As the new year begins, two threats have been looming over the Senate’s filibuster rules: a lawsuit calling the filibuster unconstitutional and the so-called constitutional option in the Senate itself.
Here’s another reason to be cautiously optimistic about the way the political winds are blowing: With Dems seemingly on track to hang on to the Senate — and with Obama’s electoral edge perhaps holding — the prospects are brightening for an overhaul of the filibuster.
Senator Jeff Merkley, the co-author of a package of filibuster reforms, has secured commitments from nine leading Dem Senate candidates to throw themselves behind fixing the filibuster if they are elected.
Merkley is circulating an email raising money for the nine Senators, who include Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Martin Heinrich, Tim Kaine and Heidi Heitkamp. “These nine candidates running for the Senate right now have committed to helping me fix the broken Senate by reforming the filibuster,” the email says.
Not everyone in Washington is so desperate to avoid sequestration.
A handful of Senate conservatives have been gaming out ways to block a deal, if they consider it a bad one — even if it means letting billions in across-the-board cuts go through, according to GOP sources on Capitol Hill.
The issue: Republican budget hard-liners fear that the White House, congressional Democrats and their own party leaders will try to replace or forestall the cuts with budget gimmickry or new taxes. They worry that “fake” cuts — savings that would have happened anyway or other accounting tricks — will become increasingly popular, even for moderate Republicans, as the zero hour approaches for the Defense Department.
In private sessions, these Republicans have begun laying plans to block a big, bipartisan agreement, either by pressuring GOP leaders not to give ground or using the congressional rulebook to slow-walk the process.
It is too early to tell what will come down the pike, and the discussions are preliminary, Republican sources cautioned.
But the conservative lawmakers are “concerned” that leaders could “use the sequester as leverage to get a bad deal” through Congress, one senior GOP aide told POLITICO.
They view the cuts as money in the bank, the silver lining of an August 2011 Budget Control Act, the debt-limit deal that gave Congress the choice of coming up with $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years or letting automatic cuts to defense and domestic programs take effect on Jan. 2, 2013.
“Whatever you say about the cuts, and we all opposed the BCA, it was a big victory for those wanting to cut spending,” said a Senate Republican source. “To then turn around and replace that with revenue” — or unrealistic future cuts — “is going to be a very hard thing to overcome on our side.” [MORE]
On November 17th, Cenk Uygur joined some of the leading minds in the country at the UCLA School of Law to discuss Constitutional and legislative solutions to get big money and corporations to release their chokehold on American democracy and policy.
Raising tax rates is "unacceptable" to House Speaker John Boehner as he prepares to open negotiations on the looming "fiscal cliff" with the president and congressional Democrats, he told "World News" anchor Diane Sawyer today in an exclusive interview.
"Raising tax rates is unacceptable," Boehner, R-Ohio, said in his first broadcast interview since the election Tuesday.
"Frankly, it couldn't even pass the House. I'm not sure it could pass the Senate."
That stance could set up a real showdown with the White House given that the president has said he would veto any deal that does not allow tax cuts for the rich to expire. But the speaker said that Republicans would put new tax revenue on the table as leaders work toward a deal.
"I would do that if the president was serious about solving our spending problem and trying to secure our entitlement programs," Boehner said. "If you're increasing taxes on small-business people, it's the wrong approach." [MORE]
..I understand that our media are overrun with polarized commentary and that the GOP has done plenty to embarrass itself. But that combination in no way justifies painting nearly half the country with this particular brush. And, yes, I know... the extremists with the microphones happily do it every day. But that, too, is no justification. What's happening seems to be this: prejudice towards the right, from the left, has somehow become okay...
Here’s my plea to Jim Lehrer: At the first presidential debate in Denver next Wednesday, ask the candidates if they are in favor of restoring majority rule in this country. In other words, ask them if they would urge the Senate to scrap the filibuster — and if not, how do they expect to get anything done?
It’s an ideal debate question for five reasons.
First, it’s not the kind of thing on which the candidates will have prepared snoozy, market-tested talking points. So it might give voters the chance to see Mitt Romney and Barack Obama actually think in public.
Second, unlike jobs, or the future of Medicare, the candidates won’t raise the matter themselves.
Third, it’s not a partisan issue. Since the Senate’s 60-vote requirement to end debate is prone to abuse by both parties, the candidates might even find common ground.
Fourth, a discussion of today’s filibuster mess — along with context that Mr. Lehrer can introduce as moderator — will help millions of voters understand what’s behind a big chunk of Washington’s maddening dysfunction.
Finally — and forgive me for raising my voice here — if we don’t scrap the filibuster, we simply can’t govern this country and meet the challenges of the 21st century. [MORE]
Despite being in the midst of a heated presidential campaign, President Barack Obama isn’t letting Congress off the hook.
“Their work isn’t finished,” Obama said in his weekly address released Saturday. But, “last week, without much fanfare, members of the House of Representatives banged a gavel, turned out the lights and rushed home, declaring their work finished for now.
“If that frustrates you, it should,” Obama said. “When they skipped town, members of Congress left a whole bunch of proposals sitting on the table — actions that would create jobs, boost our economy and strengthen middle-class security. These ideas have been around for months. The American people want to see them passed. But apparently, some members of Congress are more worried about their jobs and their paychecks this campaign season than they are about yours.”
Obama specifically noted that the farm bill, the veterans job corps and a mortgage refinancing program were items left undone. He also prodded Congress to take up his proposal to extend just the middle- and lower-income portions of the Bush tax cuts.
“If Congress had listened to you, they could have given 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small business owners a guarantee that your taxes won’t go up next year by a single dime,” Obama said. “This is something we all agree on. It should have gotten done a long time ago.
“But Republicans in Congress have refused to budge. They’re holding tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans hostage until we pass tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. And now, middle-class families and small business owners are left wondering what their tax bill will look like next year.” [MORE]
As senators passed the halfway point Thursday in a 30-hour debate designed to bring attention to Democratic filibusters blocking three of the White House's judicial nominees, President Bush called for a stop to the ugly politics.
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