There was reason to believe the Senate schedule would go smoothly this week. The parties had already agreed to the provisions of a spending bill to prevent a government shutdown next week, and the House was set to pass it and send the stop-gap spending to the White House for President Obama’s signature. The Senate could then move on to trying to pass a budget.
But that’s proving to be more difficult, leading Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to once again raise the prospect of filibuster reform.
While the Senate waits to wrap up passage of a stopgap bill to fund the government, Democratic leaders want to begin debate on the budget resolution. But Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) is blocking that unless Reid agrees to vote on his sequester amendment, which Reid won’t do because Democratic leaders don’t want to replace the automatic cuts in patchwork measures. So they’ll have to wait out the delays and finish the stopgap bill before moving on to the budget.
“It is things like that that will cause the Senate to have to reassess all the rules because right now they accomplish so little,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “I’m disappointed.”
OK, but how disappointed is he?
It’s been a couple of months since Senate party leaders struck a very small deal that tweaked the chamber’s procedural rules, and proponents said the reforms would improve how the Senate did business. They were, we now know with certainty, complete wrong. Tim Noah had a good piece yesterday explaining just how “worthless” the January agreement really is.
What have we seen since? The first-ever filibuster of a cabinet nominee, a filibuster a CIA nominee, and multiple threats of a filibuster against the Labor Secretary nominee, Republicans have filibustered judicial nominees they don’t like and judicial nominees they do like. GOP senators have promised to use filibusters to stop the Obama administration from enforcing the law as it relates to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and to stop the president’s nominee to lead the ATF and the EPA.
Jonathan Bernstein noted yesterday how important it is that people realize “just how radical the GOP’s filibuster-everyone policy is. Treating this level of obstruction as normal misses an incredibly important story about how the government works – or, rather, how it isn’t working.”
That’s true. I’d still like to know, however, what Reid and Senate Democrats intend to do about it.
Roughly once a week or so, it seems we’ll hear some new whispers about “preliminary discussions” to revisit filibuster reform in light of the increasingly ridiculous abuses. But so far, those whispers haven’t led to any real action.
Incidentally, as Joan McCarter recently noted, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) – the same guy who’s blocked the continuing resolution – explained that President Obama personally appealed to Senate Republicans to be more responsible, but Moran wasn’t moved.
How much more will Reid tolerate before more substantive reforms are back on the table? I look forward to finding out.