Thursday, January 24, 2013

It's Weak, But the Reid-McConnell Filibuster Reform Package Is More Substantial Than You Think

Depressed about the newly announced filibuster reform deal? You're in good company. Even though it will likely pass in a landslide, it apparently pleases no one--especially those who were hopeful that at long last, the political stars were aligned to truly change the senatorial institution which has so often stymied progressive (and some non-progressive) causes.

Well, fear not. True, this legislation will do little to change the fundamental of the Senate--but, truthfully, that was never a significant possibility. Even the most ardent reform advocates were pushing for changes which were little more than theatrics. And, quietly, this reform proposal would chip away at the Senate's institutional culture of stagnation.

The meat of the bill would reduce the amount of debate required for a bill or nomination which has already passed the filibuster hurdle. It would also make it easier for the majority leader to bring a bill or nomination to the floor--either by striking a deal with the minority leader a bipartisan group of 14 other senators, or by ensuring that the minority will have the opportunity to offer a limited number of amendments. (Under normal order, the majority leader controls amendments.) The bill could still be filibustered when it comes to the floor.