominations;

    B) Whether his and the GOP’s sense of entitlement has grown so strong that they truly believe they have a right to minority governance;

    C) He’s just shocked that Harry Reid discovered a backbone stashed somewhere in a dusty closet (I know I am).

    But what I really don’t understand is why they don’t just go back to the standing filibuster, which would–I think–eliminate the current nonsense of simultaneously filibistering everything in sight.Report

    • Rod in reply to Jam3z Aitch says:

      I’ve wondered that, too, but the answer apparently is that it would clog things up even worse. I’m not sure I’m convinced. Another really good suggestion I’ve heard is to require forty no votes to sustain rather than sixty yeses to break filibuster. As it stands the minority will vote no and then just leave.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Rod says:

        I don’t quite grasp the argument that it would further clog things up.

        The straightforward response would be that it moves everything back to single-track legislation, so that nothing else can move forward while a filibuster is going on. But that’s a superficial analysis because it doesn’t consider what the consequence of that potential clogging is, which is that filibusters become too costly for the non-filibustering sympathizers to support because they stop everything. And it doesn’t take into account how much harder it is for the filibusterer to actually filibuster when s/he has to actually stand up at the podium and talk non-stop instead of just sending a note to the majority leader. Cheap tactics will encourage overuse; expensive tactics will encourage more judicious use.

        Historically that’s how it’s worked out anyway. Contra to that, I suppose, is that during the days of the standing filibuster the Senate was far less partisanly divided, and that may have had–well, almost certainly did have–as much to do with the more judicious use as the cost of filibustering did. The GOP today, it appears, would be more than happy to block absolutely everything and have the Senate put out precisely zero product. But still, they’d actually have to carry through with standing up and holding the podium non-stop on every single item of legislation, while the public was watching them. How long could they actually keep that up? Part of the cheapness of the current filibuster is that you can do it without the public noticing. Once the public started watching non-stop filibustering, I think the tactic would backfire quickly.

        So, my call is that those who say it would clog things up are not digging deeply into the dynamics of the standing filibuster.Report

      • Griff in reply to Rod says:

        In terms of how hard it is to do, if you have 25 senators who support the filibuster (a modest assumption given today’s dynamics), all they have to do is take turns speaking for an hour each. That’s a bummer when you draw a graveyard shift, but an hour-long speech every day is child’s play for a professional politician. It would be pretty easy for them to stay on-topic 24/7, since the staffers would have a whole day to come up with a new hour-long speech for their boss to give about why the thing they’re filibustering is so terrible. I’m not sure they would have a problem with the public perception of that.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Rod says:


        And yet that’s never happened, either.

        Things that are child’s play should be common, not unknown.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to Rod says:

        The filibuster itself was an accident.

        In 1807, the Senate amended it’s rules in such a way that it could — as someone pointed out — lead to the situation we now call a ‘filibuster’. It didn’t happen until 1837 or 1838. (FYI, I believe the last major founding father — Madison — passed away a year or two before. Fun fact).

        After that, the filibuster was used sparingly and to little effect. It rarely defeated a bill, although occasionally some modifications were made. It was generally used as a protest/visibility mechanism. (Kind of more important, back in the days before 24/7 cable).

        In the mid-70s, another rule change was made that led to the modern filibuster — wherein a single Senator basically announce he wanted to, and then it never happened, and it left the majority stuck doing all the work (rounding up 60 votes) — but other Senate business could continue.

        As the decades went by, it got more and more abused until finally — now — it was eliminated solely for a tiny class of votes. (Cabinet posts and non-SCOTUS judicial appointments).

        The filibuster was unintentional — not planned as part of the governing mechanism of the Senate.

        I suspect that the use of the filibuster will only be further shrunk, as well as other Senate tools that relied purely on ‘gentlement’s agreements’ to function (blue slips, unanimous consent). I don’t expect further cutting into the filibuster until 2017 or later, since with the GOP controlled House there’s really no way for the Senate minority to filibuster any bills of note — just nominations and cabinet positions.Report

    • North in reply to Jam3z Aitch says:

      James, my understanding of the Senate’s rules is basically that a standing filibuster rule wouldn’t work due to the disproportionate rules regarding quorum. I’m reciting this from memory so anyone can feel free to correct me but as it works if the majority wishes to move legislation through the Senate a Quorum (a large percentage of the body) must be maintained otherwise a single opposing senator could move to dismiss the Senate which requires an active majority vote.
      So in a standing filibuster situation the majority party has to keep 50+1 senators in the Senate constantly less the body be dismissed. The minority party on the other hand needs only to schedule a filibustering Senator and a backup or two Senators on hand for placing a quorum vote or spelling the filibustering Senator when he gets tired.

      So basically a standing filibuster still, as a practical matter, is harder on the majority party than the minority one.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Jam3z Aitch says:

      C for me, too. But I’m taking McConnell’s comments as completely disingenuous.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Jam3z Aitch says:

      Whether his and the GOP’s sense of entitlement has grown so strong that they truly believe they have a right to minority governance;

      It’s consensus governance. The minority can’t actually enact new laws; it’s just that a supermajority consensus is required to do so.Report

  3. Kazzy says:

    Doesn’t this put the nail in the coffin on thinking that the Republican party has any principles? “Nominating judges we agree with? Fuck that! Let’s piss off the Democrats!”Report

  4. Kolohe says:

    The threat is real enough. He’s not just talking about SCOTUS, but also about the circuit and appeals court (the latter arguably more important than SCOTUS, as they’re the final court for a vast majority of cases).

    The Republicans have, of course, been worse (and more importantly, been worse longer) but the Democrats were willing to stall nominations and let the vacancy rate rise at the beginning of George W Bush’s Administration.

    What this means is now Christie has a viable plan to bring ‘true’ conservatives to his side – guarantee that they’ll get their judges (which is largely how Bush sr did it, though ultimately with mixed success). Filibuster reform is a roadmap to peace for the Republican party.Report

  5. Squeelookle says:


    This article says “For all practical purposes, anything more controversial than renaming a post office has required 60 votes during the entire Obama presidency.” I believe it. And where are the jobs bills that the GOP were supposed to be proposing? Have they voted on a single one?

    Maybe if I take the link out?Report

  6. North says:

    As an aside, did I miss something at some point. BlaiseP seems to have vanished, has there been a falling out? I’d expect him to weigh in on something like this.

    As to this reform, it was inevitable. The GOP has been pretty blatant in their blanket obstructions. The Dems choices were: uphold the filibuster until the GOP manages to get a Senate Majority and President and then watch as the GOP chucks it and fills all the vacancies themselves or else weaken the filibuster and let Obama fill the vacancies.Report

  7. zic says:

    I suspect Republicans are secretly relieved at this, for two reasons.

    First, it makes governing a bit easier, they can protest vote, but without majority, they can’t so dismay the people by making certain nothing gets done. They please their far-right rump, and cause less dissatisfaction to moderates. It’s a win-win.

    Second, they’d really like to gain control of the Senate and White House without the threat of Democrats doing what they’ve done.Report

    • Damon in reply to zic says:

      Yah, and payback, and it’ll come eventually, will be a bitch.

      Quote from NPR today RE this topic when the Dems finally loose majority “there will be some short term memory loss” about who actually got this done, implying that they’ll be bitching and moaning when the worm turns.Report

      • Kim in reply to Damon says:

        Oh, of course.
        Thing is: courts need to function.Report

      • North in reply to Damon says:

        Payback, however, implies that in the absence of this action the GOP would not have done what they’re now threatening to do which is… umm… nominate and confirm conservative judges like Scalia.
        … … …
        Except, of course, nominating and confirming judges like Scalia was something that both Bush II and Romney both campaigned on. So the Dem’s are going to suffer what exactly? More crazy judges? The Democratic party, under threat of the nuclear option, confirmed Janice Rogers Brown who, in addition to various other insane screeds refers to modern government as “the triumph of our socialist revolution.” What worse things are the GOP going to do? Nominate Pat Buchanan?

        So what it boiled down to is the Dems had the option of nuking the filibuster now, getting some of their own judges in and allowing Obama to operate his administration or to voluntarily let the GOP blockade all nominations and appointments going forward and then chuck the filibuster and fill all those vacancies themselves. As usual the GOP is astonished and shocked that the Dems have refused to play patsies to their scheme.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Damon says:

        Yeah, what North said The Repubs have threatened in the past to jettison the filibuster on appointments–Trent Lott’s the one who coined the term “nuclear option,” and did so as an advocate of the move–and given how uncompromising they’ve become, it’s reasonable for the Dems to guess they wouldn’t have this power next time they’re in the minority anyway.

        McConnell, et al are crying crocodile tears. Behind closed doors I think their only reaction is probably surprise Reid finally bucked up. But I’d say getting Reid to finally reach in his pants and find his stones is proof of how out of control the GOP has become.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Damon says:

        the GOP is astonished and shocked that the Dems have refused to play patsies to their scheme.

        Actually, I think all of us are.Report

      • Damon in reply to Damon says:

        @North / James

        Of couse, but I’m going to enjoy watching in a few years, when the tide turns all the Dems moaning about how the evil repubs are shoving nominations through using the very same method… I enjoy listening to hypocrites scream about “the unfairness of it all”. It’s one of the reasons I hold politicans and politics in suck low regard.

        Oh and Kim, didn’t we just demonstrate with the shut down that we really don’t need courts? 🙂Report

  8. Not me says:

    Funny this is one more thing that the Dems thought that those horrible Repubs shouldn’t do back in 2005 when they were in power and considering it. Surprise, even the NYT thought it was a bad idea though they now support it. From the debt ceiling to the nuclear option, Dems flip and flop. Do they have any principles?Report