Bi-partisan deal close on filibuster reform
It turns out that some Senate Democrats are a lot smarter than the base of their party who were largely calling for a gutting of the filibuster in order for Democrats to shove their agenda down our throats.
Apparently, there were just enough Democratic Senators who realized that they will be in the minority some day and would dearly love to have a viable filibuster to use when necessary.
Senate negotiators continued to work out the final parameters of a compromise Wednesday, but members of both parties said the general framework of a deal was close to being finished. Remaining sticking points included how the filibuster could be applied to the president's judicial nominations.
Some Senators expressed relief that they finally appeared headed toward a resolution on one of the main issues that helped make the last Congress, the 112th, unproductive and inefficient.
"I think this would be a real boost towards ending the gridlock which has bedeviled us," said Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat.
"The unique thing about the Senate is we're supposed to debate - frequently and at length. And we're supposed to be deliberative," he added. "It's been allowed, I believe, to decline in that regard."
Mr. Levin echoed a sentiment that has been increasingly common among members of both parties: because of arcane parliamentary rules exploited by both parties, senators are not able to do the work they were elected to carry out.
Democrats have long complained that Republican obstruction has kept even the most routine measures from being dealt with in a timely manner. The number of times a motion for cloture has been filed - a procedure that begins a vote to end a filibuster - in the 112th Congress was 115. In the 111th Congress it was 137, more than double the number from when Democrats were in the minority during the early 2000s.
In turn, Republicans say they have been forced to block bills because of Mr. Reid's refusal to allow amendments on bills once they reach the floor, and his insistence that bills often bypass the committee process, tactics that prevent them from having much of a meaningful role in shaping legislation.
The abuse of the filibuster was, indeed, a problem. I don't think it will end purely obstructionist efforts by either side (when Democrats return to the minority), but it is a big step forward in allowing the Senate to do its work.